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McHugh to attend Fort Drum change of command ceremony Friday


WASHINGTON — Army Secretary John M. McHugh will visit Fort Drum on Friday as Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley takes command at the post, and he said he’ll meet with soldiers to talk about family benefits and other issues.

At a meeting with defense reporters Wednesday morning, Mr. McHugh, the former north country congressman, predicted that family-oriented programs are likely to take a budget hit should the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction not reach a deal and trigger a process known as sequestration — forcing automatic cuts across the military.

Mr. McHugh said that the future of the military’s retirement package is a common concern among even younger soldiers in his conversations with them, even though the great majority will not stay in for the 20 years of service necessary to receive the benefit.

“We’re a family-oriented Army these days,” said Mr. McHugh, who once chaired a House subcommittee on military personnel and helped push family programs for the services. Those programs would be at risk for budget cuts “if not outright elimination” should the Pentagon have to find the additional $600 billion in cuts that sequestration calls for, he said.

Mr. McHugh also said that if sequestration does take place, the Army may have to shrink beyond the active force of 520,000 that leaders are now planning, and that the size of the force will shape decisions such as trimming installations — although he said he has no intention of seeking more base closures.

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