What will Pentagon’s new Pacific focus mean for Fort Drum?

The last decade, the United States has been embroiled in two major land wars and that has meant a huge emphasis on the kind of expertise and firepower that Fort Drum’s 10th Mountain Division can muster.

But experts and pundits are expecting the Obama administration to roll out a new plan later today that would shift emphasis, to a substantial degree, away from that kind of boots-on-the-ground force.

To help balance China’s growing authority in the Pacific, the Pentagon is planning to funnel more money into the carrier fleet.

At the same time, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to push for deeper than anticipated cuts to the number of active duty soldiers, according to the New York Times.

The Army is already is slated to drop to a force of 520,000 from 570,000, but Mr. Panetta views even that reduction as too expensive and unnecessary and has endorsed an Army of 490,000 troops as sufficient, officials said.

The defense secretary has made clear that the reduction should be carried out carefully, and over several years, so that combat veterans are not flooding into a tough employment market and military families do not feel that the government is breaking trust after a decade of sacrifice, officials said.

A smaller Army would be a clear sign that the Pentagon does not anticipate conducting another expensive, troop-intensive counterinsurgency campaign, like those waged in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nor would the military be able to carry out two sustained ground wars at one time, as was required under past national military strategies.

That means 80,000 fewer soldiers in the Army’s ranks.

This news comes as Fort Drum — and the Watertown area — are in the midst of a major construction boom designed to house larger numbers of service members, along with their families.

So far, New York’s congressional delegation has expressed cautious optimism that the 10th Mountain Division won’t face major cuts.

But as the Pentagon’s attention shifts toward the Far East, and toward more naval and air power, the North Country will be watching closely to see how Army Secretary John McHugh — the former congressman from our region — will manage the transition.

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36 Comments on “What will Pentagon’s new Pacific focus mean for Fort Drum?”

  1. OnewifeVetNewt says:

    Given it’s flexibility and it’s record, from Mogadushu (where the 10th rescued the “Blackhawk Down ” Rangers), through Iraq and Afghanistan, it is difficult to imagine the it taking a major hit. I guess there might be a danger of losing a component. Originally, the 10th was two active brigades, and one National Gurard, and something this could be possible. Not as long as McHugh is around, of course. Not to mention Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand.

    Thinking about it, I think DOD is more likely to target heavier, old style, armored units. They are much more expensive to maintain, support, and transport. Plus,conventional, armored warfare has probably seen it’s day.

  2. Paul says:

    “and has endorsed an Army of 490,000 troops as sufficient, officials said.”

    This is ridiculous.

  3. Pete Klein says:

    I have always believed the Army is somewhat of an outdated force.
    My support has always been for the Navy (including Marines) and the Air Force which was logically divorced from the Army after WW II.
    The Navy and the Air Force have the combined fire power to destroy all present and future enemies, and do it with fewer men and women being put in harms way.
    Our enemies need to be told, “Screw up and you are history.”
    We need to fight wars on our terms, not those of our enemies.

  4. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Much more money and effort needs to be spent on diplomatic efforts to avoid conflict in the first place. The big stick should always be the last resort — a credible last resort — but the last resort.

    I hope Newt is correct that the DOD will eliminate more from heavy armor divisions that are becoming increasingly outdated.

  5. Paul says:

    “Much more money and effort needs to be spent on diplomatic efforts to avoid conflict in the first place. The big stick should always be the last resort — a credible last resort — but the last resort.”

    True, unfortunately we often find ourselves negotiating with crazy people. Look at Iran. We are doing all we can to get them to come around it is simply speeding up their nuttiness.

  6. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Paul, not true. People who control the discussion, like politicians and members of the media and the weapons contractors who benefit from conflict, want you to believe there is a never ending supply of enemies who are all crazy.

    The fact is that it is pretty hard to become the leader of a country and be totally crazy. Everyone has some sort of agenda and understanding that agenda is what diplomacy is all about.

    Take Iran for example. In 2001 Iran was helpful to the US in the overthrow of the Taliban. It was a gesture that we could returned and begun a process of rapprochement. Instead Bush decided to make his Axis of Evil speech linking Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Then we invaded Iraq. Iranians looked at the fact that the US called them an enemy and invaded Afghanistan on its eastern border and Iraq on its western border and decided that there was a good chance they might be next. That isn’t a crazy analysis.

  7. Avro2061 says:

    I tend to agree that heavy military units will be hit hardest. Also, I suspect, the troops we currently have in Europe will be downsized and brought home, on standby to deploy. That strategy would bode well for Fort Drum and help reconfigure our role in Western Europe. Of course just because it makes sense doesn’t mean that will be what actually happens, but lets hope. The recent surge of development in the Watertown area is helping the region, like it or not.

