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Local leaders believe Army recognized value and preserved core mission at Fort Leonard Wood

by Erin Kaberline | Jul 09, 2015

Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri – July 9, 2015 – After months of collecting public comments and conducting multiple listening sessions around the country, the U.S. Army announced today that Fort Leonard Wood would see far fewer cuts than originally estimated. Due to the Army’s decision to reduce its budget, an estimated 774 positions will be lost at Fort Leonard Wood by September 30, 2017.

The announced number includes primarily uniformed Army positions. It is expected that an additional announcement regarding Civilian Army positions will come later in the year.

Over a year ago the U.S. Army announced a need to reduce the active duty force from 490,000 down to 450,000 through the Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment (SPEA), which analyzed the socioeconomic impact of those possible cuts at 30 Army installations, including Fort Leonard Wood. The SPEA originally called for Fort Leonard Wood to lose up to 5,400 Soldier and Army civilian positions.

An end strength of 450,000 would reduce the Army to it’s smallest size since the United States entered World War II in 1940. The Army was at 480,000 when the World Trade Center was attacked in 2001.

“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 chairman.

Regional SPEA Feedback

In August of 2014, almost 4,900 Fort Leonard Wood supporters submitted written comments to the Army opposing cuts at the installation. The SOP allowed citizens to send emails and letters directly from their website to the U.S. Army Environmental Command. In addition, the SOP set up a petition on an external website. Citizens digitally signed the petition and left comments. All signatures and comments from the petition were sent directly to the Army.

In March of 2015, a team of Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s G-3/5/7 Force Management Division attended an Army Listening Session on Fort Leonard Wood to hear directly from community members regarding how critical the installation is to the region, state, and nation.

Over 2,000 Missourians packed Nutter Field House for the U.S. Army’s Listening Session held on Fort Leonard Wood. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, Senator Claire McCaskill, Senator Roy Blunt, Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, State Senator Dan Brown (with about half of the Missouri Senate), State Representative Steve Lynch (with about one third of the other members of the Missouri General Assembly), local elected officials from across the region, and hundreds of community members attended to demonstrate to the Army why Fort Leonard Wood is critical to mission success.

“We feel that we made a great case through the public comment period and the listening session as to why Fort Leonard Wood is a great place for the Army to do business. We believe that we showcased the installation’s strengths, such as modern, flexible training areas and ranges that could accommodate expansion, zero encroachment issues, newly built and updated training facilities and barracks, and the abundance of natural resources that are necessary to accommodate current and new missions. We are not happy that the Army has to make cuts at all, but to lose far fewer jobs than originally estimated makes this bitter pill a little easier to swallow,” said Joe Driskill, Sustainable Ozarks Partnership Executive Director..

Future of the Region

Each year, Fort Leonard Wood trains approximately 80,000 Soldiers and this training mission is critical to the Army and nation. 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.

“It is important that we remain vigilant in our support for the installation during these continued times of budget uncertainty in Washington, D.C. As I discussed with my fellow Association of Defense Communities board members at the recent National Summit, if budgetary Sequestration is not corrected, the Army will be forced to make even more substantial cuts. Any future cuts could negatively affect our personnel and missions on Fort Leonard Wood. The SOP will continue working with our partners across the state and nation to ensure the viability of Fort Leonard Wood for years to come,” said Driskill.

Strengthening the Fort Leonard Wood region