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Fort Riley Elementary School Groundbreaking

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Fort Riley, Kansas, Thursday, May 19, 2011

Good afternoon.  Governor Brownback, it’s good to see you here.  It’s great to be in Kansas – my home state – although as I’m wont to say, it’s good to be anywhere other than Washington, D.C.  But it’s a special pleasure to be here at Ft. Riley and to take part in this groundbreaking personally.  It was a little over a year ago that I participated in a town hall at this post with many military spouses.  Thanks to their honesty and directness, I heard first-hand about the deficiencies with public school facilities here, and I made a commitment to them to address these problems.  Today, I deliver on that commitment.  Now, we were working in D.C. so it took 11 months longer than it should have.

But today, we mark a major step forward in solving school overcrowding at Ft. Riley, a problem that had become a major retention issue for the Division, which was on its 4th deployment since 2003.  In fact, the Department identified the facilities here as most in need of rehabilitation of any across the armed services.  While there was a clear need to act in this case, it is clear that such on-installation public school facility problems are pervasive.  The Department has more than 150 public schools on military installations across America, and a recent assessment showed that many other school districts have similar difficulties raising the revenue required to meet capacity requirements and rehabilitate aging facilities.   

Going forward, it will be the responsibility of all stake-holders – including local, state and the federal governments – to address this problem.  As an initial step, Congress has appropriated $250 million for the Department of Defense to directly assist school districts in revitalizing the neediest on-installation public schools.  And as part of that funding, the Department will commit resources this year towards resolving the capacity issue at Fort Riley Middle School. 

While local school districts should and will remain ultimately responsible for their public school facilities located on military installations, the Department of Defense will always remain ready to intervene when it has the ability to improve the educational opportunities of our military children.  We owe nothing less to our men and women in uniform and their families, who have sacrificed so much in order to serve their country.

Thank you.         

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