Building Our Capacity to Endure
In practice, sustainability involves balancing economic, environmental, and social-cultural issues so as not to advance one area at the expense of the other two.
In the context of Fort Drum, the charge of FDRLO’s Sustainability Task Force is to facilitate a balanced approach to actions that support Fort Drum’s training and deployment mission and its long-term contribution to area employment and economic growth.
Fort Drum serves an essential training mission for the Army, and one of its recognized strengths has always been the lack of encroachment on its training areas, thanks to the large tracts of forest and farmland surrounding the installation. Therefore, as communities adjacent to Fort Drum and along major transportation routes to the post have experienced unprecedented growth, we have had to concern ourselves with how that growth is managed. We desire growth and seek to seek to stimulate additional growth in the appropriate commercial areas. Left unregulated, however, certain incompatible land use activities could encroach upon the military operations and expose people and communities to irritating noise, vibrations, and accident potential. In the wrong area, bright lights from commercial or residential developments could interfere with night vision training on the post.
Unchecked growth could also have a profound and lasting effect on community character and quality of life for residents of the region. With an all-volunteer force, the Army too is concerned about quality of life as it affects the morale and welfare of its military families. If those families find our community an undesirable place to live and resist being stationed at Fort Drum, then Fort Drum could become more vulnerable to future budget and personnel cuts. Thus, through Sustainability’s growth management sub-committee, FDRLO has worked to support land use training for local officials and to facilitate communication between the garrison and neighboring communities.
Drum Country Business is a partnership between FDRLO, the three-county region’s economic development agencies, and National Grid. This program collectively markets the shared assets of the region and its proximity to Fort Drum in order to attract and retain business. Although Fort Drum’s economic impact is huge, we must work continually to further grow and diversify our economic base and create new opportunities for employment.
Most recently, Pentagon officials were considering where to make Army personnel cuts in order to stay within its budgetary restrictions. In response, the Sustainability Task Force coordinated the effort leading to the March 20th rally at Jefferson Community College and its overwhelming expression of community-wide support for Fort Drum. The success of this event undoubtedly played a role in Fort Drum emerging relatively unscathed, with a net reduction of only 28 military personnel.
Sustaining Fort Drum’s mission and its benefit to the region requires constant effort and ongoing vigilance of political and budgetary developments at the federal level. Fortunately, one thing that has endured over time is the ability of Fort Drum and the community to effectively work together in addressing areas of mutual concern and opportunity.
By: David Zembiec