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Sustainable Ozarks Partnership wants you to attend the Army Listening Session at Fort Leonard Wood

by Erin Kaberline | Feb 19, 2015

Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri – February 18, 2015 – All community members should plan to attend the upcoming Army Listening Session to express their concerns to Pentagon officials about further proposed Soldier and Army Civilian job cuts at Fort Leonard Wood. The session will be held on Monday, Mar. 2, 2015, at 5:30 p.m. at Nutter Field House on Fort Leonard Wood.

The Sustainable Ozarks Partnership, a nonprofit organization that is leading efforts to preserve Army jobs at Fort Leonard Wood, will give a presentation to Army leaders on behalf of regional communities and organizations. The presentation will focus on the comparative advantages the Army currently enjoys in the Fort Leonard Wood region, which helps support the long term sustainability of the installation. 

Because of budget cuts in Washington, D.C, the Army has proposed trimming the size of the active Army component at 30 installations around the country, including Fort Leonard Wood. The Army is proposing to cut as many as 5,400 Soldier and Army Civilian jobs at Fort Leonard Wood by the year 2020.

Possible Reductions at Fort Leonard Wood

As a result of additional budget reductions due to the Sequester, the Army conducted a Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) in 2013, which is a federally-required study of the environmental and socio-economic impacts due to federal job cuts. The Army announced that Fort Leonard Wood could possibly lose 3,900 Soldier and Army Civilian positions.

Over 1,200 people attended the 2013 Listening Session in response to this announcement. Later in 2013, the Army revealed that Fort Leonard Wood would lose approximately 1,200 of the proposed 3,900 Soldier and Civilian positions. These positions will be eliminated by the end of 2015.

In 2014, the Army announced a Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment (SPEA) as a follow up to the previous PEA. The SPEA proposed the elimination of up to 5,400 Soldier and Army Civilian jobs at Fort Leonard Wood. The 5,400 positions may include the 1,200 positions that the installation will lose this year.

“These proposed cuts could have a huge impact on the Fort Leonard Wood region. The Listening Session is our chance to tell the Army our story and show the Army through our attendance numbers that this installation is critical to our region, to the state, and to our nation,” said SOP Executive Director Joe Driskill.

Last summer, the Army offered a public comment period from June through August of 2014 to allow community members a chance to respond to the SPEA. Almost 4,900 Fort Leonard Wood supporters submitted their comments to the Army via email, an online petition, and traditional letter.

“We need to pack Nutter Field House to show the Army that we support our fort and that Fort Leonard Wood is not the place to make these cuts. It would be great if everyone that submitted a written comment attended the Listening Session,” said Driskill.

Economic Impact on the Region and State

In 2012, Fort Leonard Wood was estimated to be the fifth largest employer in the state if all the jobs in the installation were employed by a single organization. During that year, an estimated 200,000 people visited Fort Leonard Wood for military graduations, which aided in an estimated $3 billion in total economic output to the entire state. The installation also provides around 36,400 direct and indirect jobs in the state of Missouri.

“Further losses could cause a reduction in annual sales, annual income, and population in the Fort Leonard Wood region. Our entire state would see a reduction in sales tax income and other tax income that we depend on for funding things like education and human services. Any negative economic impact on this region will have a large ripple effect throughout the region and Missouri,” said Driskill.

As part of the SPEA, the Army estimates that the Fort Leonard Wood region could lose up to $318.2 million in annual sales, $299.8 million in annual income, and 13,388 people. Additionally, the region could see a loss of around 6,800 total jobs, which includes the loss of Soldier and Army Civilian positions, contract positions, and additional jobs related to the reduction in demand for goods and services.

Additionally, over 70 percent of the students attending the Waynesville R-VI school district are military affiliated. A loss of military-affiliated families in the region would cause the district to lose a significant portion of their students, which would lead to a loss of federal impact aid money, as well as potential certified and classified staff reductions.

“Due to the extreme importance of this event, we have invited all of our Congressional elected officials, including Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, as well as Representative Vicky Hartzler. We know this is important to them and we’re hoping that they will attend the session,” said Driskill.

The event is free and open to the public. Those over 18 years of age should have a valid photo ID to enter the installation. Those driving their vehicles onto post should have a valid driver’s license and current vehicle registration and insurance available. Further details about the event can be found on the SOP website: www.sustainableozarks.org.

Media interested in covering the listening session should contact the Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office at 573-563-4145, no later than 4:30 p.m. on February 25.

The Sustainable Ozarks Partnership (SOP) is building on the Fort Leonard Wood region’s strong past and preparing the region for a healthy, resilient future. We are working to drive regional development and advocate for new or expanded military and federal missions.

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Strengthening the Fort Leonard Wood region