Military defense bill nears approval

A sign on Route 11 northbound welcomes people to the main entrance to Fort Drum. Watertown Daily Times

FORT DRUM — Fort Drum will finally receive funding for a sorely needed and long-sought new railhead construction project.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.; U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY; and U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, have arranged for the base to receive an additional $10 million needed for the new railhead, considered a crucial part of the 10th Mountain Division deployment process.

The project will enhance 10th Mountain Division’s ability for the rapid movement of troops, vehicles and equipment, according to a Fort Drum press statement.

The project is fully funded at $31 million and can now be completed, according to Sen. Schumer’s office.

“This is going to greatly enhance our readiness, it’s as simple as that,” said Maj. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr., 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum commander, in the news release. “We owe it to our soldiers that they have everything that they need in order to quickly, efficiently and safely move out when we answer our nation’s call to deploy.”

On Wednesday, Structural Associates Inc., a Syracuse-based construction company, was awarded a $27.3-million contract from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the new railhead. The loading facility will consist of new tracks and ramps, a side loading area, lighting and cargo inspection area.

Fort Drum Public Works officials said the new facility will enable soldiers to simultaneously load and unload rail cars for faster mobilization and improve loading capabilities.

In a news release, Rep. Stefanik announced the $27,330,750 award to complete the project.

“Rapid deployment capability is one of the core features of Fort Drum’s critical role in our nation’s defense, and this award will greatly improve the readiness of the 10th Mountain Division, the most deployed Army division since 9/11,” Rep. Stefanik said. “I will continue to advocate for ways to strengthen Fort Drum and our nation’s military.”

Sen. Gillibrand also noted the importance of the project to ensure the 10th Mountain Division is ready for deployment.

I am proud to have fought for the inclusion of this funding and will continue working to get Fort Drum personnel the resources they need,” she said in a statement.

The project is funded through the Fiscal Year 2020 Military Construction Appropriations bill. But the cost of the project has increased since then, according to Sen. Schumer’s office.

Before the two lawmakers arranged for the funding, the railhead project would have been completed several years down the road.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

I write about north country politics, Jefferson County and the northern shoreline towns of Lyme, Cape Vincent, Clayton and Alexandria Bay

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