February 19th 2013
LEESVILLE-Leaders from Vernon and Rapides parishes were encouraged Tuesday morning at the receipt of a letter from the state’s Congressional Delegation. The Delegation, addressing Secretary of the Army John McHugh, detailed the importance of Fort Polk as a cost-effective training facility for the nation’s military.
The letter was in direct response to the Department of the Army’s pending force structure realignment that would reduce the Army’s total end-strength from 562,000 at the end of fiscal year 2012 to 490,000 by fiscal year 2020.
The delegation highlighted a number of issues in their letter, including 1) recent federal spending at Fort Polk that has made the base ready to host additional battalions without imposing more costs on the Army; 2) recent land acquisition by Fort Polk in an effort to meet one of the Army’s most urgent needs for additional training lands; 3) the “synergy between operational facilities at Fort Polk and England Airpark” which provides Fort Polk with “unmatched rapid deployment and power projection capabilities;” 4) the potential cost savings of having a Brigade Combat Team permanently garrisoned at Fort Polk; and 5) the lower cost of living afforded by Vernon Parish for troops.
The letter to McHugh was signed by U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu (D) and David Vitter (R) as well as U.S. Representatives John Fleming, M.D. (R-4th District); Rodney Alexander (R-5th District); Charles W. Boustany, Jr. M.D. (R-3rd District); Steve Scalise (R-1st District); Bill Cassidy, M.D.(R-6th District); and Cedric Richmond (D-2nd District).
Leesville Mayor Robert Rose said, “Our City is thankful for the unanimous and prompt response of our Congressional Delegation. It is encouraging to see that our federal leaders from all parts of Louisiana recognize the immense impact Fort Polk has on our nation’s defense as well as our state’s economy.”
Fort Polk Progress Chairman Michael Reese said, “We are fortunate to have the unified support of our entire Congressional Delegation. This effort is further evidence of the impact Fort Polk has on the entire state of Louisiana and not just the immediate surrounding area. We look forward to continuing to work with our Federal Delegation to showcase Fort Polk’s military value and cost efficient operations to the Department of Defense.”
Vernon Parish President Jim Tuck said, ““This is a tremendous win for us in the battle to support and grow Fort Polk. Our Congressional Delegation is to be commended on their diligence and quick action; we could not do this without them. I would like to encourage everyone, if you have not done so already, to please submit a letter on behalf of Fort Polk prior to March 21st. We need your support!”
Vernon Chamber of Commerce President Rhonda Plummer said, “Without our Congressional Delegation’s strong support, we would not have received the critical time extension for commenting. It provides us great relief that we can now respond with accurate data to replace the errors listed in the Programmatic Environmental Assessment for Army 2020 Force Structure Realignment document regarding Fort Polk.”
Vernon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Anne Causey said, “I think the citizens of Louisiana, Vernon Parish, and Leesville should be proud of our Congressional leaders in D.C. The fact that they have moved swiftly and in full force to speak loudly on behalf of Fort Polk is well deserved of our thanks and praise.”
England Airpark Executive Director Jon Grafton said, “Our Congressional Delegation has led the way since 1993 in positioning Fort Polk as a premier training and power projection platform. We thank them for their support.”
“The Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce is grateful to our U.S. Senators and Congressmen for their leadership in advocating for Fort Polk,” said Deborah Randolph, President. “Their commitment to the post has provided the means for it to become one of the most valuable and cost effective military installations in the country.”
Area residents are encouraged to submit their own comments concerning the force structure realignment to USARMY.JBSA.AEC.MBX@mail.mil. A sample letter can be found at leesville la.gov; www.englandairpark.org; and planvernonparish.org.
A copy of the letter to McHugh from the Louisiana Congressional Delegation can also be found at leesvillela.gov and www.englandairpark.org.