The Army has analyzed the impact of cutting 16,000 personnel from Fort Campbell, which would be about half of its current population.
This analysis was part of the Army’s Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment 2020 Force Structure Realignment,(SPEA) which studied the impacts of reducing the force from around 500,000 to between 440,000 to 450,000. The draft study found there would be no significant impact from the Army’s force reductions, though there are many factors to be assessed before reduction numbers are finalized for the 30 individual locations, including Fort Campbell.
The assessment indicates Fort Campbell is a major economic influence in Christian County, Kentucky, and Montgomery County, Tennessee, where the Armed Forces accounts for 23 percent and 14 percent of the workforce respectively. Hopkinsville Mayor Dan Kemp says the SPEA is only a study and has not affected Hopkinsville’s planning. He says there was no impact on Fort Campbell after a similar evaluation was done two years ago.
“We don’t know if anything will happen but we expect that there would not be a significant reduction at Fort Campbell because Fort Campbell is one of the most strategic military posts in the country,” Kemp said. “We’ve been briefed at Fort Campbell by the command down there and we’ve endeavored to obtain as much information as we can.”
Montgomery County Mayor Carolyn Bowers hopes to work with officials and citizens from across Fort Campbell’s region of influence to submit thorough and consolidated comments as to why Fort Campbell should see minimal reductions.
“But I think we’ve got to get our thoughts and our minds around what we would actually do if we are drawn down that far…. To draw down our troops to that level would certainly send a message across the world that we have a weaker military, and I don’t think any of us want that to happen,” Bowers said. “And I think that now is the time for the American people to rise up and say that we think a strong military force is very important to our national security.”
Bowers hopes the Fort Campbell reduction will be much less than 16,000 but is worried there may be a larger reduction due to the budget stress the United States is experiencing.
Mitch Robinson, Executive Director of South Western Kentucky Economic Development Council, says a significant reduction would cause economic distress but the economy of the region would recover.
“Here in Christian County and the region we’ve got a fairly strong industrial base here…. And then the agricultural economy is very strong… but you take away that many potential shoppers, people that own homes or rent, that’s going to have a definite impact,” Kemp said. “We just got to figure out how to adjust and hopefully work with folks in Washington to see that the 101st has minimum losses.”
Robinson says a reduction of 16,000 is a worst case scenario and it is too early to estimate what the final number for reductions may be.
In 2013, the Army announced that it would reduce its force from its war-time peak of about five-hundred-seventy-thousand in 2010 down to 490,000 by September of 2015. That has been reduced further to the current end number of between 440,000 to 450,000. If sequestration continues into Fiscal Year 2016, the force could be reduced to 420,000.
The draft finding of "No Significant Impact" as determined through SEPA is available for public comment until August 25, 2014.