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Thursday, July 24, 2014
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Fort Polk fighting against proposed cuts

Last Modified: Thursday, July 03, 2014 10:26 AM

By Lance Traweek / American Press

In response to a recent report on prospective military cuts, Fort Polk Progress is urging the Department of the Army not to cut 6,500 of Fort Polk’s 10,000 soldiers.

The report, which suggests a 60 percent decrease in the number of soldiers at Fort Polk, follows an assessment done in 2013. Last year, the Army studied a potential troop loss at Fort Polk of about 5,300 troops. When the decision was finalized Fort Polk suffered a net loss of only 252 soldiers.

“The primary difference between the process last year is that the Army was able to achieve many of the cuts it made in less painful ways for many communities,” said Fort Polk Progress Chairman Michael Reese.

In 2013, the Army identified bases in Europe that could be reduced, and other cuts to base communities were mostly mitigated, Reese said.

“In this case the potential economic impact in base communities can be far worse,” he said. “The Army has already made some of the reductions that would be less impactful in those communities. That puts a lot more pressure on us.”

The assessment focuses on reducing 70,000 soldiers at 30 bases across the country to meet the savings required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

“At all of those bases there is a level of negative economic impact that occurs,” he said. “In our opinion, there is a far greater negative economic impact on this community.”

The regional community organization plans to challenge the facts and figures in the assessment that target Fort Polk’s available acreage for land training and the amount and capabilities of its facilities.

“Fort Polk is efficient. We know that the cost of operating at Fort Polk is lower than what it costs the Army to operate across the country,” he said. “We’ll test (the Army’s) methodology and present our own methodology about what we think the true economic impact would be to central and Southwest Louisiana.”

Reese said the drawdown of troops at Fort Polk could lead to negative effects. If the Army cuts soldiers at Fort Polk, he said, Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital could downsize to a clinic and no longer provide hospital services.

“Fort Polk is not only an Army base but a great place for soldiers and their families to live. This is a community and a state that has been keenly focused on issues like education,” he said. “We have made a concerted effort to address that over the last 10 years.”

Fort Polk is not getting the brunt of possible cutbacks. Five of the 30 bases could face reductions of 16,000 soldiers each. “We are not the most extreme cut the Army is contemplating, but we are also not the smallest one,” Reese said.

The public comment period for the report, released on June 26, will end on Aug. 26. Fort Polk officials are asking residents to send their opinions to the Department of the Army. Last year, the Army received 4,000 comments in reference to cuts at Fort Polk, Reese said.

“The public component is absolutely vital. We believe, wholeheartedly, that our success last year was centered on the fact that the public came out in such large numbers for Fort Polk,” he said. “That is what has changed the perception by military leaders about Fort Polk and the community that surrounds it.”

Fort Polk Progress is reviewing the report and will submit its own data to the Department of the Army.

After the 60-day public comment period, the Army will review the comments and determine if any of the recommended changes will be incorporated into the final document. In the fall, the Army will conduct public listening sessions at all 30 bases. The Army will develop its own internal analysis and by June 2015 will make a final decision.

Public comments may be emailed to usarmy.jbsa.aec.nepa@mail.mil or mailed to U.S. Army Environmental Command, Attn: SPEA Public Comments, 2450 Connell Road (Bldg. 2264), Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234-7664. Input can also be made by phone at 855-846-3940.

Posted By: Melvin On: 7/6/2014

Title: Fort Polk hope and change

unfortunately, the reality is; the government has decreased the salaries of contractors and completely removed the jobs for some contractors, (i.e. today, a 4-man shop is a 2-man shop); government employees have been on a pay raise freeze since 2008,.. as much as we want to divert and deflect SPEA,.. it is already happening by the pen and phone; only by voting into office the people whom are willing to nullify the pen and phone can our military return to America's top priority as it once was before the hope and change of 2008

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