The Military in Central Texas
Much of Central Texas’ economic and social diversity stems from Fort Hood’s presence. One of the largest military installations in the world, the base encompasses 217,337 acres (or 340 square miles) of southwestern Bell and southeastern Coryell counties.
Fort Hood’s economic importance to the Central Texas region and the state continues to grow. Today there are 53,000 soldiers assigned to Fort Hood, as well as 5,100 Department of Army civilians and 9,200 service and contract employees, making it the largest single site employer in Texas.28 A Comptroller estimate shows Fort Hood contributed $10.9 billion to the Texas economy in 2007, up 79 percent from $6.1 billion in 2004.29 This estimate includes $4.4 billion in direct expenditures from Fort Hood, consisting of military and civilian pay, military construction projects, military contracts and federal aid.
Fort Hood’s presence has brought capital improvement and infrastructure projects to Central Texas that provide local employment and bring in public resources. Capital investment projects on base include the installation of state-of-the-art command and control facilities and a center for soldier development and education as well as large-scale barracks renovations. The base also contains the Army’s largest and most sophisticated rail system, with more than $100 million invested in rail and airlift capabilities since 2000.30
Community growth on and near the base contributes to the area economy as well. Counting active soldiers, the base has a post population of more than 92,000 including nearly 18,000 on-post family members, with another 82,000 family members living off-post. The surrounding area hosts more than 245,000 military retirees and survivor family members.31
To accommodate these communities, the Texas Department of Transportation is investing $161.7 million on a project to widen Highway 195 from Fort Hood to IH-35 in Georgetown. Several projects totaling $350 million at or near the base are under way or in planning stages. Fort Hood is also working with Beaumont and Corpus Christi to make port improvements to support deployments.32
Central Texas’ military presence continues to supply the local economy with a large pool of dedicated and skilled workers as soldiers move from military service to civilian life. To aid this transition, each month the Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) assists more than 700 soldiers who complete their military service at Fort Hood. The ACAP provides former soldiers and their family with skills assessments, resume writing guidance, career counseling and job search training, among other services.33
Local businesses and national companies recruit on base with up to 12 workshops per week. Biannual job fairs also bring employment opportunities; one recent fair attracted more than 150 companies from all sectors of the economy.34
Enlisted Soldiers at Fort Hood
- E-1 Private (PVT)
- E-2 Private E-2 (PV2)
- E-3 Private First Class (PFC)
- E-4 Corporal/Specialist (SPC)
- E-5 Sergeant (SGT)
- E-6 Staff Sergeant (SSG)
- E-7 Sergeant First Class (SFC)
- E-8 Master Sergeant/First Sergeant (MSG)
- E-9 Sergeant Major/Command Sergeant Major (SGM/CSM)
Source: United States Army.
The base also draws national industries that otherwise might locate elsewhere. Defense contractors make up a large share of the region’s employers, providing nearly 5,300 jobs. Top regional defense employers Weststar Aerospace & Defense Group and Science Applications International each employ more than 1,000 in the region.35
Fort Hood is home to a significant portion of combat-ready air and ground forces, with one out of every 10 active duty soldiers in the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Hood. It is the only post capable of stationing and training two Armored Divisions and ranks first among the Army’s 97 installations in terms of future capability.36
The base takes advantage of its unique size and geography to conduct realistic operational testing overseen by the Operational Test Command (OTC). The Western Maneuver Area offers a 20-mile stretch for training exercises, allowing a fully equipped heavy battalion to conduct live-fire exercises for weeks on end. While units simulate combat and prepare themselves for real world situations, the OTC carefully measures the performance of everything from equipment effectiveness to soldier decision-making. Fort Hood also has the Army’s largest combat aviation training area, with 15,900 square miles that allow helicopter crews to practice over realistic distances and terrains.37
Units stationed at the base perform a broad range of Army functions, from divisions of infantry to surveillance and even finance. As more military families develop roots in the area, communities continue to grow, attracting businesses that seek to capitalize on a growing work force.
