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As Washington officials ponder possible defense cuts, the U.S. Senate’s top-ranking Republican said Wednesday that Fort Knox is here to stay.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell toured the U.S. Army post to update himself on the progress in the wake of the latest Base Realignment and Closure initiative. His visit included a stop at the 833,000-square-foot Human Resource Center of Excellence — which he said is a visual symbol of the way the Army has revised and reinvigorated the post.
“It’s a fabulous structure,” he said.
Sitting in a pinstriped suit in front of a Leaders Club mantle made by Abraham Lincoln’s father, McConnell said Fort Knox’s future looks bright.
The post, which gained commands such as Human Resources and lost the Armor Center and School, benefited from the 2005 realignment by adding many high-paying civilian jobs.
“I think we all agree Fort Knox came out very well,” McConnell said.
He said the area is doing a great job adapting to the realignment.
“This is one of the fastest-growing communities in the country,” he said. And, to a large extent, it has been insulated against the recession. “The timing of all of this couldn’t have been better.”
Going into this BRAC round, officials were nervous Fort Knox would survive at all, McConnell said. “Plenty of us were weighing in, and I hope it did have an impact.”
While future funding is uncertain, he sounded optimistic about the post.
“We’re going to be reducing the government across the board, and defense is not going to be exempt from that,” McConnell said.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is looking to cut $100 billion in spending. “I can’t say that any particular part of the defense department is necessarily off-limits,” McConnell said. But he said the important thing is the permanency of the function Fort Knox now has.
“The survivability of Fort Knox, I think, is determined for the long-term,” he said. It was solidified by the post’s infrastructure improvements.
While McConnell also said he is sure there will be another BRAC round, he doesn’t know when it will be.
On another topic, the senator said Fort Knox may take on another role in the future: assessing the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell’s policy on sexual orientation. The post is in charge of Army recruiting.
In the coming months and years the military will find out whether nixing the policy impacted recruitment and retention, said McConnell, who opposed the repeal.
John Friedlein can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or at email@example.com