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Impact of defense budget on Fort Drum

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Impact of defense budget on Fort Drum
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The date is now March 1st. If Congress can't reach a deal on balancing the budget by then, the Department of Defense would be hit with an automatic $500 billion budget cut. As such, the Defense Secretary wants the military prepared and is already calling for numerous cut backs. So what does this mean for Fort Drum? Well, no one knows yet, but as our Brian Dwyer explains, Drum's leadership is hopeful the impact is small.

FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Sequestration or not, military cuts are here.

Even though Congress has six weeks to reach a budget agreement before a massive$ 500 billion cut from defense happens, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is getting ready. He's called for a civilian hiring freeze, delays in awarding some contracts, less maintenance and even cut backs on training.

"I was a little disappointed that Secretary Panetta sort of pulled the trigger as quickly," North Country Congressman Bill Owens said. "I think he should have waited to see where we were going as we negotiate the next fiscal cliff, if you will, at the end of February."

Some of these pre-emptive cuts will hit on Fort Drum. But with each brigade and headquarters set to deploy again between now and the end of 2014, when the U.S. is set for a major drawdown, Fort Drum is confident that its soldiers will get everything they need to be ready.

"We will all take some decrements," ort Drum Commanding General Stephen Townsend said. "I think those decrements will be focused in areas that will protect training for deployment."

So while it seems likely Drum won't lose its Afghan readiness budget, it could be those things like contract awards and civilian hiring that takes a hit.

"We always have civilian turnover here just like we turnover military personnel," MG Townsend said. "That will have some effect here on us as well."

As for the future, it's anyone's guess. Congress has to reach that deal to balance the budget by March 1st or the Department of Defense will have an automatic cut of some $500 billion triggered. Owens says it just can't get that far.

"I think there's going to be a lot of pressure on everybody now to look at sensible, rational spending reductions to compliment the revenue increases," Owens said.

What about after 2014? Well, Afghan President Hamid Karzai was in the U.S. just last week and a topic of discussion was keeping some U.S. troops there for what's being called an enduring presence. It's still much too early to know if or how that would affect the 10th.

If a budget deal isn't reached, the $500 billion in sequestration cuts would be spread out over 10 years, with roughly $45 billion of that by the end of this year.

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