  8. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    It would seem to me that a division such as the 10th is exactly the type of lean, highly mobile force we need more of. As mentioned above, get rid of the extremely expensive armored divisions still defending Europe and Asia. Much of those forces haven’t even been utilized in our most recent escapades in the middle east.

    Also, why more emphasis on the carrier fleet? 11 fully operational carrier groups (talk about expensive to operate) aren’t enough to police the world?

    And by the way, don’t be fooled by the big number being bantered about. Broken down by year, it only represents about 45 Billion per year out of a nearly 1 trillion dollar annual Pentagon appropriation. On top of that, a large portion of our defense apparatus is funded through other federal departments and not included in the Pentagon budget.

    What we really need to consider if we’re serious about cutting the defense budget is overseas base closure and a massive pull-out from countries that are able and can afford their own defense. 65 years is enough Great Britian, Germany, Japan, etc……South Korea too. We’ll cut positions, pensions benefits,etc. to our serviceman/women but don’t even consider overseas base closure? Typical Pentagon craziness

  9. Fear not. Even with Army reductions, which we always see after wars wind down, Fort Drum is not going anywhere soon. Soldiers can and have in the past assaulted beaches as well as leaped from helicopters and attacked an enemy. Normandy comes to mind. Soldiers just like Marines have, although I am a bit prejudice here since I am a retired Marine, Marines do amphibious warfare better: wink/wink.

    The Army and other branches may reduce to meet DOD budgets put forth by recent law changes (mandatory cuts), etc., but they will do it in style and honor and we’ll do just fine – we always do in these tight times. I know; I’ve been through a ton of them. This will be no different.

  10. Paul says:

    knuck, some of that is true but there is also no shortage of crazy leaders out there. Luckily we lost a few last year. That is often the reason we need that “big stick” you described.

    I see that a few people don’t seem to think that a force of 490,000 is a bad idea.

    That is insanely tiny for a country of our size. If you know history it is all about conflict.

    A world where we all get along and have no ambitions beyond our current borders is a nice image to think about but not based in reality.

  11. Paul says:

    Clapton I think that the overseas bases are the most important one we have. The only reason that Iran is not going to be able to follow through on it’s insane idea of closing the straight (and destroying the US and the world’s economy in the process) is because the 5th fleet is right there to make sure it never happens.

  12. OnewifeVetNewt says:

    We can reduce overseas bases, but should not eliminate them. Nature abhors a vacuum but Chinese, Iranians, and others would love an international power vacuum.
    Reminds of one of my favorite quotes from Will Durrant, regarding the Egyptian pharoh Akhnaton, and the lesser kings and rulers surrounding Egypt at that time, “When they learned that they were dealing with a saint, they did not hesitate.”

  13. Paul says:

    One problem with a democracy like ours is that you have to announce and debate your “military strategy”.

  14. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    The strength of a democracy is that you announce and debate all of your policies including military policy.

  15. OnewifeVetNewt says:

    Amen, Paul.
    Amen, Knuck.

  16. Craig Siena says:

    No doubt the start of the impending closure of Ft Drum

  17. Pete Klein says:

    We need to use our heads and stop seeing every friend as a friend and every enemy as an enemy.
    Case in point.
    One of the greatest mistakes made by this country was siding with the Taliban when it was at war with Russia. We should have sided with Russia and helped them crush the Taliban. No Taliban, no Bin Laden, no 9/11.

  18. Rubicon Ranger says:

    Let’s be realistic here. If our military is incapable of securing and holding land for an extended period of time, it is virtually worthless. A capable Navy is a powerful strategic weapon but a limited tactical weapon. If a country such as China wants to increase their strategic power (which they are), we must do the same and MAINTAIN our tactical capabilities. A navy and an air force can destroy but not secure. What this means is that we will be extremely limited in our responses in order to avoid collateral damage. As it is now, we can act unilaterally, when necessary, when rapid action is necessary. If we reduce ourselves to forces similar to most of our “friends” in Europe, we will have to negotiate in order to garner enough actionable forces to take care of a threat. This is a terrible situation which we will suffer grave consequences for if we continue down this path…Limited choices means limited outcomes…

  19. Walker says:

    Pete, your 20/20 hindsight is amazing!

  20. Paul says:

    I am not sure the hindsight is accurate. Russia was our enemy and the Taliban was not.

  21. Mervel says:

    We should get out of the power business in the first place. Japan should step up and be the power in Asia if they are worried about China. Why are we continually subsidizing countries that are wealthier than we are?

    But once again Obama is on the right track on foreign policy and defense. Smaller, less expensive and mobile. We can protect ourselves much more efficiently with good intel and two or three drone strikes than we can with 1/2 million troops invading some poor country.

