States that host military installations due to get population boost from new rule
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A change in rules ahead of the 2020 census could prove a boon for Fayetteville and other communities around Fort Bragg.
Fayetteville and North Carolina leaders have praised the change, which could ensure that the state’s large military population is not counted elsewhere, leading to more federal money and the possibility for an additional seat in Congress.
The new rules are designed to better count five different populations, such as deployed service members, overseas federal employees who are not U.S. citizens, crews aboard U.S. maritime or merchant vessels, juveniles in treatment centers and residents of religious group quarters.
A memorandum release by the U.S. Census Bureau on Monday detailed the rule changes and said they were meant to ensure the once-a-decade population count is “fair and consistent.”
Under the new rules, deployed troops and civilian employees will be counted at their usual home address in the United States. Previously, those individuals were counted at their home of record, typically a hometown or where one entered military service.
During the last census in 2010, thousands of North Carolina troops were deployed overseas and likely not counted among the state’s population.
The state has the third-highest active-duty and reserve military population, behind California and Texas, according to the North Carolina Military Affairs Commission, which advocates in support of military installations, troops, veterans and their families.
That military population is bolstered by Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard installations. They include the largest Marine Corps base on the East Coast — Camp Lejeune — and what is believed to be the largest military installation in the world — Fort Bragg.
Both have seen growth since 2001, fueled by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But in 2010, census results showed that Fayetteville — which annexed parts of Fort Bragg in 2008 — had lost more than 3,000 in population over the previous decade for a total population of a little more than 200,000. Depending on when the census count took place, well over 3,000 local troops — many of whom would have lived in Fayetteville — were likely deployed.
North Carolina officials distributed the news of the census changes on Wednesday.
In an email, the state’s census liaison, Bob Coats, said the change would benefit military communities of North Carolina.
The census change has been long advocated by local and state officials.
“We are proud to be host to tens of thousands of service members who are working at Fort Bragg and either living on base or within our city,” said Doug Hewett, Fayetteville’s city manager. “And certainly we are happy to have our deployed service members stationed at Fort Bragg, many of whom are city residents, be included in the federal government’s census count, as it will certainly more accurately reflect the true population of our city.”
State Rep. Grier Martin, a Wake County Democrat and Afghanistan war veteran who chairs the North Carolina Military Affairs Commission, said the rules change will mean good things for the state, especially outside Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune and other military installations.
That begins with a more fair distribution of federal funds.
Under the old rules, Martin said, deployed troops were counted in other states, increasing those states’ share of federal funds even though the troops lived in North Carolina.
Under the new rules, Martin said, leaders expect an increase in federal dollars coming to North Carolina.
George Breece, a Fayetteville resident and former chairman of the state Military Affairs Commission, said the change could be a “game changer” for the region, both economically and politically.
“The bottom line in all of this is some soldiers and federal employees from Fort Bragg and as well as other military bases in N.C. will be counted in the local census numbers and that could end up helping North Carolina have one additional member of Congress and help us here locally with additional federal dollars based on population,” Breece said. “This could also mean that in 2022, Cumberland County could have someone from Fayetteville representing us in Congress as well.”
Other rule changes could have smaller impacts on the state’s population count.
According to the Census Bureau memo, crews of American ships sailing between a U.S. port and a foreign port on Census Day will be counted at their usual home address or at the U.S. port if they have no usual home address.
Juveniles staying in non-correctional residential treatment centers on Census Day will be counted at their usual home address or at the facility if they have no usual home address, and people living in religious group quarters on Census Day will be counted at that facility.
Drew Brooks is the military editor for The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer.