Top military official speaks out about Fort Bragg's future

Several hundred at Duke will take advice from the commencement speech delivered by the U.S military's highest-ranking official: General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Before Dempsey delivered the commencement address, Elaina Athans sat down with him to get his take on the state of our military and the future of North Carolina's bases, especially Fort Bragg.

One of his messages was there needs to be flexibility. He said he's facing an enormous challenge to reduce spending by more than a trillion dollars over 10 years. That challenge could mean changes for North Carolina.

"We don't have certainty, we don't have flexibility and we don't have time," Dempsey said. "And we need all three."

There are uncertain times ahead for military families as the Pentagon prepares to slash the country's military budget. Dempsey visited his alma mater, Duke University, to give the commencement speech Sunday. He arrived after spending time in Washington at committee hearings.

"Fort Bragg will probably be required to make some adjustments along with the entire force," he said.

The 440th Airlift Wing, based at Fort Bragg, is on the chopping block. Many Bragg forces rely on the unit for a quick response to global trouble spots. Twelve hundred reserve and active duty airmen are part of the unit. Budget documents recently released call for retiring the entire wing's fleet of C-130s

"We gotta be able to retire systems we no longer need or that can be accomplished in mission in other ways," Dempsey said.

He said there will probably be layoffs at Fort Bragg through sequestration, and the proposed budget cuts to military and civilian jobs.

"I apologize for the uncertainty that they're suffering in the interim," Dempsey said. "But Fort Bragg is one of the cornerstones of our military strategy as a power projection platform. And, of course, as the home to some of our most elite units."

He said there may be some restrictions in potential layoffs regarding how many military and how many civilian jobs are cut, or the pace at which the workforce is reduced. In the meantime, local civilians say they will continue to lobby Pentagon officials to keep the 440th Airlift Wing in operation at Fort Bragg.

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