Leaders included Chief of Staff of the Army, Texas Senators and Representative’s offices
KILLEEN, Texas (Oct. 12, 2022) – Killeen Mayor, Debbie Nash-King, and all City Councilmembers met with the Army Chief of Staff and staff members of the offices of Senator Ted Cruz, Senator John Cornyn, Representative Roger Williams and Representative August Pfluger during the annual Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) meeting and exposition in Washington, D.C. from Oct. 9-11.
Topics of the council discussions with leaders included the City of Killeen’s role in Army recruitment, quality of life principles, assisting with transitioning soldiers to civilian life/jobs in our community, reimbursement for veteran tax exemptions related to property taxes, medical and mental health care, childcare and infrastructure.
“Having the opportunity to speak with not only the military officials who lead and make policies that directly affect the soldiers and families who live in our community is priceless,” Nash-King said. “Then to be able to speak to the chief of staff and legislative directors of the U.S. representatives and senators of our districts and the state of Texas about how they can connect to our representatives on a state level to improve the quality of life for our soldiers and families has tremendous value.”
The first stop on the visit was at the Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. James McConville’s, home. There, he informed council of a new Army recruitment program and his vision, before taking guests on a tour of the historic home where former generals and legendary figures have lived.
During the Opening Ceremony for the AUSA conference, Secretary of the Army, Christine Wormuth focused on the Army’s motto of, “People First” and addressed the rising costs of housing in communities neighboring military installations, among other concerns.
“Where our soldiers live and work is a fundamental part of the quality of life,” Wormuth said. Council members were also able to meet the first female Secretary of the Army following her address.
Council had the opportunity to attend several panels, including three family forums where senior Army leaders answer questions from military families, as well as a seminar titled, “Reconnecting America and the Army,” where Command Sergeant Major of United States Army Recruiting Command, John Foley, spoke about how cities can help be ambassadors for the Army in regards to marketing for new recruits during their shortfall in finding talent.
“These discussions are so important for us because Fort Hood is our neighbor and their soldiers and families live in Killeen,” Nash-King said. “There are a lot of current updates by key leadership at the conference. It is important to know if there is a shortfall in recruitment and a push for community leaders to assist with recruiting efforts to maintain a strong fighting force. You also have the opportunity to speak with the Surgeon General on healthcare concerns and latest COVID-19 updates.”
During the AUSA event, Mayor Nash-King, Councilman Jose Segarra and Councilwoman Nina Cobb were able to spend time on Capitol Hill and with officials from Senator Ted Cruz, Senator John Cornyn, Representative Roger Williams and Representative August Pfluger’s office.
They discussed infrastructure and the military, but the main topic was the effect of the veteran’s property tax exemption on Killeen’s revenue and budget. City leaders requested implementation of a program, similar to an Impact Aid system. Impact Aid is a federal education program that reimburses school districts for the lost revenue and additional costs associated with the presence of nontaxable federal property. Although that matter is addressed on the state level, representatives from their federal offices said they will research and remain in contact with city staff, considering serious conversations with state representatives to assist, possibly with a letter from the federal delegation to the state.
“The visit to the Capitol was to gain support from legislators for impact aid to assist with a higher quality of life for veterans, soldiers and family members that live near military installations,” Nash-King said. “What we’re asking them to do is significant in regards to building partnerships and relationships on federal levels and this is a topic that can help all military cities.”
The City wants to be proactive and informed of the Army’s top priorities, while ensuring Army and political leadership are aware of our ideas and needs as a military community. A clear priority for the Army was recruitment.
Wormuth said everyone needed to help get the word out about what the Army has to offer and tell the Army story to inspire those to serve. McConville said the goal was to get the Army leaders back out into the community to make sure neighbors know their Army and are familiar with all of the benefits.
Council also heard first-hand a major announcement from McConville, as he revealed the Army has released a long-awaited update to its doctrine that will change the way soldiers train and fight in the future.
Council joined the Fort Hood and Central Texas Chapter of the AUSA for the trip.