Gov. Pat McCrory told us he would continue to fight for Cherry Point and all military bases in the state.
N.C. Sen. Norman Sanderson and N.C. Rep. George Graham promised to support the use of state money in the protection of Cherry Point and other military bases in the state.
I’m not saying that they are all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, but what I am saying is that this Humpty Dumpty may be very difficult to put back together again.
The truth is that Cherry Point — and indeed all the state’s military bases — are not going to be able to escape Department of Defense cuts. Heck, they are already happening. McCrory, Sanderson, Graham and others are just hoping to lessen the impact of those pending cuts.
The Pentagon simply can’t pay for everything, with mandated cuts through sequestration. Defense officials have said to expect reductions in personnel — total Marine Corps personnel is expected to be cut by about 20,000 in the next four years — as well as in other areas.
Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, as an example, grounded a fighter squadron. Pope Air Force Base, as it stands now, would lose the 440th Airlift Wing.
At Cherry Point, EA-6B Prowler squadrons will be going away by the end of the decade. Though that move is not directly related to budget cuts, there’s likely no hope of recouping those losses with the current budget climate.
And, I’m not even going to get into the base bowling alley or commissary situations.
McCrory granted us a one-on-one interview from Washington. He sounded an optimistic tone about Cherry Point and the Fleet Readiness Center East aircraft repair facility.
“We’re feeling pretty confident about the future of Cherry Point from all indications that we’re getting from the Pentagon,” McCrory said.
Sanderson said the Havelock community and supporters of Cherry Point were in a better position than others to fight for assets at the Marine Corps air station. Still, he added, “You never can say that a base is safe, because we’ve seen too many that thought they were safe and the next day they turned up on the chopping block.”
They realize how important Cherry Point is to the economy. The 2012 economic impact statement from the base — the latest available — showed that Cherry Point provided $2.2 billion to the region’s economy. Yet behind those numbers was a disturbing number. Total employment on the base dropped by nearly 300.
McCrory, Sanderson and Graham pointed out that efforts must be made to provide good civilian jobs to those who will be losing their current military ones.
In our discussions, I believe they have the best interests of Cherry Point and the surrounding communities at heart. It makes political sense, no doubt, but it is also what they were elected to do. I believe there are too many factors involved to know whether their efforts will net results, but at least they are giving it a try.
Ken Buday is the editor and general manager of the Havelock News. He can be reached at 444-1999 or at email@example.com.