The news from Washington for Fort Leonard Wood was good news, according to elected officials and local leaders, Thursday.
U.S. Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill and Representative Vicky Hartzler released a joint statement reacting to the Army announcing that Fort Leonard Wood will be reducing by 774 uniformed personnel by Sept. 30, 2017. Originally, the Army was considering a 5,400 uniformed personnel reduction at Fort Leonard Wood.
Fort Leonard Wood, in a statement released Thursday afternoon, pointed out that “17,000 Department of the Army” civilian jobs are expected to be cut nationwide as well. However, no announcement has been made as to how many of those jobs will be at Fort Leonard Wood yet. The statement from Fort Leonard Wood said the U.S. Army anticipates that “the majority of the Department of the Army civilian reductions will be absorbed through attrition and positions that are currently unfilled.”
The Army is planning to reduce forces from 490,000 soldiers to 450,000 as part of reductions that have been occurring since the Budget Control Act of 2011 which imposed budget caps or Sequestration on military budgets. The regular Army will have been reduced by 120,000 soldiers by the end of the budget year in 2017.
The Sustainable Ozarks Partnership, the group that organized the listening post last March and gave the presentation discussing the advantages Fort Leonard Wood has over other military bases, released a statement Thursday saying it and local leaders believe the Army recognized the value and preserved the core mission at Fort Leonard Wood.
“As we expected, the Army is being forced to make difficult decisions due to budgetary constraints brought on by Sequestration in Washington, D.C. While it is true that Fort Leonard Wood will see reductions that will hurt the region and state, it is important to note that many other installations fared considerably worse, in some cases losing thousands of uniformed positions. We believe that the announcement of a smaller number than originally estimated demonstrates the Army’s understanding of the importance of the enduring value of the core training mission at Fort Leonard Wood,” said Dr. Brian Henry, Sustainable Ozarks Partnership president.
Fort Leonard Wood's mission is to primarily serve as a training base for the Army, but is also host to training missions for other branches of the military, as well.
“Home to the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Fort Leonard Wood now trains and educates service members and develops doctrine and capabilities for the Training and Doctrine Command's U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear School, U.S. Army Engineer School, and U.S. Army Military Police School, three gender integrated Initial Military Training brigades, one of only five reception stations in the Army, and the Army's largest Noncommissioned Officers Academy,” the statement from Fort Leonard Wood said.
The statement also points out that Fort Leonard Wood also supports “the colonel-commanded Marine Corps Detachment and an Air Force Detachment, which are both the largest on any Army installation, are located on Fort Leonard Wood; a large Navy Seabee Detachment and elements of the Coast Guard train here as well.”
Elected officials from all over the state released statements Thursday in support of Fort Leonard Wood and gave reaction to the announcement by the Army that the reduction of force at Fort Leonard Wood would be so much lower than originally feared. Most officials credited the listening post as being a major contributor to the Army's decision.
An unprecedented number of elected state and local officials, as well as community members from all over the region, attended the listening post earlier this year in which officials from the Pentagon and Washington D.C. were given a presentation outlining the importance and advantages of maintaining Fort Leonard Wood for the military.
“This spring, more than 2,000 Missourians, including local leaders, stakeholders, state and congressional delegations, soldiers and family members, attended the SPEA listening session, marking the second-largest recorded attendance in the country. While budgetary constraints have forced the Army to make difficult decisions, today’s announcement confirms what Missourians already know: Fort Leonard Wood will continue to play a critical role in the training and development of our troops. Key criteria, including an abundance of maneuver and training areas, the absence of encroachment concerns, optimal geographic location, and plenty of community support give Fort Leonard Wood a significant leg up over other installations for future Army missions,” the joint statement from Blunt, McCaskill and Hartzler said.
Representative Steve Lynch, of the 122 district, and Senator Dan Brown, of district 16, both of whom have towns in their districts for which a major loss of personnel at Fort Leonard Wood would adversely effect, discussed their reactions in interviews Thursday.
Lynch said the outcome “is a great victory for our community and our state. We saved 4,626 jobs. We had 5,400 jobs we could have lost. We lost 774, but compared to 5,400... This community stood up and made themselves heard at the listening post. This is a result of the community, region and state standing as one.”
Brown said this is “good news. There's going to be cuts. I think got very fortunate. The community, soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood, Sustainable Ozarks Partnership and Joe Driskill did a heck of a job showing why Fort Leonard Wood is the place to train troops.”
Both lawmakers and the Sustainable Ozarks Partnership pointed to the advantages of Fort Leonard Wood for the military over many other bases and have expressed hope that the mission at Fort Leonard Wood could be expanded in the future.
“Even with the announced reductions at Fort Leonard Wood, the number of uniformed positions on the installation will still be higher than it was in 2001. The Army’s decision to minimize the reductions at Fort Leonard Wood underscores the notion that the installation is well positioned to remain one of the nation’s premier training installations.,” The Sustainable Ozarks Partnership said in its press release.
Additionally, lawmakers have taken steps to advocate for the military presence in Missouri. In June, Nixon signed a bill into law establishing the Office of the Military Advocate, which is within the Missouri Department of Economic Development. The goal of the office will be to advocate for and preserve military services and bases in Missouri. The advocate will serve as a liaison between the state and federal government as well advocate for Missouri in Washington D.C.