  22. Mervel says:

    We still spend 10 times more on defense than China, IF they are even close to being a problem we are getting RIPPED off by the biggest bloated government agency that exists; the US military.

  23. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    The Soviet Union, not Russia, was our Cold War enemy; the Taliban was in part our creation with help from Pakistan, and bin Laden was busy in Afghanistan fighting the godless Soviets with help from the CIA before the Taliban ever existed.

  24. Paul says:

    As I remember it Russia had been a big part of the Soviet Union?

  25. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Yes Paul, Russia was a part of the Soviet Union but it factually incorrect to say they are the same thing. Russia existed as a nation before and after the Soviet Union and there is little similarity between those states as political entities.

    I expect discussion on this blog to be fact based. If we are going to ignore facts then there is no point in discussion.

  26. Paul says:

    If you want to get picky. It is a fact that Russia as a part of the Soviet Union was one of our enemies during the cold war. So yes it is a fact that Russia was our enemy.

    This comment is not fact based:

    “The Soviet Union, not Russia, was our Cold War enemy”

    Based on the facts I assume that your point was that:

    The Soviet Union including Russia was our Cold War enemy

  27. Paul says:

    Knuck, I am not trying to twist and facts here.

    “Following the Russian Revolution, Russia became the largest and leading constituent of the Soviet Union, the world’s first constitutionally socialist state and a recognized superpower,[18] which played a decisive role in the Allied victory in World War II.[19][20] The Soviet era saw some of the most significant technological achievements of the 20th century, including the world’s first human spaceflight. The Russian Federation was founded following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, but is recognized as the continuing legal personality of the Soviet state.”


  28. Deeann Reeves says:

    There is no news in this story. It’s a re-hash of what’s been said over the last few months. Would it kill someone to actually do some investigative reporting? Interview someone? Or do you feel like Fort Drum is a forgein land that just confuses you? And even if you think the brass won’t talk to you, there are lots of civilian orgs with heads who love to blab to anyone that askes a question. Try it sometime.

  29. Pete Klein says:

    I am neither pro nor anti Fort Drum. What I find interesting is how growing the defense budget is always welcomed when it provides jobs in one area but demonized when the jobs go someplace else.
    On the other hand, lowering the defense budget is always a great idea if some other area sees the cut backs.
    For the average GI, none of this means much of anything since they are always being moved from base to base.
    I remember when I was in the Navy there wasn’t much love between military personnel and civilian workers on base. Then again, there often wasn’t much love for the military personnel in Navy towns.
    Anyone care to remember signs on some lawns in Norfolk that read, “Dogs and Sailors keep off.”
    Then there was that classic fight song sailors liked to sing for the girls attending the University at Norfolk.

  30. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Paul, I’m not accusing you of trying to twist facts. It is easy to casually ignore minor distinctions. I do it myself regularly. But I also think it is important to correct the record once in a while so that we dont start sharing a sloppy view of history.

    I’m not trying to nit pick, though, because while the Russians and the Soviet Union often had very similar agendas in terms of expansionism, the reasons behind what they did were often quite different.

  31. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    This gets to my point about diplomacy and it goes back to Sun Tzu’s Art of War.
    In order to have an effective military strategy you must first understand your enemies (and your friends) completely.

    The best way to win a war is to achieve your objectives without the use of force. Saves a lot of money too.

  32. Paul says:

    “The best way to win a war is to achieve your objectives without the use of force. Saves a lot of money too.”

    Amen to that!

  33. Brian Mann says:

    Deeann – We haven’t had time to do real investigative reporting, but we did get a chance to talk with Rep. Bill Owens, who represents the Fort Drum area and sits on the Armed Services Committee. You’ll find that interview, by NCPR’s Julie Grant, on our main news page.

    Brian, NCPR

  34. Two Cents says:

    “We should get out of the power business in the first place. Japan should step up and be the power in Asia if they are worried about China. Why are we continually subsidizing countries that are wealthier than we are?”

    Japan has no Military as per our agreement at the end of WWII.
    Japan has money because they have no Military, well they have ours….
    Japan has decided to use business as their outlet for “war” frustrations.
    If we are worried about China, we better keep a substantial ground force.

    We are the opposite of Switzerland, we are the opposite of nuetral, we have our nose in everybody panty draws, right or wrong, the fact is we don’t seem to be reimbursed for our troubles. perhaps a “nominal fee” schedule for use of our troops should be entertained.

    How much for a tank and operator for an hour?
    Should we bring our own bullets, or will they be supplied?
    What time do we break for lunch, and for how long?
    Will we have use of the “facilities” ?

  35. Walker says:

    Two Cents says: “Japan has no Military…”

    “Although Japan has officially renounced its right to declare war, it maintains a modern military force in self-defense and peacekeeping roles.”

    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan )

  36. Two Cents says:

    Right, no Military.

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