Fort Hood is one of the Army’s most capable installations in terms of its military value.
That’s the message post and community officials will convey to Pentagon representatives at Tuesday’s listening session in Killeen — one of 30 such sessions at Army posts across the nation.
The two-hour event at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center is designed to allow Army officials to explain what the service is doing about the current drawdown and the process used to determine where cuts are made. The session also will allow the community to offer input the officials will bring back to the Pentagon before final decisions are made.
The stakes are potentially huge.
Because of fiscal constraints imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and sequestration, the Army is looking at cutting personnel across the service over 10 years, with the largest posts facing the largest cutbacks.
One plan offered by an Army report issued in November cuts up to 16,000 troops and civilians from Fort Hood and nine other large installations.
But Fort Hood officials, as well as the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance — which is assisting Fort Hood with Tuesday’s event — are prepared to present a solid case for keeping the post’s troop strength high.
And it all comes down to military value.
When the secretary of the Army and chief of staff make their decisions on stationing forces later this year, they will analyze each installation’s Military Value Capabilities along with the input from the listening sessions.
Fort Hood scores high in several key areas: low cost of training, ease of deployment and available training area. But more importantly, the surrounding community enhances the post’s mission in other ways that provide both intrinsic and tangible value.
In addition to being extremely supportive of the military and its mission, the surrounding communities offer relatively low cost of living and provide housing at a lower BAH than at most other installations. Educational opportunities for soldiers and their families abound, through dual-credit courses, early-college high school and military friendly education programs at local colleges.
Since 45 percent of the Army’s budget is pay and allowances, it stands to reason that cutting benefit costs will allow the service to support more soldiers.
And local officials plan to show the Army representatives how keeping soldiers at Fort Hood can accomplish just that.
In addition to hearing from Fort Hood’s commander, Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, about what is going on inside the post, the visiting Army representatives will be briefed by local civilian officials about the many ways our community supports Fort Hood, its soldiers and their families.
Addressing topics from housing to education to medical care, seven speakers will bring home the fact that the surrounding community brings tremendous added value to what is already an outstanding military installation.
Audience members also will be able to give their input toward the end of the program, but just as importantly, the session will be an opportunity to learn about Fort Hood and the local community.
The Pentagon is reportedly looking for signs that the community is engaged with and supportive of its military installation. With that in mind, turnout for Tuesday’s event will be crucial.
Two years ago, the Army held a listening session in Killeen before the service made its last round of cuts. More than 400 people attended the event.
About 500 chairs will be set up for Tuesday’s session, which will begin at 6 p.m. in the conference center’s Ballroom A and B. Our community can send a strong message of support for our post by making sure those chairs are all filled.
Let’s show the Army what a gem it has in Fort Hood — and what a valuable asset it has in our Central Texas community as well.