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Department of Defense report indicates sequestration cuts would put war operations at risk

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CANTON - Reductions in training, equipment and personnel could leave the military unbalanced and increase risks in future war operations, according to a new Department of Defense report analyzing the long-term impact of federally approved sequestration budget cuts.

The report, released Tuesday evening, covers a range of effects resulting from $1 billion in current and future reductions calculated by the Defense Department from the 2012 to 2021 fiscal years.

The Army, including personnel at Fort Drum, could face cuts in helicopter additions and repairs, facility maintenance and construction along with training opportunities.

The report noted that pay rate hikes would further complicate balancing budgets if not slowed down.

In other military branches, sequestration would mean large-scale cuts in aircraft, ships, maintenance and training. Among the Air Force’s discarded aircraft would be the MQ-9 Reaper drone, some of which are flown by the New York Air National Guard out of Fort Drum’s Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield.

Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, voiced concerns in a statement about the depth of the cuts, particularly those that could affect Fort Drum.

“The harmful impact of sequestration has been felt across the region,” he said. “I will continue to fight to ensure adequate troop and funding levels at Fort Drum and stop these harmful sequestration cuts.”

Continued sequestration could also bring larger reductions in military personnel, particularly in the Army. The service currently is slashing its force from 520,000 active-duty soldiers to 490,000. The proposed 2015 budget calls for reducing that figure further to between 440,000 and 450,000 soldiers by fiscal year 2017.

The report said that number could drop again to 420,000 by fiscal year 2019.

In line with the personnel cuts, the number of active brigade combat teams would fall from 32 to 24 by 2019.

Cuts in personnel and unit counts also would be enacted at the National Guard and Reserve levels, and civilian employment would be slashed.

The report said the military’s force numbers will be evaluated during future budget cycles.

The full DOD report can be found at http:// wdt.me/xNg8mQ.

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