To help manage this growth, Fort Hood offers the Recovery Credit System, an incentive-based program that partners local landowners with Fort Hood to benefit both conservation efforts in Central Texas and Fort Hood’s training flexibility. Qualifying landowners voluntarily enter into contracts for habitat management in exchange for technical guidance and additional means to maintain their farm or ranch. Specifically, this program enhances endangered golden-cheeked warbler habitat and assists towards recovery of the species. Fort Hood is able to use credits obtained through this program to increase the use of the land on the installation for military training.38
Ranching in Central Texas
Beef cattle ranching is an important contributor to the Central Texas economy. The industry’s 219 establishments employed more than 870 workers and paid more than $23 million in wages, for an average of $26,800 per employee in 2007.39 Ranching generates around $1.5 billion in annual economic output and $418 million in value-added activities for the region. Of the 3.25 million acres used for regional agriculture, nearly 24 percent is dedicated pastureland.40
Throughout the region, ranchers conduct all stages of the beef production process. Cow-calf operations, often seen along highways and rural roads, raise calves for about a year, allowing free-range grazing on pastures in herds. After calves are weaned from their mothers, they are sold to stockers, feeders and backgrounders where calves continue grazing and begin receiving supplemental grains. Between the ages of 12 and 18 months, the cattle are sold to feedlots where they receive growth-promoting supplements and grain rations to build lean muscle. Cattle are considered ready for processing once they reach 18 to 22 months, or a weight of between 1,100 and 1,250 pounds.41
Central Texas ranchers can take advantage of small winter grains by sowing oats and rye grass in the fall that provide winter grazing for cattle. Falls and Hill County are both known as strong areas for winter grazing.42
Cattle Production, 1993-2008
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Ranchers produced more than 1.5 million head of cattle in 2008, comprised of 829,000 head of beef cattle with the remainder including calves, replacement heifers, and some bulls and dairy cows.43 Although the Central Texas region was once home to many small dairy producers, most have followed statewide consolidation trends and shifted into other operations, as economies of scale favor large operations in the Panhandle, near Erath and Comanche counties, or near Sulfur Springs. Farms and ranches must also compete with urban growth, as developers look to agricultural land for residential and commercial expansion, or to develop recreational and hunting ranches.
Central Texas cattle production rose in the early 1990’s, peaking in 1996. Production levels then dropped off through the end of the decade following the end of a natural cattle cycle, as low prices led to inventory selloffs and dry weather reduced grass growth. Average cattle production cycles last around 10 years and occur largely from the lag between ranch decision making and the biological process of cattle. Ranchers base current breeding decisions on cattle price expectations roughly two years ahead, along with other expectations like fuel costs and grass availability. When cattle reach the processing stage two years later, ranchers adjust inventories with current prices. This two year discrepancy leads to gradual inventory buildups and liquidations.44
Central Texas employs 7.3 percent of the state’s beef cattle workers and is home to nearly 8.8 percent of the state’s beef cattle ranching establishments.45
All links were valid at the time of publication. Changes to web sites not maintained by the office of the Texas Comptroller may not be reflected in the links below.
- 28 Texas Insider.org, “Fort Hood Impacts Texas Economy By $10.9 Billion,” p. 2, http://www.texasinsider.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=3563. (Last visited March 18, 2009.)
- 29 Heart of Texas Defense Alliance, “Estimate of the Economic Impact of Fort Hood on the Texas Economy,”, HOTDA Fact Sheet (May 12, 2008), p. 1, http://www.hotda.org/Articles%20of%20Interest/Economic%20Impact%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf. (Last visited March 18. 2009.)
- 30 Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Military Preparedness Commission’s Master Plan for 2008, (Austin, Texas, August 12, 2008.) pp. 30-31, http://governor.state.tx.us/files/military/masterplan.pdf. (Last visited March 18, 2009.)
- 31 Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, “Facts About Fort Hood,”, p. 2, http://www.killeenworks.com/forthood.html. (Last visited March 18, 2009.)
- 32 Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Military Preparedness Commission’s Master Plan for 2008,
- 33 Linda Christ, “Ready, Aim, HIRE!” Texas Apartment Association News & Views, (Winter 2009), pp. 41-42.
- 34 Interview with Linda Christ, transition service manager, Fort Hood Army Career and Alumni Program, Killeen, Texas, March 2, 2009.
- 35 Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, “Major Employers,” pp. 1-4, http://www.killeenworks.com/major_employers.php. (Last visited March 18, 2009.)
- 36 Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, “March Along, Sing Our Song,”, Fiscal Notes (August 2008) p. 1, http://www.window.state.tx.us/comptrol/fnotes/fn0808/ . (Last visited March 18, 2009.); and Texas Insider.org, “Fort Hood Impacts Texas Economy By $10.9 Billion.”
- 37 Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Military Preparedness Commission’s Master Plan for 2008,
- 38 Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, “Overview,” p. 1, http://rcs.tamu.edu/; and Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, “What is the Golden-cheeked warbler Recovery Credit System,” p. 1, http://rcs.tamu.edu/WhatIsIt.aspx. (Last visited April 8, 2009.)
- 39 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages,” http://www.bls.gov/cew/. (Last visited March 18, 2009.) Custom queries.
- 40 Economic impact analysis provided by Texas A&M University, Texas Agrilife Extension Service.
- 41 Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, “BEEF: From Pasture to Plate,” pp. 1-2, http://www.beeffrompasturetoplate.org/stagesinbeefproductionprocess.aspx. (Last visited March 19, 2009.)
- 42 Interview with David Anderson, livestock economist at the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service, College Station, Texas, April 2, 2009.
- 43 United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service, “U.S. & All States County Data,” http://www.nass.usda.gov/QuickStats/Create_County_All.jsp. (Last visited April 6, 2009.) Custom queries.
- 44 Interview with David Anderson, livestock economist at the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Services.
- 45 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.”