Fayetteville Observer - Brooks: Politics at play in debate about cuts
By Drew Brooks
National defense should not be political.
But the biggest short-term threat to Fort Bragg and the military as a whole might just be partisan bickering.
Armywide cuts that could affect the nation's largest military installation are a real possibility.
Those cuts have been created, or could possibly be worsened, by a budget stalemate in Congress.
Rep. David Price, a Chapel Hill Democrat who represents Fayetteville, said the budget uncertainty is the "most threatening cloud on the horizon" during a visit to the Observer last week.
While budget concerns and strategic considerations are almost sure to lead to force reductions of some sort, Price said, the magnitude and distribution of those cuts are being affected by the congressional impasse.
The problem, he said, is that Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on a process for addressing the needed cuts. That leads to dangerous, across-the-board cuts while leaving the main drivers of the national deficit unaddressed.
Price pointed to last year's government shutdown and sequestration.
The deal to end sequestration was only a one-year fix, he warned. And there is a very real possibility it could again be the law of the land.
"It doesn't solve the problem in future years," Price said while advocating for a rational process that lets leaders make sensible decisions instead of "mindless across-the-board cutting."
Any deal should include difficult decisions, he said, such as the approval of another round of base realignment and closures. That would allow the military to make reasoned cost-saving decisions, instead of forcing installations to "share the cuts."
But is a long-term fix viable in the current political climate?
"I'm worried about it," said Price, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee. "I don't see the support for that kind of broad approach."
Too many things are off limits, Price said, openly wishing for a throwback to "1990s budget deal."
Any deal will require open minds, but the most likely outcome will be another short-term fix, Price said.
Whatever the fix, the key is avoiding the mess that was created last fall, when federal workers were forced to stay home from work. That sort of "government by crisis" needs to be avoided, Price said.
Price's remarks were not a huge revelation.
Local leaders have been preaching cooperation on a smaller scale - urging North Carolina's elected officials to work together to protect Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune and other military interests.
At the N.C. Defense Business Association's annual luncheon in Raleigh, an official said the association is promoting teamwork among N.C. politicians.
"It's extremely important to our members that our elected officials have a unified strategy and speak with one voice," said David Hayden, chairman of the association's legislative committee.
National defense should not be political, Hayden said.
"From our perspective, that does not appear to be the place," he said.