Would your businesses or family suffer from a potential reduction of 16,000 jobs at Joint Base Lewis-McChord? You need to let the federal government hear your voice.
The Army has proposed reducing the number of military and civilian jobs at JBLM by up to 16,000 before 2020, based on the findings of its Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment (SPEA). While the decision is nowhere near being final, your input could help decide the extent of these proposed cuts.
The South Sound Military & Communities Partnership and the City of Lakewood are encouraging businesses and residents who will be directly impacted by the loss of those jobs to comment on the proposal via the Army’s official public comment process, the deadline for which is Aug. 25, 2014.
Why is it important that you voice your opinion? Public input matters. Last year, when the initial assessment on potential base reductions was released, the South Sound region submitted only one comment, and JBLM lost 4,200 soldiers. In Fort Polk, La., on the other hand, the community mobilized more than 4,000 public comments (more than all other communities combined) and lost only 250 personnel.
Lesson learned: The quality of our response is important, but so is quantity, and—just as important—diversity among that quantity.
Allowing public comments is more than just a box that the Army must check before the proposed cuts are finalized. The Army is required to address all public comments submitted, as long as they fall within the scope of the SPEA.
So how do I submit my comment?
There are two ways you can officially submit your comments to the Army:
- Letter: SSMCP has provided a template for businesses and residents to use when writing their letters here . Below are tips on how to write an effective letter for the Army’s process, but the bottom line is writing about how the proposed reduction of 16,000 jobs, specifically, would affect your business or livelihood. Send it to:
U.S. Army Environmental Command
ATTN: SPEA Public Comments
2450 Connell Road (Building 2264)
Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234-7664
- Email: Following the same guidelines as the letter, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org .
What does an effective comment look like?
- Public comments need to focus on the content of the SPEA and the Draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FNSI). The Proposed Action is for the Army to drawdown its active duty force from 490,000 to 420,000 soldiers, which could include a worst-case scenario at JBLM of up to 16,000 soldiers and civilian workers combined. The Army believes the only significant adverse impact to our region is socioeconomic, which does not require them to produce a more detailed Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
- Public comments should not focus on other topics such as BRAC, the strategic “pivot to the Asia-Pacific,” or sequestration. Anyone interested in addressing these and other topics outside the scope of the SPEA are encouraged to do so, but not as part of the public comment process on the SPEA.
- Form letters are the least effective form of public comment. For this and other reasons, the SSMCP will not provide a form letter for our partners to use. We will provide ideas, help lead the public outreach effort, coordinate information sharing among partner members, and other support/tools as time and resources allow; however, each interested jurisdiction, organization, company, individual, etc., is strongly encouraged to submit a personalized comment of their own.
- Comments should be as specific as possible. Focus on (1) what concerns you, the author (jurisdiction, organization, company, individual, etc.) about the Proposed Action, and (2) why you, the author, are concerned. Focus on facts. Do not simply say, “Don’t draw down the Army at all” or “Don’t draw down the Army at JBLM.” Focus on the potential impacts to you. For example, the Army has made an estimate as to what they believe the impacts will be; are their assumptions correct? Is the data they are using to develop these assumptions correct? If not, explain why and, if possible, provide them with better data, and/or suggest a better tool for them to use in estimating the impacts.
- It is important that we convey that the base and our military service members and their families have broad support in the South Sound. This is important because in Washington, D.C., there is a perception that our region has a negative feeling about the base because of perceptions over their responsibility for regional traffic congestion, the helicopter noise, and school overcrowding. We need to be clear that, while these are valid, ongoing concerns, we overwhelmingly value the base’s presence and we are constantly working with the base to find ways for us to be better neighbors with them, and vice versa. For example, we’ve developed important partnerships in recent years, including the SSMCP, and our military and civilian communities have made significant investments of both money and time to better support JBLM and the military population in our region.
- Another positive you are encouraged to emphasize is that the Pacific Northwest is known for its high quality of life: Service members and their families want to be stationed here, and we can and will continue to embrace them and the missions at JBLM.
- It is always a good idea to include in your public comments a statement such as “Thank you for the opportunity to comment.”
- If you need help crafting a letter or email, another great source of assistance is the Office of Congressman Denny Heck. In Lakewood, you can reach his office at:
6000 Main St. SW
Lakewood, WA 98499
What else can I do?
- Please CC the affected Washington State Congressional Delegation, the Governor’s Office, and the SSMCP (per the template to be provided) when submitting public comments.
- Click here to register for the next meeting of this “Army SPEA Response Acton Team” scheduled for Thursday, August 7, 2:30pm – 4:00pm at Lakewood City Hall. The registration link is hosted on the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber’s website. More information regarding the meeting will be sent to you.
- If you know of others we should include in our Response Action Team correspondence, please contact Mary Huff, MHuff@cityoflakewood.us , or Gary Brackett, email@example.com .