The battle of Fort Polk isn't over yet - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; KNOE.com |

The battle of Fort Polk isn't over yet

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LEESVILLE, La., (KNOE 8 News) - The Army announced that the commenting period for the drawdown at Fort Polk has been extended.

This is being viewed as a major victory in Vernon Parish.

Yesterday, in response to the situation, officials beseeched lawmakers, congressional leaders and state residents to make their voices heard in opposition to not only reducing force strength at Fort Polk but also concerning the inaccurate information contained in the assessment where Fort Polk and the surrounding community is concerned. 

The comment period, originally scheduled to end Feb. 19, has been extended until March 21, 2013.

Leesville Mayor Robert Rose said, "The decision to extend the deadline for public comment by the Department of Army concerning this Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) was appropriate given the gross number of misrepresentations about Fort Polk. While this decision gives our state officials and congressional delegation more time to complete an analysis of the true facts about Fort Polk, we must not let up in our effort to keep Fort Polk. I strongly encourage all residents of our city, parish, region and state to continue to demand that the Department of the Army takes steps to immediately correct the flaws in the PEA and make the right choice – Grow Fort Polk, not cut it."

Fort Polk Progress Chairman Michael Reese said, "I very much appreciate the Army's interest in making sure that they move forward in their decision making process with the most up to date and accurate information. With the additional time that has been granted, our team will be able to complete our research into the study and provide the Army with a thorough, professional and accurate response."

Executive Director of England Airpark Jon Grafton said, "I applaud and commend our congressional delegation for working the last two weeks to obtain this extension. This is the first win for our community in this process."

Vernon Parish Police Jury President Jim Tuck said, "I appreciate our congressional delegation and everyone who has worked together on getting this extension granted. The extension is proven fruits of our labor to try and make sure that Fort Polk and the surrounding community get the accurate consideration they deserve. It is reassuring to see that we are being heard." 

Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Anne Causey said, "This extension gives our business community an opportunity to participate and join together in the effort to insist that the correct data be provided to the Department of the Army. I encourage each member of our community to get involved in this process and thank all those who helped get this extension granted. Now it's our turn to respond in great numbers and show our support for the growth of Fort Polk."

On Jan. 18, the Army announced the availability of the Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) and draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FNSI) for Army force structure reductions and realignments that may occur through 2020. The PEA evaluates and assesses the environmental and socioeconomic impacts associated with potential adjustments to Army forces at 21 installations, including Fort Polk. The Army has completed the analysis to evaluate changes to its forces that are necessary to reduce spending while maintaining critical national defense capabilities.

The Army's proposed action evaluated in the PEA is to reduce the Army's active duty end-strength from 562,000 at the end of FY 2012 to 490,000 by FY 2020. 

The Army is considering three alternatives for each base: to significantly reduce force strength, to take no action or to increase force strength. Fort Polk could see a force strength reduction of 5,300 soldiers and civilian personnel; see no change at all; or see a growth of about 1,000 soldiers. 

According to the Department of the Army's press release, final decisions as to which alternative the Army will implement and which installations will see reductions or unit realignments have not yet been made. Those decisions will be made based on mission-related criteria and other factors, in light of the information contained in the PEA.

In addition to environmental and socioeconomic impacts discussed in this PEA, the Army will
also consider several non-environmental factors critical to a final force structure decision, such as operational requirements and capabilities, cost, strategic and geographical distribution, investment and regeneration, facilities for soldiers and family well-being.

The public is invited to review the documents, which are available online at http://aec.army.mil/usaec/nepa/topics00.html and provide their comments by email to USARMY.JBSA.AEC.MBX@mail.mil or they may mail them to:

Public Comments USAEC
Attn: IMPA-AE (Army 2020 PEA)
2450 Connell Road (Bldg 2264)
Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234-7664

The City of Leesville, Fort Polk Progress, the Vernon and Cenla Chambers of Commerce and England Airpark have joined forces to combat the misinformation in the PEA and to urge Louisiana business leaders and residents to submit their comments recommending that the Department of the Army revise the PEA to include the most accurate information concerning Fort Polk and to increase force strength at Fort Polk. 

Sample letters can be obtained by visiting the City of Leesville's website at http://www.leesvillela.gov/. A list of addresses of appropriate recipients for the letter is also available on the website.

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