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Fort Drum will lose brigade, 1,500 soldiers in long-term cuts

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FORT DRUM — The 10th Mountain Division will inactivate its 3rd Brigade Combat Team and lose about 1,500 soldiers between now and fiscal year 2017 as a part of a massive restructuring the Army announced Tuesday.

Though the brigade has about 3,000 to 3,500 soldiers, the loss of the brigade will be softened by the expected move of maneuver battalions to each of the remaining two brigades.

With 19,024 soldiers stationed on the post, according to the installation’s 2012 economic impact statement, a loss of 1,500 soldiers represents a reduction of about 8 percent.

The cuts are part of a plan by the Army to reduce its soldier levels from about 570,000 to nearly 490,000 by fiscal year 2017, equal to 14 percent of the service’s active component. The Army will also drop from 45 to 33 brigade combat teams as a result of the cuts.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno announced the change during a press briefing at the Pentagon.

Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, post and division commander, said in a statement he did not expect the brigade’s loss would have a major impact because of the battalion reshuffling.

“Fort Drum remains one of the newest, most sustainable, state-of-the-art installations in our nation’s Army,” he said. “With the last decade of installation improvements, it is well known that we are among the most capable for training opportunities and family support services. These will be the drivers of the 10th Mountain’s continued mission success here at Fort Drum for a long time to come.”

Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said in a conference call with reporters the soldier reduction would not have a substantial impact on the area’s overall economic outlook given the amount of time for the reduction.

Describing the level of reductions as a glass-half-empty-or-half-full situation, he said the decision shows “the clear understanding of the Army that they have one of the most deployed, most trained and most competitive units in the Army in the 10th Mountain Division and they want to preserve that.”

Mr. Owens said he wanted a clarification from Gen. Townsend about the soldier reductions’ timing.

Though Gen. Odierno said during his statement that $400 million of military construction was cut across the service, Mr. Owens said none of the projects for Fort Drum in fiscal years 2013 or 2014 was affected.

In a statement, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said large budget cuts were unavoidable until a compromise could be found on taxes and overall government spending.

“My hope is that these cuts might get other leaders to the table to work toward a solution that prevents taking a machete to national security and impacting Fort Drum any further,” he said.

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand said in a statement she contacted military leaders to inform them of the post’s value.

Gen. Odierno’s press conference was shown at a meeting of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization that started at the same time.

Carl A. McLaughlin, the organization’s executive director, said the cut was something it had planned for in the past few months.

“Any loss is not wanted, but we understood that possibility was out there,” he said.

Mr. McLaughlin said it was even more important now for community members to reach out to the military to help its growth.

“We have to continue to concentrate on whatever we feel brings military value to Fort Drum,” he said. “This is a long-run game.”

The 10th Mountain Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team will remain at Fort Polk, La., according to U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, activated on Fort Drum in September 2004, deployed to Afghanistan in 2006, 2009 and 2011, and is planning for another deployment to the country later this year, though it has not been confirmed by the Department of Defense.

Cuts in the Army force levels are not connected to sequestration. During his remarks, Gen. Odierno said if sequestration were allowed to continue, the service would have to make larger reductions and consider deactivating more brigades along with National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers.

The planned long-term staffing decreases have been discussed for months around the Fort Drum area after the Army evaluated the local economic impact of cutting as many as 8,000 soldiers and adding as many as 3,000 soldiers.

In the worst scenario, cutting 8,000 soldiers, the area surrounding Fort Drum was projected to lose thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and incomes. Area schools, housing and hospitals would also be negatively affected by such a move, according to a response to the assessment compiled by the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization.

In May, Gen. Townsend told the state Senate he was “almost certain” the post would lose a brigade.

Other installations facing the loss of brigade combat teams are Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Knox, Ky.; Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Stewart, Ga., and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Two brigades in Germany will continue their already scheduled inactivation.

One more brigade combat team is left to be deactivated, but Gen. Odierno said he was not sure which would be axed.

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