Last Modified: Thursday, June 26, 2014 11:18 AM
It has been one year since it was announced that Fort Polk would be spared the significant troop reduction proposed by the Department of the Army. But the installation’s future remains uncertain.
A report released Wednesday said Fort Polk and 29 other bases may see cutbacks as the Department of the Army seeks to draw down troop levels to as low as 420,000 by 2020.
It also said that last year’s round of reductions were mitigated by cuts to European forces, lessening the hurt on local U.S. economies and that the proposed cuts would have a larger impact on those communities than what was felt in 2013.
Fort Polk was buoyed last year by a surge in community support and lobbying by local, state and federal representatives, including U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, who said the post “cannot rest on its laurels” just yet. She vowed to continue to lobby for Fort Polk.
“We’re going to have to remain vigilant,” she said. “And we really have to gear up for our continued challenges before us.”
On June 25, 2013, Landrieu announced that Fort Polk would lose 240 soldiers as part of the Army’s downsizing instead of the proposed 5,300. She said a larger cut would have severely hurt the state and local economies.
“It would have been devastating,” she said. “Fort Polk is a huge economic driver in our state, contributing $1.7 billion. It basically has the same impact as the entire seafood industry in our state.”
Chairman of Fort Polk Progress Michael Reese said the lobbying group, which has been largely credited with last year’s success, will push harder to preserve the base during the next round of cuts.
“We will go into this process much like we did last year,” he said. “We will give just as robust a presentation to the Army with the best possible current information on the impact that would have on this part of the country as opposed to other parts of the country. We will also present the military value here and ask them to take that into account.”
The group touted the quality of Vernon Parish schools after U.S. Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno announced last year that he would factor the state of local schools when considering what areas to downsize.
It rallied the local communities to send more than 4,000 letters to the Pentagon, and it has worked to improve the quality of life in the surrounding areas in an effort to keep the Army from cutting at Fort Polk.
Other communities surrounding military bases saw Fort Polk’s success, Reese said, and have created their own lobbying groups to try to preserve their troop numbers.
“We’re going to have to work extra hard this time around to rise above the chatter and the noise,” he said.
Army representatives are expected to visit Fort Polk in the fall to conduct listening sessions on the proposed cuts. The Army will use the same guidelines as last time to determine where to make reductions.
Posted By: Gerald Cuvillier On: 6/26/2014
This just goes to show how the seafood industry has shrunk since Obama took office.