Army will study impacts of potential soldier, civilian cuts to Fort Drum

By GORDON BLOCK | Watertown Daily Times, N.Y. | Published: March 18, 2014

FORT DRUM, N.Y. — As the Army plans to cut tens of thousands of soldiers, the service will research the economic impact the north country would feel if the post lost an additional 14,500 soldiers and civilians.

In its proposed 2015 budget, the Army would reduce the number of active duty soldiers from about 522,000 to between 440,000 and 450,000. If sequestration continues into the 2016 fiscal year, the Army plans to reduce its force structure to about 420,000 soldiers.

The study will assess the effects of installations’ losing the maximum numbers of personnel to get down to that 420,000 figure.

The research is a supplement to an Army force size assessment conducted last year, which led to the planned deactivation of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team at Fort Drum, with a net loss of about 1,500 soldiers. In essence, the new study will gauge the impact of the loss of up to 16,000 soldiers and civilians here.

A media release from Fort Drum on the study said the 30 installations studied for the initial Army assessment last year would be reviewed again.

No decision about any new cuts has been made by the service. Similar to when research was done by the Army last year, a listening schedule will be held locally this summer, possibly in June.

An economic impact statement released this month showed the post had an economic value of nearly $1.42 billion in 2013, primarily through the salaries of its 19,024 soldiers and 4,544 civilian workers.

Brig. Gen. Michael L. Howard, the post and 10th Mountain Division’s rear detachment commander, said in a news release that Army officials are looking to transition to a force capable of rapid deployment.

“Well, that is exactly what the 10th Mountain Division is — a very light, very mobile unit; that’s why the 10th was created — to deploy rapidly,” he said. “In that regard, I think we are in good shape.”

He said that Army officials would be looking for input from state and local officials, and that “they look forward to hearing from you.”

Reached by phone Monday, Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said the scope of the announced study “gives you a little twinge.” However, he said that he agreed with Gen. Howard’s outlook, and that the division could be in a good position for the future.

He said the Army has “thrown down the first card” in discussions with Congress on the budget with the announcement of its new study.

“This is the very start of this negotiation,” Mr. Owens said.

Carl A. McLaughlin, executive director of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization, said the impact of the worst-case scenario cuts would be significant, but he did not think the post would lose the full number of soldiers.

The post has shown its value for years, he said, through the work of the 10th Mountain Division and the quality of its training resources.

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, in a statement to the Times, said the division is one of the best trained and most mobile units in the entire military.

“Ft. Drum has survived and grown because of those assets, while the rest of the military has shrunk, and I will fight to keep Ft. Drum whole, because our country depends on it,” he said in the statement.


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