Community Argues Against Fort Campbell Cuts At High-Stakes Listening Session

Military officials led the meeting with the intent of listening to comments from city and state officials. Credit: Emily Siner / WPLN

Military officials led the meeting with the intent of listening to comments from city and state officials. Credit: Emily Siner / WPLN

A five-hour listening session at Fort Campbell last night — with more than 1,900 people attending — made a case to military higher-ups about why the army post should be spared reductions.

The Army could cut up to 16,000 permanent positions at the post by 2020, about half of the current population. Worst case scenario: Between soldiers and their families, 40,000 people would leave the Fort Campbell area.

At a construction site in Clarksville before the meeting, Matt Cordell, a plumber who’s lived in the city all his life, said he’s worried about the cuts. Fewer people means less construction, which means he may not have a job. He’s seen this happen before, he said — not because of cuts, but because of deployments.

“Back in Desert Storm, back in the early ’90s, Clarksville shut down. There was hardly any work. A lot of the local businesses were struggling,” he said. If a mass of people like that left the army post now, “we’re not building houses, I’m not working.”

Governor Bill Haslam opened the meeting by appealing to the quality of life in the area and the infrastructure on post, including an 11,000-foot runway.

“If you look at the total logistical capacity of Fort Campbell and its runway, I think we compare favorably with anywhere,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I think we’re the very best.”

The Army is considering cuts — some even more drastic — at nearly 30 installations around the country, due to possible budget cuts. It’s expected to make a decision by late spring or early summer.

Updated, 11:20 a.m., to reflect new numbers: The session lasted five hours, not four, and more than 1,900 people attended.

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