Fort Bragg vulnerable in budget battles

| November 29, 2013

FayObservEditorial by Fayetteville Observer, November 28, 2013.

Although Fort Bragg sits on Fayetteville’s doorstep, it may be too familiar a presence for us to easily see how big it is.

It isn’t just big. The post is huge. In terms of building space and population, it’s the largest military installation in the United States. Greg Bean, the post’s director of public works, recently put it in perspective for a planning group. Since the last round of BRAC, Bean said, the post’s buildings have grown from 20 million square feet to an expected 52.4 million square feet next year.

For a sense of scale, that’s more space than Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Stewart, Ga., combined. Construction projects underway at Fort Bragg are valued at more than $860 million. A 20-year reconstruction of 82nd Airborne buildings has cost nearly $1 billion.

And there’s more coming. A lot more, including a $155 million training campus for the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School and additional special ops expansions in the Patriot Point portion of the post that will cost $370 million.

Fort Bragg also provides thousands of civilian jobs and the federal budget pumps about $11 billion a year into our local economy.

The good news is that much of that federal investment here is almost certain to continue. While there will be cuts in spending on conventional forces, the Pentagon plans to increase spending on special operations troops – hence investing more than half a billion dollars in the next few years on the JFK School and Patriot Point.

But unless Congress acts soon on next year’s federal budget plans, another round of sequestration could kick in. It would be at least as disruptive as this year’s, and probably more so. The automatic and indiscriminate cuts will be about $15 billion larger than this year’s $37 billion reduction. That means more furloughs for civilian workers, more cutbacks in family-support programs, more reductions in staff at military hospitals and clinics.

When Congress returns from its Thanksgiving break, it will be staring at a Dec. 13 deadline to get a budget deal done that will forestall the second round of sequestration. If our lawmakers fail, deeper cuts are coming our way – cuts that will inflict deep damage on the economy of this region.

We hope Congress will finally find a way to stop the insanity of blindly cutting a budget, with no regard for the importance of the services lost.

But given what we’ve seen from Washington in the past year, it’s hard to find reasons for optimism.

Category: NC SPIN Perspectives - Opinions from NC Leaders & Organizations

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