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FDRLO nears completion of local response to Army force structure assessment

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A local response to an Army force structure assessment is nearing completion as the military considers how it will reduce its size by about 72,000 soldiers between now and fiscal year 2020.

“Our goal is to make Fort Drum an outstanding institution for now and into the foreseeable future,” said Carl A. McLaughlin, executive director of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization.

Mr. McLaughlin said the final edits were being done so the response could be mailed to the Army’s Environmental Command today, with the deadline only a few days away. However, he said, the mailing could be held back a few weeks based on reports he had heard of a potential extension for responses.

The community response was discussed at FDRLO’s meeting Thursday afternoon at the Sturtz Theater of Jefferson Community College, which drew about 75 people.

In addition to lobbying for additional capacity and mission on post, Mr. McLaughlin said, the response will detail how the negative local impacts of soldier reductions at Fort Drum were disproportional to other military communities because of the rural nature of the north country.

One positive aspect for the community going into the assessment, Mr. McLaughlin told participants, was the community’s connection to and support for the post.

“You can’t be better positioned than you are,” he said. “Your facilities are magnificent; the way you welcome soldiers is fantastic, and how you work with our division is superb.”

After the meeting, he described the planned response as the “community story on the effect of Fort Drum,” based on data in a variety of categories.

The Army assessment, released in January, considers the effect of a variety of troop level changes on Fort Drum and installations across the military. In the worst-case scenario locally, the area would lose millions of dollars in annual incomes and sales revenues along with thousands of jobs if the post were to lose 8,000 soldiers and personnel. The area could see an economic boost if the reshuffling were to give Fort Drum 3,000 additional personnel.

Last week, post and 10th Mountain Division Commander Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said he did not foresee the Army adding or subtracting personnel to either extreme of the report’s suggestions.

The post’s current soldier level was tabulated at 18,200, about 108 percent of the number authorized by the Army. That total includes soldiers from the 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams now deployed to Afghanistan.

Mr. McLaughlin had few answers when asked how a potential troop reduction of 8,000 could affect developers who have built more than 1,000 new units to accommodate the area’s housing shortage.

“My crystal ball is not that good,” he said. However, he repeated his belief that the full drop considered in the study likely would not happen.

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