U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that following their push, two sorely-needed and long-sought projects at Fort Drum cleared a major hurdle towards securing federal funding. The senators explained that the Senate FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which just passed out of the Senate Armed Services Committee, authorizes full funding for a new railhead at Fort Drum as well as a new Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) hangar at Fort Drum.
Fort Drum’s current railhead restricts the installation’s ability to meet DOD readiness requirements, is limited by spatial constraints, and is incapable of safely supporting operations during the harsh winter months. Furthermore, Fort Drum currently lacks the facilities and space to house and properly service new Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. The senators explained that the new railhead and UAV hangar would address both of these issues at Fort Drum and vowed to fight for full funding for the projects during the appropriations process.
“Securing a new railhead that will increase mission readiness and deployment speed for the world-class troops at Fort Drum is the base’s #1 objective, so I am very pleased the funding authorizations just advanced out of the Armed Services Committee in the NDAA,” said Senator Schumer, who has made securing this railhead a tippy-top priority. “And building a new UAV hangar will be a crucial new asset to enhance Fort Drum’s capabilities in this burgeoning and vital field. Not only would these projects greatly enhance Fort Drum’s mission readiness, they would also bring good-paying construction jobs to the North Country, boosting the regional economy. Fort Drum is both a major asset to the Department of Defense and woven into the very fabric of the North County. I will do all in my power to fight to secure full funding for these desperately-needed projects.”
“Fort Drum is an invaluable asset to our country’s national defense, and the railhead and hangar projects are absolutely vital to making sure that the 10th Mountain Division is adequately prepared when called to duty,” said Senator Gillibrand. “As Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Committee, I was proud to fight to ensure these projects were included as a part of the NDAA. The railhead project is central to the 10th Mountain Division’s mission and its completion will help make sure that our troops can do their job. The completion of the hangar project will expand Fort Drum’s capacity to train additional personnel. We are now one step closer to making sure these projects can be completed, and I will work with my colleagues to make sure this makes it into the final NDAA.”
The senators 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 and Gillibrand 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. The senators said that these measures would greatly benefit Fort Drum’s loading capacity, ensuring that the base could meet all of its deployment requirements.
Additionally, Schumer and Gillibrand explained that Fort Drum is currently incapable of accommodating three new TUAV platoons, as it lacks the requisite facilities. The senators explained the new $23 million UAV hangar project would address this issue by constructing a new maintenance hangar for the platoons, new airfield pavements to include a hangar access apron, an extension to the installation’s existing runway, a taxiway, overrun area, new storage facilities, new vehicle parking space and a new takeoff area.