Fort Bragg could benefit from military spending boost

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The Fort Bragg community reacts to President Donald Trump's plans for an increased defense budget.

President Donald Trump is promising the nation's governors he will 'rebuild' what he's call a "depleted military."

The White House says Trump's upcoming budget boosts defense spending by $54 billion.

The Trump blueprint, due in more detail next month, would fulfill the Republican president's campaign pledge to boost Pentagon spending while targeting the budgets of other federal agencies. The "topline" figures emerged Monday, one day before Trump's first address to a joint session of Congress, an opportunity to re-emphasize the economic issues that were a centerpiece of his White House run.

Domestic programs and foreign aid would absorb a 10 percent, $54 billion cut from currently projected levels - cuts that would match the military increase. The cuts would be felt more deeply by programs and agencies targeted by Trump and his fellow Republicans, like the Environmental Protection Agency as well as foreign aid. Veterans' programs would be exempted, as would border security, additional law enforcement functions and some other areas.

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"We're going to start spending on infrastructure big. It's not like we have a choice - our highways, our bridges are unsafe, our tunnels," the president told a group of governors at the White House on Monday. He added, "We're going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people."

President Trump campaigned on rebuilding the military. Fort Bragg officials say it's way too early to know how the events unfold and how they might affect Bragg.

However, Fort Bragg remains the military's largest installation, the tip of the spear in national defense, and it accounts for about 40 percent of the local economy, so economic development officials say additional defense funding could have a large impact on the Sandhills.

"If it's used to increase soldiers, I think that would have a phenomenal effect on our community, from housing to retail, to an influx of the base of taxes," said Juawana Williams of the Fayetteville Cumberland County Economic Development Corporation.

Williams also said additional money could also help a growing number of defense contractors who now have offices around Fort Bragg.

The United States already spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined, but military leaders have complained repeatedly that aircraft are aging. Congress was told recently that the average age of Air Force aircraft is 27 years, and more than half of the service's inventory would qualify for antique vehicle license plates in Virginia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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