Undersecretary of the Army Dr. Joseph Westphal stated that small businesses are critical to Army readiness.
In Liberty County, we know how important the Army is to small business, and with budget talks having begun Oct. 30 and another round of Base Realignment and Closure asked for in 2017, we all should try to be aware of what is going on in the country.
BRAC originally was planned for 2015, but the recent cut of 10 brigade combat teams, which was scheduled to occur during the next four years, has been accelerated and will be finalized by the end of the 2015 fiscal year.
BRAC will look at more areas in the surrounding community than they did previously. It will look at crime, education, health care, cost of living, economic impact, child care, capacity to absorb new missions, veteran’s services, growth ability, transportation, air quality, encroachment and community cost reduction.
Although the BRAC for 2017 is not a certainty, the commission will begin looking at the different military communities in the near future. A positive attribute for Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield and the surrounding communities is how many times we have been named a Community of Excellence.
Hopefully, the BRAC commission will not consider any of Georgia’s bases as a possible closure site, but we must remain vigilant and get our percentages to the top of the scale for Georgia, showing our continued commitment to the Armed Services.
Looking at websites such as www.bestplaces.net, which allows you to compare your city to others, shows Hinesville ranking somewhere between Fort Benning and Fort Gordon. Our weakest areas are education and crime, but if you look at www.usa.com, you will see that our percentage rates continue to move up in education. The continued growth in education is due in large part to Military Child Education Compact that Gov. Nathan Deal signed April 25, 2012. The compact is designed to help make easier military children’s transition between different school systems and in different states.
Why does it help us? Let’s say, for instance, that a student moves into the area one week before our school system has standardized testing, but they have passed a comparable test in their home state. In the past, military children were entered into a new school and had to take that state’s standardized test. All states and districts are different and, therefore, the child is not properly prepared for the test. It is unfair to judge that child on that test and to let the child’s performance reflect negatively on the school system that he/she just enrolled in. The compact prevents this and allows schools to work together to help military children adjust. There is more information at www.aasa.org.
The Liberty County Board of Education constantly pushes staff and students to strive for better scores than the previous year. Within the last few years one of our elementary schools, Taylors Creek, received an award for being one of the state’s top model schools, as well its principal named a National Distinguished Principal. Test scores in all our public schools either meet or exceed the national standard. Each year, the percentages on test scores climb. We need to continue to support the Liberty County education system, for more information on how you can help please contact the Liberty County Board of Education.
We have more soldiers home now than we have had in over a decade, but we are on a slippery slope. While it is true that we did not lose many during the first round of cuts, how many more rounds can we survive? In the past, we made it work when our soldiers were deployed. The difference is that our soldiers won’t be coming back in several months.
For more information and to get involved, go to www.friendsofftstewartandhunter.com.
Hughes is the finance assistant for the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce.