Afternoon Read: 150 civilian jobs to be lost at Fort Drum

UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters airlifting howitzers at Fort Drum. U.S. Army photo: Sgt. 1st Class Steven Petibone

The Watertown Daily Times reports today (as do others, including the Associated Press) that 150 civilian jobs will be leaving Fort Drum. Virginia-based DynCorp International will move some of its operations from our region to North Carolina and Kentucky. The job cuts are expected to begin this spring, with the workforce on the RESET program, which fixes Black Hawk helicopters, to be reduced from 220 to 70 by mid-summer.

The reason for the cuts hasn’t been completely clear. The workers’ union representative Brian Gagnon (president, Local Lodge 2920 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers) suggested today to the Times that they’re the result of concerns over sequestration in Washington. A company official told WNYF-TV yesterday that the cuts were due to “reduced need” (a local DynCorp official also mentioned sequestration as a reason for the cuts to WNYF yesterday.) Since the company’s “customer” is the military it probably amounts to about the same thing.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to wonder as well whether there might be financial advantages for DynCorp to move operations to North Carolina (which is a right to work state — apologies for the Wikipedia link, but it’s very hard to find something on right to work that’s not clearly slanted in one direction or the other) and Kentucky (which is not). Those states may also be offering incentives that make a move more appealing.

In any event, there is a question of whether DynCorp is taking this opportunity to do now, with the threat of sequestration making things uncertain for many who receive federal funding, something it may well have done anyway.

This sober news comes not long after we heard from North Country Congressman Bill Owens (speaking to NCPR in late January) that Fort Drum was most likely “in pretty good shape” to stave off cuts as the military prepares to make massive budget cuts itself. It’s a reminder that even the threat of cuts can be enough to cause (often very risk-averse) businesses) to make big changes — another reason political brinksmanship is so very dangerous.


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11 Comments on “Afternoon Read: 150 civilian jobs to be lost at Fort Drum”

  1. Ken Hall says:

    As I have commented numerous times here at the NCPR Blog site the likelihood that Fort Drum would/will experience some draw down as the US military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan decreased was/is inevitable. True to form the proponents of “small” government in the form of smaller government expenditures of dollars actually desire for those smaller expenditures to take place in someone else’s back yard not theirs.

    As I recall someone here about made an “educated” guess about the possible effects of a military wide personnel draw down on Drum as, best case 3000 military personnel addition and worst case 8000 military personnel reduction; was that perchance North Country Congressman Bill Owens?

    If the worst case or some approximation of (significant reduction) were to take place at Drum, what think ye are the chances that the conservatives/republicans would/will use the potential troop/civilian reductions to label North Country Congressman Bill Owens as not standing up for the North Country needs; although reduction in government spending is precisely what their voluble ideological speech making insists is required to save the USA from economic collapse?

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  2. Mervel says:

    Part of the war spending was at Fort Drum. When the wars end we don’t need as many people at Fort Drum, this will be the first of many defense cutbacks that should happen as the wars end.

    I am still confused how we can spend so much with both Iraq and Afghanistan wars ending, when those wars supposedly caused our deficit, we should see reduced need for defense spending as the wars totally end.

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  3. Paul says:

    Nora, I know that this is just a blog spot, but it seems a bit heavy on speculation. This kind of thing only helps a company use the “threat” of something like sequestration to their advantage.

    I found this mornings news story on why fear is up while crime is down is somewhat related. We see many folks using the perceived “threat” of crime to their advantage in advancing other agendas these days:

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  4. Two Cents says:

    perceived threat= terrorism

    “monkey see monkey do”

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  5. JDM says:

    Hmmm. The sky is falling over $85 billion.

    Sandy relief bill just passed for $50 billion, and no one seemed to blink.

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  6. jeff says:

    If the military wants the RESET service here, it will be here. Unless there is no choice, or if it is not necessary that it is here the contractor is free to adjust its postion.

