The Army’s decision, associated with the active component end-strength reduction of 80,000 soldiers to 490,000 -- a 14 percent reduction across the force -- by 2017, was announced earlier today. The force structure process has also been referred to as “Army 2020.”
“It is through the tremendous teamwork displayed by all of our partners, from Lake Charles to Alexandria, from DeRidder to Natchitoches and from Leesville to Jasper, Texas, and all of the smaller municipalities in between that we can celebrate this victory,” said Fort Polk Progress Chairman Michael Reese of the Department of the Army’s decision to maintain troop strength at Fort Polk.
“The success that we have achieved today, in supporting the Fort Polk mission, soldiers and their families, and the citizens in this region, is the direct result of continued cooperation and support from the leaders in our region, the state, and the Congressional Delegation. And it is that ongoing cooperation and support which will not only sustain today’s success, but seal our future victories.”
In response to more than 4,000 comments submitted to the Department of the Army concerning possible troop reductions at Fort Polk, Army officials scheduled a Community Listening Meeting for April 15 at the United Pentecostal Church in Leesville. Thousands more showed up from all over Louisiana and East Texas to express their support of sustaining and growing Fort Polk. In fact, more people responded concerning Fort Polk than those concerning any of the 20 other bases in the nation undergoing the same scrutiny by the Department of the Army.
Fort Polk Progress was at the forefront of the movement, urging every person with the least interest in Fort Polk to express support of growth at the base. Fort Polk supporters lined the streets on April 15 and filled the church to overflowing, regaling Army officials for several hours with reasons to maintain and/or grow the base. Issues included the potential negative economic impact a reduction of force would have on the state’s economy to the military value of Fort Polk's assets to the impact of Fort Polk on area schools.
The Army’s proposal to reduce its active duty end-strength from 562,000 at the end of FY 2012 to 490,000 by FY 2020 created three alternatives for each of the 21 bases that were considered: to significantly reduce force strength, to take no action or to increase force strength.
The decisions, according to the Department of the Army, were based on mission-related criteria and other factors, as well as operational requirements and capabilities, cost, strategic
and geographical distribution, investment and regeneration, facilities for soldiers and family well-being.
Fort Polk Progress marshalled its resources and supporters from across the state to address faulty information concerning Fort Polk that could have been used in the Army’s decision -making process and ensured that the Army used the most accurate and up to date information in making any decisions concerning the military base.
For example,work done by economist Loren Scott, on behalf of Louisiana Economic Development, revealed that a troop reduction of 5,300 troops at Fort Polk would have resulted in:
• an annual loss to the State treasury of $24,332,000.00
• an annual loss in local government revenue of $7,110,200.00
• an annual loss of sales totaling $401,200,000.00
• an annual loss of income totaling $347,600,000.00
• a loss of jobs totaling 8,661
• a loss in population totaling 20,786
In addition, the 2012 Fort Polk economic impact statement reinforced Dr. Scott’s findings by detailing $1.86 billion in spending at the installation. Of that total, $980 million is payroll, making Fort Polk the largest non-state government employer in the state.
Fort Polk Progress also highlighted the significant state and local investments made into Fort Polk, often at the request of the Department of the Army.
For example, England Airpark/Alexandria International Airport (AEX) has invested approximately $141 million in non-DOD funds to improve aviation at the Ft. Polk APOE with another $28 million in non-DOD funds expected to be invested over the next two years.
The State of Louisiana also:
- committed to constructing a four lane highway between Fort Polk and AEX for deployment and training purposes. Twenty years and hundreds of millions of dollars later this project is nearing completion.
-created a position for a director of federal programs
-created the Louisiana Military Affairs Council.
-funded in the amount of $25.2 million the installation of sewer and water lines along a parkway leading into Fort Polk.
-invested an additional $15.1 million to resurface U.S. Hwy 171, a major thoroughfare to Fort Polk
-invested $760,000 to improve La. 184 from Fort Polk to its junction with La. 8.
-installed new traffic signals in communities surrounding the base to help improve traffic flow
-funded a transportation study, at a cost of $500,000, to examine possible solutions to remedy congestion
-matched funds in the amount of $1 million to round out the development along La. 467 where a new V.A. clinic, the Central Louisiana Veteran’s Cemetery and Northwestern State University are located, to include a new South Polk Elementary school that will serve more than 800 military family children.
“Along with our entire region, I am pleased with the decision to keep Fort Polk strong,” said Leesville Mayor Robert Rose. “I believe this decision is appropriate and reflects the now widespread knowledge of just how valuable and unique Fort Polk is to our country and its defense. While this battle has been won, I encourage residents of our region to remain active as we now must be prepared to fight any potential troop cuts as a result of sequestration.”
“Fort Polk has been given the opportunity to remain the Army’s premier training facility,” said City of DeRidder Mayor Ron Roberts. “Polk Progress has been a tremendous help in extolling the virtues of Fort Polk. Senator Mary Landrieu has been our guiding light.”
“This is a great day for Central Louisiana and the Fort Polk Progress Team,” said England Air Park Executive Director Jon Grafton. “England Airpark would like to thank the Louisiana Congressional Delegation for its unwavering support of Ft. Polk. We look forward to building on this victory to create the Army’s best training, deployment and quality of life platform in the United States.”
“We are pleased that the Army recognizes the importance of Fort Polk and has chosen not to reduce troops at the post,” said Avon Knowlton, Executive Vice President of the Chamber SWLA and the SWLA Economic Development Alliance. “Kudos to the elected officials, community and business leaders and the members of Fort Polk Progress who have remained dedicated in efforts to improve the quality of life for our military and to ensure that Fort Polk remains vital, both socially and economically, for the entire state.”
“This decision is a win-win for the Army and for the communities surrounding Fort Polk,” said Deborah Randolph, President, Central LA Chamber of Commerce. “We are gratified that the decision makers recognize Fort Polk’s value and the investments and support offered by the state and local communities.”