Garrison Commander Says Defense Cuts "Effecting Fort Bragg Enormously"
News of budget cuts across the defense sector hasn't been surprising, but Fort Bragg's Garrison Commander says the cuts are hurting the installation quite a bit.
"We're in the middle of a budget crunch unlike anything I've ever seen," Col. Sicinski said. "I will tell you, it's effecting Fort Bragg enormously.
"We're just not able to provide near the level of services we were before, and that impacts a lot of people."
Col. Sicinski's remarks came at the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce's "Wednesday With..." luncheon speaker series Wednesay. The popular series, sponsored by SYSTEL, kicked off its 2012 season at Morgan's Chop House.
Sicinski spoke to a group of 50 business leaders from a cross-section of the community. In his typically candid and accessible manner, the "mayor" of Fort Bragg spoke on a variety of topics, including the impact of troops returning, job cuts, housing plans and school construction.
But the biggest impact statements came regarding the defense cuts. In addition to a reduction in services on Fort Bragg, Sicinski said a number of civilian contractors will not have their contracts renewed as they come up.
"We're losing 123 contract employees in this first batch alone," Sicinski said. "And it will likely get worse after that."
The news wasn't all doom and gloom from Sicinski though. He emphasized that none of the cuts this year are coming from the civilian Department of Defense employees. There will be some losses through attrition, but the current cuts are only coming from contractors.
Sicinski said that 75 percent of the construction on Fort Bragg related to BRAC is complete, and that it will all be done in the next two years.
"We've got $10.8 billion annual economic impact in the greater Fort Bragg economy," he said. "Once that construction is complete, we expect that number to steady stay in the $8-9 billion range."
Sicinski also said the post is pleased with the progress on Interstate 295, which will finally connect the nation's largest military installation to the nation's Interstate system. He said that will allow the closure of Bragg Blvd. through post in the next two years.
"We have some internal problems with traffic on post," he said. "We have a 50s or 60s traffic grid that just wasn't designed to handle the level of traffic we're putting on it today."
A lot of that traffic comes from some of other key numbers that Sicinski shared. During the day, some 150,000 people and 100,000 cars are on post. At night, that number drops to just 45,000 people. That's thanks to a high percentage of people living off post here.
"We have some 80 percent of our families living off post and 50 percent of our single soldiers," he said. "We still have a large number of people on post though, and that creates housing issues."
Fort Bragg will be adding a large number of on-post houses in the next year, but Sicinski said the Army recognizes the importance of feeding into the local housing market.
"Your community has to have balance with your installation in terms of housing percentages," he said. "We have a good 75-25 split here, where that's not always going to be the case. We probably actually need to get that number a couple points higher on post."
With increased population comes increased need for schools and Sicinski said budget cuts aren't impacting the plans for more schools going in on post. Fort Bragg has its own school system for kids up to high school. After that, they kids feed into the Cumberland County Schools system.
"We are exploring the possibility of putting a charter school on post," he said. "I'm personally thinking that's the way to go with our students.
"When I was first here back in the 90s, we intentionally lived off post so my son wouldn't have to go to E.E. Smith. It was rough back then and it wasn't where you wanted to have your students. We're thankful that now, I'm happy to have my daughter there, as it's consistently one of the top performing schools in the area."
The next Wednesday With... luncheon will be March 28 and features Methodist University president Ben Hancock. Contact Todd Lyden at the Chamber to register.
About the Chamber
The Fayetteville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce is the area's chief business advocacy organization and strives to improve quality of life by creating wealth, jobs and investment in our community. The Chamber, through its business partners, the City of Fayetteville and Cumberland County, coordinates the community's economic development efforts as well as provides a number of opportunities to grow local businesses.