People throughout the country should care about the Department of the Army’s decision concerning troop strength at Fort Polk because Fort Polk represents the Army’s best opportunity to achieve the best training for the lowest price. The nation as a whole deserves well-trained soldiers to defend it. These economic times demand that those soldiers be trained in the most cost-effective way possible.
According to Gen. Raymond Odierno, Chief of Staff for the Army, Fort Polk offers just that: the best possible training with the least amount of cost than any other base in the country.
Fort Polk is uniquely situated, more so than any other Army base in the country, to not only grow but to accommodate a variety of training and power projection that is essential for our military to continue to be a force of strength in defending democracy on the world stage. Please consider, as Louisiana's Congressional Delegation has pointed out, that recent federal spending at Fort Polk has made the base ready to host additional battalions without imposing more costs on the Army.
In addition, the base has recently acquired more land in an effort to meet one of the Army’s most urgent needs for additional training lands.
The synergy between operational facilities at Fort Polk and England Airpark provides Fort Polk with unmatched rapid deployment and power projection capabilities, while the potential cost savings of having a Brigade Combat Team permanently garrisoned at Fort Polk and the lower cost of living afforded by Vernon, Beauregard and Rapides parishes for troops and civilian workers should be taken into account as the Department of the Army moves forward in fiscal responsibility under current budget restraints.
People throughout the state of Louisiana should care about the Department of the Army’s decisions concerning Fort Polk because Fort Polk’s economic impact to the state for 2012 will likely approach $1.8 billion. Fort Polk is the largest employer and largest single economic driver in the state. A troop reduction would cost thousands of jobs and significantly impact the state’s economy, producing a ripple effect throughout the region and into the neighboring states of Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi.
In addition, these states’ National Guards and Reserves have a vested interest in Fort Polk, which provides training facilities for all of the nation’s military.
The people of Central Louisiana should care about the Department of the Army’s decision because communities large and small, including Leesville, DeRidder, Alexandria, Lafayette and Lake Charles in Louisiana and Hemphill, Newton and Jasper in Texas, as well as the innumerable small towns in between have all made investments in infrastructure to accommodate growth at Fort Polk.
All have aggressively pursued addressing every deficiency that the Army commanders have pointed out concerning the surrounding communities, striving to meet the Army’s request that the communities provide social needs for soldiers, including housing, so that the Army can focus on preparing for war.
When the Department of the Army wanted improved schools, Vernon Parish borrowed the money and passed a tax issue to fix it.
When the Department of the Army wanted better roads, Vernon Parish and Rapides Parish worked with the state to improve 184, 469, 28 and now 171.
When the Department of the Army wanted more land, Vernon Parish became their biggest advocate, traveling to see landowners and helping the Army create the only successful land purchase program in the country, effectively creating more precious training maneuverability for the Army.
When the Department of the Army needed a plan to accommodate troop growth, Vernon Parish conducted the research, partnered with the state for funding, and implemented a plan.
Now, the Army seeks to potentially destroy the good will it fostered and bankrupt communities that agreed to invest with highly leveraged dollars in every investment they asked for off base.
Because of a lack of other industry base, cuts at Fort Polk have a far greater negative economic impact on our state and our region than cuts being contemplating at bases elsewhere in the country. The effects are disproportionate to the investments the communities have poured into Fort Polk.
Therefore, growing Fort Polk by adding another Brigade Combat Team is the best solution for not only the communities surrounding Fort Polk, but also the State of Louisiana and the nation as a whole.