    The whole sequester issue has brought out the fear mongers, the military will be cut, security will be cut, medi-whatever will be cut. The quid-pro-quo of cuts to expenses that was to come in place of the sequester was never supplied by the President. But now he is banging the fear drum.

    Every government program seems to have automatic cost of living adjustments. Not only COLA but wages are increased for time-in grade or getting additional education or perhaps bonuses. So if wages get frozen the other pay increase actions are left in place. So wage freezes aren’t actually freezes. Of course their healthcare goes up automatically.

    No one is willing to do zero base budgeting. Since before I was in college the government angle was if you don’t spend your budget, you won’t get what you had and certainly not more.

    A lot of houses have been built to serve the Fort Drum population and for private employees on Drum. There is a potential for a market glut if there is a substantial force reduction. New projects should be stalled due to uncertainty and this will affect local contractors. I welcome the folks on the base and it would be great if they stayed permanently but when tied to the military, their fate isn’t tied to Jefferson county. My fate could be tied to the impact of the potential property valuations which were inflated by increased demand and potentially deflated by a glut of housing. Are there school buildings and other investments that were installed using anticipated populations that may suddenly face declining utilization and with it funding as happened to Peru schools? Plattsburgh and Rome air bases closed down rather quickly.

    I didn’t read the articles as a slam dunk. (to quote George Tenet) Yet the whole issue certainly isn’t unexpected. If the force isn’t needed, the staff will be smaller, if present at all.

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  7. newt says:

    I find it interesting and illuminating that for all the divergence of opinion expressed on this blog, there is virtually no one who seems to favor a “stronger” (i.e., more expensive and powerful) U.S. military, or a more assertive military presence in other nations. Likewise, no one seems to be standing on their head about the perceived wrongness of cutbacks, even when they threaten the economic powerhouse of the northwestern quarter of our region.

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  8. Jeff says:

    Newt- we can whomp whoever we want to whomp at the moment, except terrorists because they aren’t tied down to political borders. What will be the blow-back if we do is the question and thus the answer is to back off a bit. The nation hasn’t the stomach for policing the world. We’ve shown we can rachet up forces quickly. So we tolerate Chinese ships banging into our ships. Chinese internet access to our knowledge base is a big threat and an F-18 isn’t helpful there. An stronger intelligence network would be more helpful than a bigger army at the moment. Greater internal affinity for this country would be worthwhile too.

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  9. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Newt, I question the wisdom of large scale draw downs. We saw what that brought us when Carter did it, when Clinton did it. IMO we should look to reduce in smart ways, instead of taking a lawn mower to the problem, use a scalpel so we don’t have to rebuild from the ground up all over again.

    BTW, I think the military as a whole should follow the example of the USMC, or at least as it was back in my day. The Corps never had a large budget and we never wasted money. It wasn’t fun, but there was enough to go around and the job got done. It was a very fiscally conservative outfit and I believe it’s the best way to do things.

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  10. mervel says:

    Well there is a difference between a large armed forces and an expensive armed forces.

    We need to understand why our military is orders of magnitude more expensive than every other military on earth. Not just a little more but a huge amount more. The closet country is China at 143B we spend 710B, that is nuts. We also spend more as a percentage of GNP, we spend twice as percentage of our GNP as China our nearest military competitor.

    I support a strong and even a large military, but these expenditures make no sense, none at all.

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  11. Rancid Crabtree says:

    They make perfect sense Mervel. Shootemup Corp badly needs a defense contract to keep it’s margins up, maybe even to keep the doors open. So they funnel a whole lot of money to Senators and Congressmen on certain committees, with the promise of oodles more cash if they vote the right way. The vote goes through, the defense contract is awarded, the bazillions of taxpayer $$$ flows to Shootemup Corp and the Sens and Reps get hundreds of thousands. Add in to that things like certain people selling our defense secrets to, say, China so that a whole generation of armament is now compromised, over charges by suppliers, rising taxes, benefits and wages, the normal wastefulness of your average 18-25 year old, etc., it’s no wonder it’s so expensive.

    Fiscal conservatism can be applied everywhere if we only try.

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