FORT POLK, La. -- Army readiness is of paramount importance, despite dwindling resources: Money, services, facilities, infrastructure.
That's why the fiscal year 2013 defense authorization bill authorized military installations and their host communities to enter into intergovernmental support agreements (IGSAs) for base support services. An IGSA is part of the Public-Public Partnership program, which allows the Army to solicit partnership proposals from the field and benchmark existing partnerships.
One such agreement between the Fort Polk garrison and the City of Leesville Public Works Department was signed March 8 by Col. Jarrett Thomas II, Fort Polk's garrison commander, and Leesville Mayor Rick Allen, an agreement that will bolster the already solid bonds that exist between the city and installation.
The initiative, a contract worth about $1.9 million dollars, took months of legwork between Fort Polk's Directorate of Public Works and the City of Leesville, said Nathan Jernigan, chief, Operations and Maintenance Division, Fort Polk DPW. The contract allows for grass-cutting services on Fort Polk to be provided by the City of Leesville, a move that will save the government both money and human resources.
The contract, said Thomas, is a testament to the support Leesville offers to the Fort Polk community. "I've been serving the Army for 22 years, and I've never met community members more supportive of what the Army -- Fort Polk -- is trying to do."
About 50 city employees will cut grass inside Fort Polk, maintaining about 5,000 acres, said Allen. "The venture is separate from the city's Public Works Department. They will report directly to the city administrator," he said.
The IGSA is about much more than profit, said Allen. "This is about supporting Fort Polk as no one else has done."
Also on hand for the event was Mike Reese, president of Fort Polk Progress, a regional organization that takes a proactive stance about force structure decisions at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk. The group has been instrumental in marketing the installation as the most cost-effective place to provide Soldiers with the best training and quality of life possible. Polk Progress also spearheads the Education Initiative, which focuses on excellence in education for military students.
"With this agreement, Soldiers can focus on the mission instead of mowing grass," Reese said. And it gives Leesville an opportunity for a new revenue stream, which in turn will be reinvested in the city.
The intergovernmental support agreement, said Reese, allows Fort Polk to operate more efficiently. It's a building block, he said, "to secure the missions of the JRTC and Fort Polk, both today's and tomorrow's."
The importance of the agreement, the first of more to come, can't be stressed enough, said Thomas.
"Not only does this strengthen the partnership between our communities, but it positively impacts Soldier readiness, and there's nothing more important. By signing this agreement, we get our Soldiers off cutting grass and back to their units. That's where they need to be to prepare themselves and train others to fight our nation's wars," he said.