Fort Bragg community aims to go on offensive if BRAC round occurs
By DREW BROOKS | The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer | Published: January 25, 2014
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — If another round of base realignment and closure is on the horizon, the Fort Bragg community aims to go on the offensive.
Greg Taylor, executive director of the Fort Bragg Regional Alliance, said he believes it's a matter of when, not if, another BRAC round comes.
Taylor, speaking at the alliance's annual community meeting Friday, said he believes Fort Bragg is in "pretty good shape" if military leaders succeed in their attempts to start another BRAC process.
Col. Jeffrey Sanborn, Fort Bragg's garrison commander, said although many military leaders are advocating for a consolidation round, "Fort Bragg isn't going anywhere."
But that doesn't mean Fort Bragg would necessarily gain in any future realignments like it did in 2005, when it gained U.S Army Forces Command and U.S. Army Reserve Command, among other units.
Two factors play against any Fort Bragg gains, Sanborn said, as he advocated for $8 million in state funding to help resolve one of those issues.
Sanborn said training areas - already stressed by a soldier population that has grown 20 percent since 2005 - need to be protected.
The other issue, he said, is a withering transportation infrastructure on post.
Of Fort Bragg's 57 major intersections, 42 are deemed failed or failing by Department of Transportation standards, Sanborn said.
Fort Bragg doesn't have and is unlikely to receive the needed funding to make repairs on those roads, he said. Instead, the post is hoping to turn to North Carolina for help.
According to Sanborn, the state collects about $8 million in gasoline taxes on Fort Bragg, and he'd like to see that money poured back into the post.
"It sure would be good if the state reinvested something on the order of $8 million into our footprint, given that it's our folks here on Fort Bragg that they're collecting those taxes from," he said.
Sanborn said there is precedence for state help on Fort Bragg roadways. Before post access was restricted last decade, the state maintained the post's roadways.
But even with the money, Sanborn said, Fort Bragg's problems wouldn't disappear. The $8 million would only help fix two or three intersections each year.
"It would take a long time to overcome this challenge," he said.
Sanborn was one of three Fort Bragg officials to give briefings during Friday's meeting. Representatives from U.S. Army Special Operations Command and U.S. Army Reserve Command also addressed attendees.
Sanborn's speech wasn't all negative. He said several factors work in Fort Bragg's favor. As the Army's largest installation, Fort Bragg is also the least expensive, per soldier, in the Army.
Fort Bragg currently has 57,900 troops, Sanborn said. That's a 20 percent increase since 2005, but the post is expected to lose about 2,000 soldiers in the next few years because of Army realignment.
While no BRAC round is set and there is opposition to it in Congress, Taylor said the alliance already has begun to prepare for a potential new round, based on lessons learned in 2005.
One of the obstacles during that round, Taylor said, was access to an interstate from Fort Bragg.
Now, Interstate 295 is nearing completion to link the post directly to Interstate 95.
Sanborn said transportation officials have said they will award contracts to extend I-295 to Raeford Road this year.
"We still have some challenges in our region, but we are working to address them," Taylor said.
"We want to take a different strategy," he said. "In the past, we worked to keep what we have. This time, we intend to go after what we want."
Taylor said work is ongoing to identify military programs with high economic impact, just in case another BRAC takes place.
"Will this be an uphill battle? Yes. Is it a battle we're fighting? Yes," he said. "Last time, we were on defense. This time, we hope to play a little offense."