Department of Defense officials say Congress needs to reach a deal on military budget cuts soon because cuts triggered by a backup plan could be catastrophic. As our Brian Dwyer reports, the Army says on top of all that, much-needed family programs could be on the chopping block.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, N.Y. -- A Congressional super committee is meeting in private, discussing ways to trim $480 billion from the Department of Defense budget over the next ten years. If it doesn't reach a deal by November 23rd, an automatic spending plan triggers requiring an additional $600 billion to be cut. Something that many say could be catastrophic.
North Country Congressmen Bill Owens doesn't sound optimistic about the super committee's success.
"I hope they are," Owens said. "But I don't think there's a great likelihood. I think this process unfortunately, is going to go on longer and there's going to be more uncertainty which is not a good thing either for Fort Drum or for the country generally."
As for how that could affect Fort Drum and the Army, Secretary of the Army John McHugh says troop numbers and civilian workforce will be cut. If the additional money is needed, Army family programs, which have seen major funding increases in the past few years, would be at great risk. He says the Army has to prioritize.
"When you are at war some people, not here in the North Country, but some people tend to forget that," McHugh said. "The first thing you have to do is take care of those war fighters and make sure they have the training, the equipment and everything they need when they're deployed."
But McHugh says make no mistake, taking away family-based programs will cause problems overseas as well.
"You can't have an effective war fighter if he or she is in Afghanistan or Iraq and they're worried about their family being taken care of," he said.
Now Owens says there is a silver lining here. The extra $600 billion wouldn't have to be cut until January of 2013, meaning there's a full year for a deal to be reached, saving those programs.
As it relates to overall troop reduction, Owens says Congress needs to be very careful to not repeat history, drawing down so much that it actually costs more money to bring the levels back up when needed.