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Editorial: Be thankful for Fort Polk

Last Modified: Sunday, September 22, 2013 7:04 PM

Back in June, the folks at Fort Polk learned that the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk itself would not be affected by the Army’s reduction of its active component brigade combat teams.

In a process that’s been dubbed “Army 2020,” the U.S. Army plans to reduce its soldier force by 80,000 to 490,000, a 14 percent reduction, by 2017.

If Fort Polk had been targeted for cuts, the base could have lost up to 5,300 soldiers, according to Leesville Mayor Robert Rose. This loss could have caused Leesville to see as much as 30 percent of its workforce laid off because of reduced revenue, he said.

That statistic shows that Fort Polk is an integral part of the economic engine of Vernon Parish.

A recent review of military spending in Louisiana shows that Department of Defense spending in the state is heaviest at Fort Polk, according to Fort Polk Progress, a community group that “takes a proactive stance toward base realignment and closure,” according to its Web site, and maintains relationships with government decision makers.

The group said data released by the Louisiana Military Advisory Council, part of the state Department of Economic Development, shows that Fort Polk has a greater economic impact in Louisiana than any of the state’s other military posts.

“Aside from Fort Polk, Barksdale Air Force Base and Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base (NAS JRB) in New Orleans are two of the top military contributors to the state’s economy. Fort Polk, however, outpaces both Barksdale and NAS JRB by millions of dollars in total spending and by thousands of jobs,” reads a news release issued by Fort Polk Progress.

At the website, the group points out that over the past few years significant state and local investments have been made into Fort Polk, often at the request of the Department of the Army.

The State of Louisiana alone has invested $15.1 million to resurface U.S. 171, a major thoroughfare to Fort Polk — an improvement that benefits any of us traveling through the area.

It’s time we remind ourselves of the gem Southwest Louisiana has in Fort Polk. Its impact, social, economic and, most importantly, training Army personnel for defense of our nation, should not be discounted.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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