The grimmest measure of war is the all-too-familiar casualty count – the numbers of brave men and women in our Armed Forces who sacrificed life and limb for their country.
Now, as the United States slowly works to extricate itself from war in two different countries, Fort Bragg and other military installations around the nation are beginning to anticipate a casualty toll of peace. The measure doesn’t represent the tragic consequences of battle, thank goodness. But it has a real impact on troops and their families, all the same.
The U.S. Army has projected that Fort Bragg could lose as many as 16,000 soldiers and civilian employees by 2020. The reason? With political leaders in Washington ever mindful of federal expenses, the Army doesn’t need as many soldiers in peacetime as it does during war.
The potential impact would affect more than rank and file troops. It also could cause Fayetteville to lose more than 21,000 jobs and see a drop in population of some 40,000 residents, the Army said. Annual sales taxes in Fayetteville could drop by as much as $11.3 million.
That’s a tough blow for any community, and we hasten to point out that cities in other states will see similar changes as the military reduces its wartime forces on bases elsewhere. But the impact of a troop decrease at Fort Bragg, home to about 10 percent of the U.S. Army, likely would be felt in all of Eastern North Carolina.
Already, the Fayetteville area is gearing up for the transition. The regional chamber of commerce is looking for ways to diversify the area’s economy, and state universities and community colleges are reaching out to troops with offers of furthering their education.
Those efforts probably sound familiar to anyone who already lives in Eastern North Carolina. We’ve been looking for a long time for ways to diversify our economy and retain higher educated, talented young people.
No one deserves a better shot at a new life than those who have voluntarily put themselves on the line for the good of their country. All the same, a tough economy likely will become tougher with so many displaced soldiers entering the job market at once.