WATERTOWN, N.Y. — Fort Drum is projected to lose about 2,800 soldiers and civilian workers over the next few years, according to an Army analysis outlined Thursday.
Deputy Garrison Commander Michael H. McKinnon told the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization that an Army Stationing and Installation Plan estimate showed a decline from a population peak of 23,724 during fiscal year 2012 to just under 21,000 by fiscal year 2017, then remaining steady through 2019. The population count does not include connected family members.
A part of the decrease includes the deactivation of the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, first announced in June. The post will lose about 1,500 soldiers to the deactivation, but will be countered by planned additions and realignments.
However, Mr. McKinnon said the population shift could change in both directions depending on how Congress deals with long-term sequestration budget cuts.
The population numbers, and multiple Fort Drum developments, were discussed by the advocacy group at Jefferson Community College.
It was also reported during the meeting that the area had an approximately 4.8 percent vacancy rate for housing. During the past year the rate has fluctuated from as low as 1 percent, indicating an acute housing shortage, to as high as 5 percent, depending on soldiers’ deployment cycles and the opening of new apartment complexes in the Watertown area.
Development Authority of the North Country Executive Director James W. Wright said the development will expand options for military residents, and spur action from landlords to compete with newer properties.
“That dynamic has now changed, and it will change the interaction within the community,” he said. “That’s not necessarily not a bad thing, but it is different.”
Among the post projects discussed was Operation Mountain Footprint, an effort to reorganize building assignments following the 3rd Brigade’s planned inactivation.
Several versions of the plan are being discussed, and the project is expected to take 18 to 24 months after a planned start early next year.
Mr. McKinnon said three projects totaling $125.1 million that were funded in the 2013 fiscal year are underway, including a missile data terminal, scheduled for completion around May, along with a facility expansion for the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade and a Soldier Speciality Care Clinic.
A $4.7 million expansion to the New York Air National Guard’s drone hangar is currently a part of the 2014 defense spending bill.
Multiple future projects also were outlined, one of them being a $24 million hangar for a planned company of MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone operators scheduled to arrive by July.
The post will request in the 2015 defense spending bill to house as many as nine of the aircraft.
Other long-term projects under consideration are a $6 million Air Force Air Support Operations Center and $9.8 million second phase of the Training Aids Center for fiscal year 2016. After no planned military construction in the 2017 and 2018 fiscal year, the post will request an $18.5 million non-commissioned officer