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SCHUMER: DRUM'S FUTURE SAFE

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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Fort Drum will not be affected by any newly proposed cuts to the military that would trim the federal budget, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer said during a Tuesday stop in Watertown.


"Our military necessities — whether it be in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lord knows where else — is going to need the kind of soldiers we train at Fort Drum," he said. "The future is very positive for growth at Fort Drum and I will work to see it happens."


The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, impaneled by the White House, recently suggested as much as $100 billion should be cut from the Department of Defense by 2015.


While Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates doesn't agree with the specifics of the panel's proposal, he also is trying to find ways to cut spending.


Mr. Schumer's vow was even stronger than that of Army Secretary John M. McHugh, who said last month that he would protect family support programs but made no commitments about cuts to base operations.


Fort Drum and other bases faced large midyear cuts last year, but the Army partially reversed itself after complaints by Mr. Schumer and others.


New York's senior senator acknowledged the north country would face a housing crunch in the spring of 2012, when all 18,500 soldiers stationed at Fort Drum would be home, but offered no specific solutions Tuesday.


"What I hope to do is get all of the federal authorities who are involved in this, both on the defense and civilian side, to come up with some new ideas and new programs to help us," the Brooklyn Democrat said at the gathering, held at the Crystal Restaurant, 87 Public Square.


Mr. Schumer mirrored his party's position on Bush-era tax cuts, saying they should be allowed to lapse for millionaires but kept for everyone else to ease deficit woes. He also said entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, needed to be "tackled," but suggested Tuesday only that the government do a better job of eliminating waste, fraud and duplication without threatening jobs.


Mr. Schumer, who had come to Watertown to thank supporters for voting for him during the recent election, said his focus for the next six years would be on recapturing lost manufacturing jobs and aiding the middle class.


He singled out China for what he considered an unfair practice of manipulating currency to artificially lower the cost of producing goods.


"American workers can compete against anybody, but not when the table is slanted," he said.


The event also featured an impromptu rendition of "Happy Birthday" sung by 50 of the senator's supporters after Mr. Schumer mentioned Tuesday was his 60th birthday.

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