Today, Congressman Bob Etheridge (NC-02) and Larry Kissell (NC-08) convened a meeting of the President's Economic Adjustment Committee to update progress and discuss local concerns on the upcoming move of U.S. Army Forces Command and Reserve Command to Fort Bragg.
Etheridge and Kissell requested the meeting of Department of Defense and other Federal agency officials in response to requests made by constituents living in areas that will be affected by the BRAC move.
"The federal government is bringing soldiers here, and has a responsibility to support the quality-of-life for soldiers, their families, and the local community. We had a good discussion today that reminded the officials in Washington that while BRAC is great for the region, the positive economic impact is only half the story. Washington must step up and take note that this relocation puts enormous strain on local infrastructure," said Etheridge. "We need bigger roads, expanded water and sewer capacity, and more schools for the children of our nations warriors."
Area residents have expressed concern to Etheridge and Kissell regarding local school districts' ability to receive the influx of students, the stress of an increased number of vehicles on already congested roads, economic development, and water and sewer concerns.
"The people of this region deserve straight talk about BRAC and what is being done to help the region with this transition," said Kissell. "The government has a responsibility to help the communities around Fort Bragg prepare for this move, and to communicate with them as to the progress being made to upgrade schools and infrastructure to handle the influx of new residents. I thank the Department of Defense for hearing our call and being part of this important discussion today."
Under current law, the Economic Adjustment Committee can provide direct funding for planning, and coordinates with Federal Departments and agencies to find sources of funding for implementation of plans. Congressman Etheridge successfully added an amendment to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act that allows the EAC to provide grants to communities directly for the implementation of plans, including construction. This bill has passed the U.S. House of Representatives but awaits action in the Senate.
"I believe that by having a frank discussion with key decision makers about what needs to be done we have moved this whole project forward. Now we have to finish the job." said Kissell.
"Fort Bragg and the Fayetteville area are home to thousands of military families. Our commitment to those families doesn't end with our commitment to our troops. It is a commitment that runs deeper -- a commitment that ensures the children of our military families are going to good schools, that family members have employment opportunities, and our road and water infrastructure can handle growth," said Etheridge. "I am pleased that the Department of Defense is taking steps to make sure we support those quality-of-life issues, and I'm going to continue to work with federal, state and local officials to make sure we meet the needs of North Carolina's military families and communities."
The purpose of the president's Economic Adjustment Meeting was to provide BRAC program stakeholders, local, state and elected officials with updated knowledge of issues surrounding mission growth and to assess local and state capacities to absorb and support projected/actual Service growth. The meeting identified needs for Federal Government assistance. Focus areas were on Critical Growth and sustainability issues, schools and education, workforce and economic development. The Economic Adjustment Committee was created by an Executive Order from President George H.W. Bush and has been honored by subsequent Presidents. The Committee is chaired by the Department of Defense and is comprised of representatives from the Departments of the Army, Education, Transportation, Labor, Commerce, and Agriculture. Representation from the White House was also present at today's meeting.
Today's event was coordinated by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Office of Economic Adjustment, Fort Bragg Garrison Command and the BRAC Regional Task Force.