The Fort Knox military installation near Radcliff is world famous as the location of the U.S. gold depository or vault. In fact, during August, Gov. Matt Bevin had the opportunity to be a part of the first contingent allowed to see the nation’s gold reserves since 1974.
However, keeping the majority of the nation’s gold supply secure is only a small part of this facility’s capabilities and service to the nation. In 1940, at the beginning of WWII, Fort Knox was established as the Armor Force School and later as headquarters for the Armor Training Center.
While Fort Knox enjoyed 71 years as the home of the Armor School, change has been a constant theme of its more recent history.
In 2005, the Army underwent a Base Realignment and Closure Process ordered by Congress to increase efficiency of the Department of Defense. As a result, in 2011, the Armor Center and School were moved to Fort Benning, Ga.
Later, despite significant infrastructure investments by the state and local communities, the Accessions Command based at Fort Knox cased its colors, signifying the unit’s inactivation. More recently, in 2014, the 3rd Brigade Infantry Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division was deactivated, resulting in a loss of 3,600 full time personnel.
The establishment of the Army’s Human Resources Command and Cadet Command offset some of the economic and personnel losses. However, the reductions implemented have severely affected the community, both on and off the installation.
A 2015 economic study found that Fort Knox contributes $2.6 billion to Kentucky’s economy. Unfortunately, the force reductions have resulted in a downward trend, with some local businesses reporting a 30 percent to 40 percent loss in sales.
The Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs recognizes the value of Fort Knox and the commonwealth’s other military installations. As a result, we have a strategic goal to promote and grow each of them.
By working in partnership with Fort Knox leadership, advocacy groups like the Knox Redevelopment Alliance, the Cabinet for Economic Development, Kentucky’s state legislators, its congressional delegation and government leaders, we will continue to pursue new functions and expanded missions for this installation.
In fact, some of the changes have resulted in making Fort Knox an attractive option for future expansion and growth. Some examples of what it has to offer include:
▪ Updated modern buildings, improved housing for single soldiers as well as families, improved roads, and state of the art schools for the children of soldiers.
▪ World-class live fire ranges and training facilities.
▪ A Net Zero Energy facility, meaning it has the capability to generate or produce as much energy and water as it uses, which lowers costs and makes the facility “off the grid” secure.
▪ Godman Airfield, a fully instrumented, three-runway installation that is C-130 capable.
▪ A central location within the U.S. with excellent access to road, air, rail and water networks.
With all of these advantages, Fort Knox could potentially support a multitude of new missions and functions, such as handling warfighting units such as an Armored or Infantry BCT, Special Operating Forces, or even new units like the Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigades.
It could also operate as a Department of Defense personnel center of excellence. There is also potential to gain synergies and efficiency with organizations such as the Military Entrance Processing Command to co-locate with its largest customer, the United States Army.
Regardless, Fort Knox is a hidden gem and should be sought after, by not only the Department of the Army, but by the other branches of service as well.
It enjoys outstanding support from the surrounding communities and provides a high quality of life for soldiers stationed there, winning the Army’s Community of Excellence Silver Award in 2015. Likewise, the on-post library, Barr Memorial, has received multiple awards including the Library of Congress award in 2017.
In short, this installation has a great deal to offer in capabilities, features, geographic location and resources. It should be more fully utilized. The commission on military affairs and our partners will continue to work toward that goal.
Col. M. Blaine Hedges is executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs.