Courtesy of The Town Talk Written by: Jeff Mathews
Fort Polk is not the biggest installation targeted for possible cutbacks in a recent Army report, but the base in Vernon Parish has thus far generated the most public support.
According to the U.S. Army Environmental Command, Fort Polk received more than 2,500 public comments about a report detailing the impact of personnel reductions at more than 20 Army bases.
That’s nearly four times the number of comments about any other base on the report.
“We were pleased with the numbers,” said Deborah Randolph, president of the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce. “So many people in the community stepped up to support Fort Polk.”
The “Programmatic Environmental Assessment for Army 2020 Force Structure Realignment” (PEA) lays out alternatives for reducing the Army's active duty strength from 562,000 in fiscal year 2012 to 490,000 in 2020.
Under one alternative listed in the PEA, Fort Polk would lose nearly half its strength — dropping from a fiscal year 2011 Army population of 10,877 to 5,577 by 2020.
Local stakeholders have attacked the Army's assessment as containing incomplete and incorrect information about the impact of downsizing at Fort Polk, and tried to rally local support to make public comments about the report.
The public comment period ended March 21. Fort Polk received 2,530 comments. The next highest number of comments was for Fort Benning in Georgia with 693.
“You all should feel so proud of those letters,” U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu told members of the Alexandria Rotary Club on Tuesday.
“Those letters matter, keep them coming. I cannot state how strongly how important that community support is.”
“I believe we put together good information to correct omissions and inaccurate information in the PEA,” Randolph said. “I feel good about putting good information in their hands to base their decision on.”
Randolph acknowledged the PEA is “just the beginning” of possible threats to Fort Polk.
Local stakeholders are already planning for a fight if the military looks at base closures in future years.
“We have to continue to be strong advocates for Fort Polk,” Randolph said.