Rolla is a beach, Fort Leonard Wood is an ocean in turmoil thanks to the federal government, and waves from that stormy sea have been hitting us.
That was the metaphor used by retired Lt. Col. Steve Tupper, now a campus-military liaison for Missouri S&T, at Monday night’s Rolla City Council meeting regarding a plan by the Army to cut its forces from 562,000 to 490,000 by fiscal year 2020.
Tupper, speaking to the council at the invitation of City Administrator John Butz to apprise the councilmen of the work going on in the region to protect the post, said there have already been several “waves” rolling out of Fort Leonard Wood.
It started near the end of January when many temporary employees were let go.
Another wave occurred with the “sequestration” of federal funding that has already resulted in the ending of tuition assistance for soldiers taking engineering classes at Missouri S&T.
The next big wave will likely begin later this week when letters explaining the furlough policy go out to civilian workers who have permanent employment on post.
“Civilian workers are going to have to take days off,” Tupper said. Those days off each month will begin 30 days from the date the letter goes out, he said.
Those days off will not be paid time off, so workers will have less money to spend in Phelps, Pulaski, Laclede and Texas counties, the four counties identified in the Sustainable Ozarks Partnership that has been working on this issue.
Tupper explained that the Army plan to cut its forces was discovered when a contracting firm posted a notice seeking comments on the plan.
An incredulous Councilman Don Morris asked how a firm that was allegedly seeking public comments would merely post a notice, rather than widely publicizing the need for information.
Tupper said the contractor appeared to be fulfilling the requirements of the law but only minimally.
Twenty other installations have also been identified by the Army, through its contracting firm, as being capable of being trimmed back with no significant adverse economic impact.
Sustainable Ozarks Partnership disputes that finding of no adverse impact, and has publicized the comment period that closes Thursday.
Some 750 comments have been received, including one from Mayor Bill Jenks on behalf of the city.
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Tupper said the effect on Fort Leonard Wood will be to diminish the number of the permanent party labor force of about 9,400 soldiers and civilians by 3,900. That’s a 41 percent cut.
Councilman Kelly Long noted that the number of permanent party who would be affected should be enlarged by the number of spouses and children affected.
“It could be 10,000,” he said.
The Army projects a loss of 450 direct and 504 indirect jobs, in addition to the lost jobs on post.
In three counties, Laclede, Phelps and Pulaski, the Army projects a loss of population of 9,729, a loss of jobs of 4,818 on and off post, a loss of income of $177.9 million and a loss of annual sales of $167.6 million.
“It’s going to hurt,” Tupper said.
Sustainable Ozarks Partnership is working with legislators, both state and national, to inform authorities of the impact the changes will have on a place like Fort Leonard Wood and the surrounding communities.
The organization is also working to prepare for the biggest wave of all; that will occur in 2015 when the Base Realignment and Closure Commission begins working on restructuring and closing posts and bases.