Schumer, Gillibrand: Bill expected to pass authorizes over $40m in funding for new top-priority railhead and UAV hangar at Fort Drum

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Chuck Schumer

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., points to a question as he speaks with reporters Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019 in Washington, on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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 has just been finalized and is expected to pass early next week, authorizes full funding for an expanded railhead at Fort Drum—the base’s top priority—as well as a new Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) hangar.

Fort Drum’s current railhead is limited by spatial constraints and makes it challenging to support 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.  The senators had sent a letter pressing for full funding for these important projects.

Schumer directly advocated for new railhead funding with senior Army officials after Fort Drum leadership expressed that it was their top priority. Prior to Schumer’s intervention, funding for a new railhead was not included in initial budget requests.

“Securing a new railhead that will increase deployable readiness for the world-class troops at Fort Drum is the base’s #1 objective, so I am very pleased the funding authorizations will be passing Congress through the NDAA next week,” said Senator Schumer, who has made securing this railhead a top priority.  “And building a new UAV hangar will be a crucial new asset to enhance Fort Drum’s capabilities in this vital field. Not only would these projects greatly enhance Fort Drum’s capabilities, 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.”

“I was thankful to get the chance to visit our 10th Mountain Division troops in Afghanistan for Thanksgiving, and to visit Fort Drum earlier this year,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am pleased to announce that the railhead and hangar projects at Fort Drum were included in the final NDAA. The railhead project is critical to the 10th Mountain Division’s mission, and its completion will help make sure that our troops are prepared when called to duty. The completion of the hangar project will help expand Fort Drum’s capacity to train additional personnel for critical national security missions. 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 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. 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.

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