Military budget cuts have forced Fort Bragg to cancel its popular Independence Day celebration on post this year and reduce other service to trim operating costs.
Daniel B. Allyn, commanding general of Fort Bragg and the 18th Airborne Corps, made the announcement Thursday, saying base officials couldn’t afford the $120,000 in overtime pay for security, event planning and management, and other expenses associated with the annual Fourth of July celebration. Allyn said Fort Bragg’s operating budget has been cut 34 percent, with pending furloughs of civilian workers on post.
“Our reduced operating budget for the remainder of this year forces many very tough decisions,” Allyn said.
Base spokesman Ben Abel said the event draws about 50,000 people for musical performances and a fireworks display above the flag pole on the Main Post Parade Field. Fort Bragg has held the event for more than 30 years, he said.
“It’s unique to be on a military installation for the Fourth of July to begin with. The setting itself is pretty impressive,” he said.
“This is disappointing for everybody,” Abel said. “The Fourth of July is one of those bedrock events that we look forward to here. There really isn’t another regional event of this size and caliber on the Fourth, and we didn’t want to have to make that decision.”
Also Thursday, the Navy announced that because of budget reductions it will cancel a series of weeklong public events, including one scheduled for Raleigh, designed to raise the Navy’s profile around the country. The Navy usually conducts about 20 “Navy Week” events a year, bringing various sailors and equipment to American cities for one week.
Navy Week in Raleigh had been scheduled for late October this year.
Fort Bragg is the second North Carolina military base to cancel a large public event to save money this year. In February, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base announced that it would not hold this year’s Wings Over Wayne air show, which had been held at the base since 1957.
The operations budget at Fort Bragg includes the essential services on post, such as electricity, water and sewer, police and fire protection. Cuts in the budget – brought about by sequestration, which took effect earlier this year when Congress could not agree on more deliberate federal budget reductions – also have prompted reductions of other services on post.
To save money, Fort Bragg officials say they have:
• Canceled controlled-burn operations by forestry management;
• Closed unprofitable facilities including a post restaurant and bowling alley;
• Reduced lighting at athletic fields, except during early morning physical training;
• Canceled mowing and landscaping contracts, except to preserve safe airfield operations;
• Canceled cable TV in base fitness centers;
• Stopped running a shuttle between main post and an Army-owned housing subdivision in neighboring Harnett County.
On social media sites, response to the cuts has ranged from understanding to affronted, with some people complaining that the cuts amount to benefit reductions.
One benefit for military personnel was restored this week. Last month, the Army and other military branches announced they were suspending funding to their Tuition Assistance Programs, used to help active-duty service members pay for education without dipping into GI Bill benefits.
After an outcry by service members and their families, Congress two weeks later ordered the Pentagon to restore the funding. The Army and Air Force announced Wednesday their programs had been reinstated. The Marine Corps made a similar announcement Thursday but said funding levels would be reduced.