Press Release

Local Education Could Be Key Factor in Future Army Base Realignment Decisions

in Program
Inconsistent Standards and Performance Exist in Communities Heavily Dependent on Military Wages across US

For Immediate Release
June 25, 2015
Contact: Jim Baird, [email protected]; (202) 478-3413

Communities that host Army bases could see their economies substantially affected by an Army idea to factor local education standards and performance into future base realignment decisions, according to a new report released today by the nonpartisan Stimson Center. The report titled, “The Army Goes to School: The Connection Between K-12 Education Standards and the Military-Base Economy,” finds that inconsistent education standards and performance could pose a retention risk for the Army at a time when communities that host its bases have a staggering level of economic dependency on the wages that soldiers earn. The report comes as the next Army Chief of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, will face important decisions about the role that state education standards and local education performance should play in determining future Army base realignments nationwide.

“Education and family care is an important part of military culture and the benefits that troops receive for their service,” said Stimson Nonresident Fellow and report author Matthew Leatherman. “The Army plays a critical role in the economies of local communities and it relies on those states and communities to provide an education that will help retain career soldiers.”   

Education standards and performance vary significantly among communities that host military bases and have drawn criticism from the Army’s leadership. In October 2013, Chief of Staff of the Army, General Raymond Odierno said, “[If elected officials] want to keep the military in their communities, they better start paying attention to the schools that are outside and inside our installations. Because as we evaluate and as we make decisions on future force structure, that will be one of the criteria.”

The report utilizes an Army-sponsored study to evaluate school performance and Common Core State Standards to measure education standards. The Pentagon adopted Common Core for use in its schools on military bases in 2012, and they are the only broadly applied set of academic standards currently used in the U.S. To date, states have varied in adopting Common Core and education performance in communities that host military bases remains inconsistent. Varying education standards and school performance impact Army families as soldiers receive orders to relocate on average every 2-3 years.

Key facts and findings from the report include:

  • The quality of education available to soldiers’ children could be a retention issue for the Army. Soldiers expect family care as part of the overall package when joining the Army and could perceive the value of their family care to be lower if the quality of their children’s educational experience is inconsistent.
  • Host communities can have a very high level of dependency on the wages that service-members earn.

    • In 2013, the military generated one-half or more of every dollar earned in six host counties: Fort Benning in Chattahoochee County, Georgia (90 percent); Fort Riley in Geary County, Kansas (67 percent); Fort Campbell in Christian County, Kentucky (63 percent); Fort Stewart in Liberty County, Georgia (61 percent); Fort Leonard Wood in Pulaski County, Missouri (59 percent); and Fort Polk in Vernon Parish, Louisiana (54 percent).
    • Another four bases produce more than one-third of their county’s income: Fort Bragg in Cumberland County, North Carolina (43 percent); Fort Drum in Jefferson County, New York (41 percent); Fort Hood in Bell County, Texas (38 percent); and Fort Lee in Prince George County, Virginia (36 percent).
    • In total, 19 bases contribute at least 15 percent of the income of their host counties.
  • More than 240,000 ac­tive-duty Army Service Members have children. More than 300,000 school age children (5-18 year olds) of active-duty Army Service Members are impacted by varying education standards and performance.
  • Student academic performance differs among the most economically dependent host communities. In an Army-sponsored study, researchers found that some of these communities have well-per­forming schools and reside within states that have adopted high educational standards. Others perform less favorably and are located in states with lesser education standards.

“States and communities that host soldiers and their families have plenty of time to prepare before the Army will be in a position to factor education into choices about base realignments,” Leatherman said. “Congress is unlikely to authorize base realignments in the near-term, but it is almost certain to permit basing changes in the longer term. Hosts that are doing well will need to maintain that success moving ahead, and all hosts have the opportunity to adjust as they see fit based on the Army’s idea.”

The Stimson Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan institution devoted to enhancing international peace and security through a unique combination of rigorous analysis and outreach. Founded in 1989, Stimson is celebrating a quarter-century of building effective security solutions through pragmatic research and innovative analysis.

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