U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, during an in-person meeting with General James C. McConville, the nominee to become the chief of staff of the U.S. Army, urged him and top military brass to continue their long-standing support of Fort Drum and to ensure that the 10th Mountain Division receives the resources and upgrades it needs to remain at the vanguard of the nation’s defense.
First, Schumer called on General McConville to continue prioritizing the replacement of Fort Drum’s old and suboptimal railhead, which would help the installation meet mission readiness requirements. Second, Schumer urged General McConville and the Army to fully honor the terms of the 20-year agreement negotiated with biomass company ReEnergy in 2014, which makes Fort Drum the nation’s only military installation that is 100% energy independent, self-sustaining and off the grid.
“During my meeting with General McConville, I made it clear that the Army must keep prioritizing the construction of a new railhead on Fort Drum—the top priority for installation officials because it will enhance vital mission readiness—as I continue my efforts to secure funding for the sorely-needed project,” said Senator Schumer. “I also urged him and the Army to fully honor its contract with ReEnergy, which supports good-paying jobs in the North Country and enhances Fort Drum’s energy security and reliability. If an attack on the power grid were to occur, the Black River Facility ensures that Fort Drum could continue to meet readiness requirements without disruption.”
Schumer explained that the current Fort Drum railhead is outdated and in desperate need of an upgrade. Fort Drum has a limited capability in place to simultaneously load and unload trains for mobilization, and therefore multiple missions must be staggered and delayed. Loading trains for deployment often forces Fort Drum to hold inbound trains miles away in the town of Watertown’s rail yard, which increases costs. In addition, the current railhead has limited capacity for storage and harsh winter conditions often restrict operations. Schumer added the railhead project will fix many of the operational and safety constraints currently experienced by the installation.
Schumer said the new railhead project would improve loading operations at Fort Drum by building 1.2 miles of new railroad loading tracks. Additionally, the $21M project would fund the construction of new ramps, a side loading area, protection measures from weather, new lighting, and a new Alert Holding Area equipped with a cargo inspection building. Schumer said that these measures would greatly benefit Fort Drum’s loading capacity, ensuring that the base could meet all of its deployment requirements.
In 2014, Schumer helped facilitate a contract between the Army and ReEnergy for Fort Drum to receive renewable, on-site biomass energy from the company for 20 total years. However, news reports have indicated that the Army has proposed ending or significantly amending the contract, despite ReEnergy meeting all performance requirements and investing $50 million into the facility. Schumer explained that such an action would not only jeopardize hundreds of good paying jobs in Upstate New York, but it would undermine Fort Drum’s ability to respond to the growing threat of cyber-attacks on energy grids. Schumer added that such an action would have a negative impact on all future agreements because bidders will price into contracts the risk that the Army may change its mind mid-contract. For these reasons, Schumer voiced support for the contract in his meeting with General McConville.
Schumer explained that Ft. Drum is one of the most important resources in the North Country and across Upstate New York. The base trains thousands of troops annually and is the largest employer in the region, contributing over a billion dollars a year to the region’s economy. In the past, Schumer has helped shield Ft. Drum from devastating cuts that would have undermined the base’s mission and reduced manpower levels.