Army outlines financial, environmental impacts of force restructuring at Fort Drum
By GORDON BLOCK | Watertown Daily Times | Published: January 28, 2013
FORT DRUM — The area could lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year in personal income and economic activity if 8,000 soldier and Army civilian jobs were cut between now and 2020, according to an Army report released last week that assesses the potential impact of defense cuts.
The reduction is one option being considered as the Army plans to reduce its active-duty ranks from 562,000 for fiscal year 2012 to 490,000 by fiscal year 2020. More than 20 installations across the country were researched. The draft Finding of No Significant Impact and Programmatic Environmental Assessment for Army 2020 Force Structure Realignment, which considers various scenarios from severe cuts to modest gains, was issued last week by the Department of the Army.
The Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization is reviewing the assessment to prepare a formal response to the Army, said Executive Director Carl A. McLaughlin.
“We have to put the best case forward about why it shouldn’t be at Fort Drum,” he said. “Everybody’s going to be putting in their best argument; ... we will be, too.”
The first option studied was deactivating multiple brigade combat teams and realigning support units across the service, which could mean a local loss of 8,000 soldiers and civilians, from 19,079 listed in 2011 to a potential 2020 level of 11,079. Including dependent spouses and children, such a reduction would affect 20,144 people connected to the installation.
Under this drastic scenario, the local economy would stand to lose an annual 7.35 to 7.73 percent of sales volume, described as direct and secondary sales, worth $365,808,847 to $384,551,600. From 7.1 to 7.63 percent of income, or $375,977,100 to $406,640,553, would also be lost annually.
Researchers also found the loss of 8,000 defense jobs would kill an additional 10,115 to 10,189 local jobs, or an additional 12.65 percent of the area’s employment. Home values and rents, in turn, would be depressed.
“At their extremes, they’re very worrisome,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “Do I think we’ll see the extremes? Probably not.”
He added the study was not an indication of the military’s final decision about where cuts would be made.
Not all the scenarios the study considered would be harmful to Northern New York.
A second option researched was the impact of deactivating brigade-level forces into restructured units that could actually bring 3,000 soldier and civilian jobs here by 2020, from 19,079 to 22,079. The region then would see an increase of about 4,554 dependents as a result, creating a total population growth of 7,554 people.
Such a move would increase local sales of $137,178,317 to $144,206,800, or 2.76 to 2.9 percent. Incomes would increase about 2.64 to 2.86 percent, or $140,991,400 to $152,490,207, and the region would see about 3,800 jobs created, a boost of about 4.7 percent. The local housing market would see a slight increase in demand, boosting median home values.
A third option listed — that nothing be done — is used as a baseline for such studies. It is not considered likely given the level of desired cuts.
All three scenarios were expected to produce little to no significant environmental impact in most measurement categories.
In the study, researchers praised the post’s leadership for its “well-developed range infrastructure,” and said the post and Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield were “one of the best training area locations in the Army” and possibly the entire military.
Researchers also noted the impact of the Army Compatible Use Buffer program, which secures land development rights to avoid encroachment into training activity. The post has spent more than $3 million in the past few years to limit development in areas deemed important by the post. Currently, 11 projects covering 2,430 acres have been included in the program, with more projects under discussion.
No details were specified in the studies about how force restructuring would be implemented locally or how it would affect the status of the 10th Mountain Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, which is stationed at Fort Polk, La.
In addition to Fort Drum, the study calculated the impacts of cuts at Fort Bliss and Fort Hood in Texas; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Campbell and Fort Knox in Kentucky; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Gordon, Fort Benning and Fort Stewart in Georgia; Fort Irwin, Calif.; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Wainwright in Alaska; Joint Base Langley-Eustis and Fort Lee in Virginia; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; Fort Polk; Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Sill, Okla., and U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.
The full report can be found at www.aec.army.mil/usaec/nepa/topics00.html.