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.