Fighting Fort Bragg budget cuts

The following editorial appeared in the Fayetteville Observer:

The nation’s security – and to some extent, the world’s – depends on a strong, skilled rapid-response force at Fort Bragg.

In the communities around our nation’s largest military post, the economy depends on it, too. More than 40 percent of the money spent in Cumberland County originates in Defense Department budgets. Try as we do to diversify, our economy remains tethered tightly to Fort Bragg.

That’s why people from Fayetteville to Washington and far beyond should worry about what’s happening on Fort Bragg, largely due to the insane budget cutting mandated by “sequestration.”

Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the post commander, recently told business leaders that post funding is half of what’s needed. Maintenance, road repairs and other critical jobs aren’t getting done. There’s a civilian hiring freeze. Bragg has already lost about 2,000 troops, and thousands more are threatened. The post’s annual economic impact has been reduced by $1 billion, and more cuts appear likely.

The damage isn’t restricted to Anderson’s 18th Airborne Corps. The Army Special Operations Command’s soldiers are in unprecedented demand around the world. The command has about 4,000 soldiers deployed to more than 60 countries, and it needs to expand its ranks. It has millions of dollars in construction planned. But budget cuts have nearly halted its growth.

The command’s leader, Lt. Gen. Charles Cleveland, says, “We’re busy. That hasn’t dropped off as we came out of Iraq and Afghanistan in a big way. It’s no longer the case that we can raise an Army in time of need, because time of need is now.”

Part of that need is confronting the forces of Islamic State, and Fort Bragg is part of that effort. Hundreds of Bragg soldiers are in Iraq, training and advising Iraqi soldiers who plan a spring offensive to retake Mosul.

Yet as the going gets tougher, funding gets cut. The world’s premier rapid-response force faces alarming threats to training and readiness. Anderson urged members of the business community to get involved and fight for Fort Bragg’s future. Our community and the world depend on it.

Tribune Content Agency