Lee Erwin reporting
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – A delegation of community and business leaders from Clarksville and Hopkinsville will be in Washington D.C. Wednesday, February 26-Friday, February 28 to lobby on behalf of Fort Campbell for projects and services for the military.
The group known as the Citizens for Fort Campbell makes the trip each year and for 2014 around 50 local citizens, many of them from the local Association of the United States Army (AUSA) chapter will meet with U.S. Senators and Representatives from Tennessee and Kentucky in the nation’s capitol.
Jim Durrett with First Advantage Bank is one of those making the trip to Washington D.C. “We’re going up and talking to our folks that represent us in the federal government, talking to them about some needs and things that need to happen out at Fort Campbell,” said Durrett.
Durrett added the Army can’t lobby for themselves and the Citizens for Fort Campbell are not appointed lobbyists or anything like that but we are just trying to spread the word about Fort Campbell. Durrett said he has been involved with the group for around 15 years and the trips to Washington D.C. have been going on for over 20 years.
The Fort Campbell region has experienced amazing growth over the past few years. The Clarksville-Hopkinsville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is the second fastest growing in the country which Durrett said is influenced by the large number of retirees living near Fort Campbell.
Protecting PX (Exchange) benefits is a very important issue facing many military installations as well as Fort Campbell. Those benefits have been associated with helping to make sure soldiers and their families, retirees, and veterans can afford a great quality of life and retail opportunities at a price they can afford.
Read more about military budget cuts here
Last year the PX (Exchange) at Fort Campbell gave over $3 million to local Morale, Welfare & Recreation (MWR) services and programs. Over 530 people were employed with a payroll of $11.5 million which equals a $75 million economic impact to the local region.
Durrett said the Exchange provides a much needed benefit to military families, veterans and retirees in the Kentucky-Tennessee region and the Citizens for Fort Campbell want continued support for those benefits
Next is the use of Sustain, Restoration, and Modernization (SRM) funds. The current SRM contract limit which is $750,000 has not been revised since 2001. Citizens for Fort Campbell support increasing the limit to $1.5 million.
The cost of goods has gone up since the contract limit was set and Durrett says the new limit would give the Commanders and the installation more buying power and more flexibility on how they provide quality facilities for soldiers and their families.
Another item on the Citizens for Fort Campbell list is a program for Campbell Army Airfield which Durrett said is vital to the overall mission of the installation. The program is called the Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB).and it protects the airfield by securing avigational easements and land easements near and around the airfield.
Durett said there is about 4,500 acres left surrounding Fort Campbell and their group plans to ask lawmakers to support funding for the ACUB program so the remaining property around Campbell Army Airfield can be secured.
Also on the agenda for Citizens for Fort Campbell is providing support for the Army’s Tuition Assistance Program. With a downsizing Army, more and more soldiers are finding themselves in transition to civilian life. Durrett said the program plays a significant part in helping soldiers and their families with that transition.