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Army to set meeting in area about potential Fort Drum cuts

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FORT DRUM — With questions looming about the number of troops to be stationed locally, the head of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization said he looked forward to defending the post’s structure to Army leadership — face to face.

“Are we a community that could handle more? Yes, we are,” said Carl A. McLaughlin. “Are we a community that could see significant impacts with a reduction? Yes, we are.”

Last week, the Army announced a series of listening sessions about force size to be held near installations nationwide during April. A date and location for a meeting in the Fort Drum area has not been determined.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity to rally the community around this,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “I don’t think there’s any question this community understands what Fort Drum means to this community and what the 10th Mountain Division means to the community and the nation as a whole.”

The Army is looking for ways to reduce the number of soldiers from 563,000 to 490,000 by fiscal year 2020, issuing an assessment in January breaking down how certain cuts or additions would affect communities surrounding 20 installations.

The Army’s released statement this week about the meetings said reductions in the continental United States will start in 2014. Among the options considered is downsizing the number of brigade combat teams from 45 to 32. The statement noted the long-term reductions are not connected to issues with sequestration.

Were the area to see a loss of 8,000 soldiers and connected dependents, the largest level considered in the assessment, the region could face losses of hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and incomes, along with thousands of jobs.

A local response to the assessment sent in March stated large cuts could also negatively impact schools, hospitals and housing development.

Both the assessment and local response reported positive growth based on an increase of soldiers made possible through restructuring at other installations.

With much of the official response handled in the letter, Mr. McLaughlin said the meeting could provide an opportunity for the area to visibly support the post’s activity.

Mr. McLaughlin said he did not originally expect such a meeting would be possible, and he had spoken with the post leaders Thursday about choosing a venue from a number of sites on or off the post.

He anticipated more information about the meeting would be available early this week.

The Army’s released statement about the sessions, including the list of installations where they have been scheduled, can be found at www.army.mil/article/100114/.

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