Fort Polk a concern among elected officials - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Possible troop reduction at Fort Polk a hot topic at state Police Jury convention

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CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) -

The numbers don't lie. Losing roughly half the troops at Fort Polk would be devastating for Vernon and Beauregard parishes as well as the entire region.

Local and state leaders are working together to fight the proposed troop reduction, a possibility outlined in a recent U.S. Army assessment.

At the Police Jury Association of Louisiana's convention held this week in Lake Charles, police jurors from across the state met to discuss issues and to learn new ways to improve their parish.

Beauregard Parish Police Juror Gerald McLeod, who serves as the association's president, said the assessment was a hot issue at the convention. Under the assessment, 5,300 troops could be reduced at the sprawling Vernon Parish installation.

"When you think about that and think about the off-spin from Fort Polk and the revenue that that generates, not just for Beauregard and Vernon parishes, but for the state of Louisiana, so it affects everyone all the way across the whole state," McLeod said.

Vernon Parish Police Jury President James "Jim" Tuck agreed that the Fort Polk cuts would be devastating. Fort Polk is also home to the Joint Readiness Training Center.

"Fort Polk is the largest employer in the state of Louisiana and also the largest economic impact to the state of Louisiana to the dollar amount of about $1.67 billion each year," Tuck said.

With civilian workers at Fort Polk living in Vernon and Beauregard parishes and beyond, Tuck said the Pentagon should consider all factors before reducing troops. Vernon officials have said that the Army has inaccurate data regarding Fort Polk, erroneous information that was included in the assessment.

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., said he, too, is concerned about Fort Polk as well as the nation's general military readiness.

"I think rather than indiscriminate across the board cuts in our defense budget, we ought to be looking at specific defense programs and see where it would be better to make spending reductions," Boustany said.

"The Pentagon budget, the Department of Defense shouldn't be immune to this. We need to review it. It's not been audited, but across-the-board cuts, I think, are harmful and I don't like it. They are harmful to Fort Polk and to this area," he said.

McLeod said Vernon and Beauregard officials are networking to gain support for Fort Polk. Police jurors have approved resolutions to send to state and national leaders regarding their support for the installation.

"That's why we're asking our state association and everyone to come together with us and help us with resolutions and to really fight it on the national level to make sure it don't get cut and that it stays," McLeod said.

The public can also weigh in on the assessment. Find out more HERE.

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