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CNY military bases await their fate as budget cuts become reality

President Obama has signed an order to start $85 billion in automatic budget cuts, set to kick in at midnight tonight. The cuts could mean up to 2,300 civilian defense employees at Fort Drum could lose 20 percent of their pay by early May.
Watertown (WSYR-TV) -- President Obama has signed an order to start $85 billion in automatic budget cuts, set to kick in at midnight tonight.

Cuts will be made to head start and early head start services, job search assistance programs, furloughs for FAA employees and cuts to the defense department are expected.

The cuts could mean up to 2,300 civilian defense employees at Fort Drum could lose 20 percent of their pay by early May.

Cuts at the military base would save millions of dollars, but at what cost. It would be a quite a blow to communities that rely on Fort Drum to boost business.

April Johnson opened her cake shot in Watertown, knowing Fort Drum would offer a steady stream of business. Both of her employees are Army wives and her dad works at the military base.

“I would say about 50 percent of our customers are Fort Drum related. They’re either Army wives themselves or soldiers,” Johnson told NewsChannel 9.

April’s dad could be among 2,300 civilian employees at the fort reduced from a five to a four day work week if federal spending cuts kick in.

“Fort Drum is our single largest economic engine and if there’s a hitch in the get along of that engine, it’s going to impact everything we have in this community,” said Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency CEO Donald Alexander.

The latest figures show the economic impact of Fort Drum on surrounding communities like Fort Drum was $1.6 billion in the 2011 fiscal year and 75 percent of that spending went toward employment and payroll.

“If people have less money, they will definitely cut back on eating out, spending at the mall and probably even getting their kids involved in different activities,” said Lowville resident Kris Panowicz.

The ripple effect could run deep in a community tied heavily to military spending. For many, the worst part is waiting on political leaders to debate their fate.

“Management of the problem is better than walking away from it in the hopes that one side will blink when the other isn’t looking and that is not fair to this community. It’s not fair to the country,” Alexander continued.

“I’m sure we’d have to make up for it somehow,” Johnson said. “We all have our cutbacks. You have to adjust with the economy as it changes.”

The cuts may also affect employees at the former Griffiss Air Force Base. As many as 2,000 people who process defense department finances could lose a large portion of their pay.

The air traffic control tower at Griffiss is on a list of facilities to be shut down until there’s a deal to cute the deficit in Washington.
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