SYRACUSE — The U.S. Department of Defense “this summer” should make a decision about cuts to U.S. Army bases that could include Fort Drum, home to the 10th Mountain Division.
Secretary of the Army John McHugh on May 21 made the comment while speaking with reporters at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.
“We’re finishing that analysis right now,” said McHugh.
Supporters of Fort Drum are keeping a close eye on that process, concerned how any cuts might affect the North Country Army base.
McHugh admits he has a “particular soft spot in my heart” for Fort Drum, even in his role as Secretary of the Army.
McHugh previously represented the Watertown area and Fort Drum in the U.S. House of Representatives, as a Republican.
He also said the decision is “difficult wherever the cut comes from.”
“But I hate to see our force structure have to come out of any post, camp, or station, but that’s the reality of budgets and it’s really the only path available to us,” said McHugh.
Congress in 2011 passed a law saying that if lawmakers and the president couldn’t agree on a plan to reduce the nation’s deficit by $4 trillion, about $1 trillion in automatic, arbitrary, and across-the-board budget cuts would start to take effect in 2013, according to whitehouse.gov, the website of the White House.
The law is known as the Budget Control Act of 2011. The cut process is also referred to as the sequester or sequestration.
As a part of the Budget Control Act, the Army has been reducing the active-duty fighting force from its wartime high of 570,000, to 440,000 to 450,000 by the end of fiscal year 2017, according to the Fort Drum website.
“Under sequestration, the Pentagon’s proposal states that Fort Drum could lose up to 16,000 soldiers and civilian jobs,” U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik, a Republican currently representing the 21st Congressional District that includes Fort Drum and the North Country, said in March 2 remarks on the House floor.
Stefanik was among supporters who spoke during a March 20 rally at Jefferson Community College in Watertown ahead of a listening session with the U.S. Army.
McHugh was visiting Syracuse University (SU) to learn more about the school’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and veteran and military-connected programs and services that SU offers.
The secretary had a chance to talk “about the challenges that the Army’s facing and the opportunities related to … tomorrow’s Army and also spending some time learning about Syracuse University’s commitment to serving and empowering military-connected students, veterans, and their families,” Mike Haynie, vice chancellor for veteran and military affairs and IVMF executive director, said in his remarks to the media before introducing McHugh.
McHugh also visited the Martin J. Whitman School of Management for an update on SU’s defense comptrollership program (MBA/EMPA), a military-degree program that represents a cooperative endeavor between SU and the Department of Defense (DOD). More than 1,600 graduates of this program have provided meaningful contributions in demanding management positions, SU contended.
McHugh also attended a discussion with the IVMF leadership team on the institute’s programs, research, community engagement, and collaborations, the school added.
An additional morning session followed, at which SU Chancellor Kent Syverud participated in a review of SU’s efforts to best serve veterans, military-connected students, and military family members who are students or employees at the university.