WASHINGTON — As the leading advocate for Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division in the U.S. House of Representatives, I am proud to have secured several provisions last week in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2022 that will benefit Fort Drum, our north country military families and veterans, and our defense stakeholders throughout New York’s 21st Congressional District.
Passing this NDAA through the House Armed Services Committee, which I serve on as a senior member, marks a significant step in strengthening our national security and providing our nation’s men and women in uniform the resources, equipment, programs and innovation necessary to stay a step ahead of our adversaries and competitors.
These successes will ensure our soldiers, the U.S. Army civilians and defense contractors serving at Fort Drum, and our Reserve and National Guard units have the best possible resources and most efficient programs to carry out their missions in support of our national security. I am especially proud to have worked to pass a 2.7% pay raise for our troops so our servicemembers have the support they deserve.
This year’s NDAA also includes several provisions that I fought for to improve the readiness of the 10th Mountain Division and overall quality of life at Fort Drum. Specifically, the bill requires a report on improving Army aviation retention and includes provisions to address a lack of available military child care services, which immensely affects military family readiness.
It also includes $26 million for procurement of critical fire trucks and firefighting equipment. In support of our war fighters in the 10th Mountain Division — the most deployed Army division since 9/11 — I secured $65 million for Arctic gear and equipment as our troops prepare to confront threats from our great power competitors in Russia and China.
Additionally, this year’s bill includes funding to reduce cybersecurity risks and manage costs associated with land mobile radio voice and data services for Fort Drum and other U.S.-based installations. I also secured language directing the U.S. Department of Defense to reduce the impact of wind turbines on radar systems — such as those at Fort Drum — which are essential for air traffic control management, weather forecasting and other critical missions.
Just as I have worked with the Department of Defense to bring the STARBASE Academy program to Fort Drum to create more Science, Technology, Engineering and Math opportunities in the north country, I was able to include a provision in this NDAA assessing the STEM curricula for military children educated through the Department of Defense Education Activity system.
I am also proud to report that this year’s NDAA includes provisions that will help keep jobs in the north country. From state-of-the-art bomb suits to key intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft that include components made by north country manufacturers, I was proud to ensure that these defense platforms continue to be produced in our community. This is not just good for national security but it is good for north country employers and working families.
All these efforts will result in better equipped, better trained and more combat-ready forces at Fort Drum as well as for our Reserve and National Guard units that train in the 21st District. These efforts will also generate and support employment opportunities throughout the north country that are critical to reversing the economic effects the pandemic has had on the hardworking people in upstate New York.
After years of hard work in the House of Representatives, Fort Drum has been designated as the location for a potential East Coast missile defense site. I built upon that effort to ensure this bill includes a key provision that directs the Department of Defense to lay out exactly how Fort Drum will be leveraged for a future layered homeland missile defense system pursued by the Missile Defense Agency. While the Biden administration has been slow to truly advance homeland missile defense priorities, I will continue the fight to ensure that Fort Drum remains front and center for future homeland missile defense platforms to defend against rogue missile threats from North Korea and Iran as well as the sophisticated missile arsenals of Russia and China.
I am proud of the bipartisan work my colleagues and I have put into writing and passing this critically important piece of legislation.
Despite the president’s decision to cut defense spending, this bill will restore a proper level of funding to strengthen our military’s readiness, prepare our servicemembers for future defense missions and provide the necessary care for the men, women and families of those who have dedicated their lives to protecting the United States.
Our service members, military families and veterans remain my top priority as I serve the north country.
I will continue to tirelessly advocate for the tools and resources to protect and strengthen the Fort Drum community, fully equip our troops, and support the families of servicemembers in our district.
Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, serves the 21st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.