Aug 18, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Excerpted from Politico: Here in the military town home to Fort Bragg, long fighting off its nickname “Fayette-nam,” the unemployment rate has soared above the rest of the country’s for years.
And things could get much worse, military officials, contractors and voters here fear, if Congress doesn’t work out a deal before January 2nd when $500 billion in automatic defense cuts take effect.
In Fayetteville alone, that could take a bite out of $640 million in government contracts that flow into companies here, like major contractors Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Booz Allen Hamilton.
The mood is so dark that even members of Congress who voted against sequestration in the first place fear they’ll still get the blame — a sentiment shared by incumbents across the country.
“We put this in as a last-minute measure thinking that, certainly, it wouldn’t go this way. Look where we are,” said Rep. Larry Kissell (R-NC). “I voted against this every chance I got. It’s just terrible legislation.”
Fayetteville’s Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) is facing one of the toughest reelection battles of his 16-year career — and he’s in the same spot.
“I did not vote for sequestration and Congress must act to avoid sequestration,” he said. “If not, there will be massive defense cuts, that as a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am gravely concerned.”
Both of North Carolina’s senators, Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Kay Hagen, voted for the Budget Control Act of 2011, which put the doomsday cuts in place. They just never thought they’d take effect.
“I look back at it as a big regret,” Burr told POLITICO.
So there they were, in Fayetteville earlier this week at a defense trade show to tell industry leaders they were doing everything they can to stop sequestration.
“We have got to sit down at the table, negotiate our difference and come together and we need to do it as soon as possible,” Hagen said.
“I think if we’re going to blame Congress, we have to blame the administration,” Burr said. “This requires leadership and if the administration’s going to show no leadership then we’re going to be in lame duck trying to figure out how to handle sequestration and potentially with sequestration being a leverage point for the policies that come out of sequestration – that’s a very dangerous, very dangerous thing to do given the financial shape of the country.”
But the locals here want less talk and more action as they think about what they’ll do at the polls in November.
Retired Gen. Daniel McNeill, a native North Carolinian and former commander of Fort Bragg who now runs a defense firm in Fayetteville put it this way: “They vote based on their wallet.”
Jim Lynch is chief operating officer of K2 Solutions, which trains military bomb-sniffing dogs at Fort Bragg and other military bases. The company employs about 300 people.
“I’m upset that our Congress, they’re not doing their job. If I don’t do my job in business, I get fired,” Lynch said. “They’re all saying the same thing. It’s time for action.”
The economy in Fayetteville gets $12.9 billion a year from defense-related spending, according to Fayetteville State University economics professor Dr. Inder Nijhawan.
“The soldiers have to spend money somewhere,” he said.
It’s not like the local community can bare the cuts. Only 20 percent of the service members stationed at Fort Bragg actually live on the base – and foreclosure rates ARE already up 73 percent this year. Fayetteville also receives federal aid for its education system to subsidize the lack of schools on Fort Bragg and takes in money from veterans and service members studying on the GI Bill.
If Congress and the Obama Administration can’t agree on a plan to reduce the deficit, then automatic cuts of as much as 10 percent will hit nearly every government agency. Under the Sequestration Transparency Act, which President Obama signed into law earlier this week, the government is required to lay out its plan within 30 days.
The Defense Department would take the largest cut – about $500 billion – and that would mean fewer government contracts for Fayetteville-area companies, who wish they had more information out of Washington.
“I don’t hear anything,” said Jim McLean, chairman of the North Carolina Defense Business Association in Fayetteville. “I don’t think our legislature or our community understands what’s looming in Congress.”
Big companies like Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen Hamilton and Boeing all have offices here.
“Sequestration has created near-term uncertainty for our business,” a spokeswoman for Lockheed told POLITICO. “We don’t know which programs, sites, technologies or suppliers will be impacted.”
Fort Bragg is home to the 82nd Airborne, 82nd Airborne, Special Operations Command, Army Reserve Command and Force Command.
The town’s motto is now “Live. Thrive. Prosper” and it was named an All-American City just last year. It’s a place where U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan still make the front page of local newspaper.
“Our well-being is mutually supported by our neighbors outside our gates, from mayors to merchants, bankers, civic organizations, medical, education, commercial institutions and the emergency and law enforcement network,” said Lt. Gen. Daniel Allyn, commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps which oversees Fort Bragg. “This partnership is remarkable and it serves as a model for military communities across the country. We are truly empowered by the routine outpouring of unwavering cooperation and unyielding friendship that our military families enjoy here in North Carolina.”