Guest post by Ralph Schulz, president & CEO, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce
The pictures in the newspapers and on television didn’t do it justice.
On Jan. 20, it was my privilege to join Gov. Haslam, other elected officials and thousands of friends and neighbors from across Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky for a listening session held by Pentagon officials at Ft. Campbell. The Army brass wanted to hear from Ft. Campbell’s neighbors about potential force reductions which could result in the number of active-duty military personnel stationed at the post being cut in half. Clearly, these drastic cuts could have clear economic consequences for the region.
About 1,500 area residents were able to make their way inside Ft. Campbell’s Family Resource Center before the local fire marshal closed the doors, and another 500 were able to view the proceedings by remote camera hookup at an auditorium nearby. Military police decided the listening session was at capacity and had to turn another 2,900 people away when Ft. Campbell’s Gate One was closed. The event was streamed live over the Internet, and organizers estimate another 700 people watched the proceedings online. It was an amazing show of support and the largest crowd Pentagon officials had seen at any of the listening sessions they’ve held at the 30 Army installations under consideration for cuts.
My message to the Pentagon was simple. The Clarksville/Southern Kentucky MSA has experienced tremendous population growth over the past 40 years, largely because of its role as a support system for Ft. Campbell. If drastic cuts are allowed to take place because the president and Congress can’t agree on a budget and another round of sequestration takes place, it would mean the immediate loss of more than 37,000 jobs to the region and a GDP loss of more than $5.7 billion. It would take the region decades to recover from such economic losses.
I was just one of a number of voices warning the Pentagon of the impact of drastic cuts, joining Haslam, Kentucky Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield. Each argued that Ft. Campbell is essential to our country’s national security in a very uncertain world.
Army Brig. Gen. Roger Cloutier heads the panel which will make the recommended cuts to the chief of staff, and he stressed no decisions will be made until late spring or early summer. In the meantime, it’s up to all of us to make clear our views to federal officials: reducing force levels at Ft. Campbell makes our country less safe and will cost taxpayers in the long run.
A capacity crowd gathered at Ft. Campbell's Family Resource Center Jan. 20 for a listening session held by Pentagon officials to discuss potential personnel cuts at the Army installation.