WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES: Rep. Elise Stefanik announces House markup includes Fort Drum railhead funding

By Abraham Kenmore Published on May 10, 2019

U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, announced Thursday afternoon that the Fort Drum railhead has been included in the House version of next year’s Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill.

Ms. Stefanik announced the railhead and an unmanned aerial vehicle hangar for Fort Drum were included in the House markup. It has not yet passed the Senate. The railhead project was not included in the requested appropriations submitted by the Army for next year, but it did top the list of unfunded projects the Army wanted to pursue if funding became available.

“First and foremost, I need to thank Secretary Esper and Major General (P) Piatt for their excellent advocacy for a top priority of mine — Fort Drum’s Railhead,” Ms. Stefanik was quoted as saying in a news release. “Rapid deployment capability is one of the core features of Fort Drum’s critical role in our nation’s defense. I’m proud to have led the charge in Congress to deliver this win for Fort Drum and the North Country.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., has also been a vocal supporter of the railhead project. Earlier this week, Sen. Schumer’s office announced he raised the issue during a recent meeting with Gen. James C. McConville, the nominee to be Army chief of staff.

“The nation depends on the Light Infantry Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division to rapidly deploy to crisis areas around the world to deter conflict before it happens, and to fight and win when needed,” Gen. Brian J. Mennes, commanding general of Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division, said in a statement to the Times.“This railhead project is an integral part of our power projection platform, enabling us to leave our bootprints wherever the mission requires.”

The $21 million improvement project would double the capacity of the railhead for loading and unloading. The railhead was first identified as lacking capacity in 2008. The post is currently unable to load and unload trains simultaneously, instead holding incoming trains in the town of Watertown rail yard, and cannot deploy within the 72-hour target.

According to the post, the project would double the number of loading sides and ramps. Other issues, like limited storage, unpaved vehicle staging areas and cold weather limitations will also be addressed through the project.

The UAV hangar was expected to be funded; the $23 million project includes the hangar, maintenance, airfield pavement and other requirements.

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