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Listening session scheduled in Watertown to discuss force structure at Fort Drum

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The community will be able to learn and comment about the future of Fort Drum’s force structure at a listening session at 5 p.m. April 25 at Case Middle School, Washington Street.

The session will provide an overview of the Army’s stationing efforts, as the service determines how it will reduce and reorganize its force structure.

In attendance will be the post’s leadership, including 10th Mountain Division commander Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, and a representative from the Headquarters, Department of the Army.

Members of the community will be able to provide comments during the session.

Between now and the end of fiscal year 2017, the Army will reduce its numbers from 570,000 to 490,000 soldiers. To help with its decision making, the Army is holding similar meetings at 29 other installations across the country.

Among the possible cuts that have been discussed are downsizing the number of brigade combat teams from 45 to 32.

An Army news release last week about the meetings said that the proposed long-term reductions would likely begin with the fiscal year 2014 budget and are not connected to issues with sequestration.

Last week, Carl A. McLaughlin, executive director of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization said the meetings would be an opportunity for community members to visibly show their support for the post.

The effects of large cuts of soldiers have been documented thoroughly in both an Army assessment and a local response crafted by the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization.

If the largest level of cuts listed in the study, 8,000 soldiers and their dependents, were to occur, the north country would lose hundreds of millions of dollars of income and economic activity.

The local response stated that area schools, hospital and housing would also see negative effects in connection to a large reduction of soldiers.

However, both studies indicate the area could handle an increase in soldiers, as many as 3,000, which would bring hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity to the region.

In February, Gen. Townsend predicted that the region would not face extreme levels of cuts or additions.

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