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FDRLO talks deployment numbers, reduced defense spending

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As deployments near for groups of soldiers from a pair of Fort Drum brigades in early 2013, members of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization were reminded of the numbers that will go out and concerns about reduced overall defense spending.

About half of the 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams are scheduled to leave starting in January, with each brigade sending between approximately 1,400 and 1,500 soldiers as a security force assistance brigade aiding Afghan security forces.

“It’s going to create some challenges,” said Michael H. McKinnon, Fort Drum deputy garrison commander, to the audience of more than 50 at Jefferson Community College on Thursday afternoon.

Since the return of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team earlier in the year, the post has enjoyed a period of relative stability.

Mr. McKinnon said the post has about 772 soldiers deployed, one of the lowest figures he’d seen in several years.

As the military faces potential funding reductions, the organization has been focused on making the area and its services as presentable as possible to avoid cuts at Fort Drum, a matter that has recently drawn state funding. Last week, the organization and the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization each received $300,000 through the New York State Military Base Retention Grant Program.

Carl A. McLaughlin, FDRLO executive director, praised the members of the organization’s committees for their work, which includes assessing the area’s housing needs and local schools.

“The future is vague. The future is unclear,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “All of this is so we can be first out of the gate compared to our fellow major installations.”

Mr. McLaughlin also told the audience the Federal Aviation Administration may decide in December or January on an application presented by the nonprofit organization NUAIR to use Fort Drum and Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield as one of six test sites for drones nationwide.

The group started the meeting by honoring former 23rd District U.S. Rep. David O’B. Martin, who died in November. Mr. Martin was pivotal in attracting the 10th Mountain Division to Fort Drum.

“He was here when that call came, and he said ‘yes,’” said Elizabeth C. Fipps, the FDRLO’s chairwoman. “He really laid an important foundation for what our community has turned out to be.”

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