LEESVILLE, LA (KPLC) - Vernon officials said area leaders were encouraged Tuesday by a letter from the state's Congressional delegation regarding the Army's assessment on possible Fort Polk troop reductions.
The letter addresses Secretary of the Army John McHugh and gives a detailed listing of Fort Polk's importance as a cost-effective training facility for the nation's military.
Vernon officials sent out a news release Tuesday regarding the letter.
"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 release states.
Among the issues outlined in the letter, officials said, were:
Recent federal spending at Fort Polk that has made the base ready to host additional battalions without imposing more costs on the Army;
Recent land acquisition by Fort Polk 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" which provides Fort Polk with "unmatched rapid deployment and power projection capabilities;"
The potential cost savings of having a Brigade Combat Team permanently garrisoned at Fort Polk; and
The lower cost of living afforded by Vernon Parish for troops.
The letter to McHugh was signed by U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu, D-La. and David Vitter R-La., as well as U.S. Representatives John Fleming, R-La.; Rodney Alexander R-La.; Charles W. Boustany Jr.R-La.; Steve Scalise R-La.; Bill Cassidy R-La.; and Cedric Richmond D-La.
"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," said Leesville Mayor Robert Rose in the release.
Vernon Parish Police Jury President Jim Tuck said residents are still encouraged to provide input on the assessment.
"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," Tuck said.
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.