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ICYMI: Congresswoman Elise Stefanik Watertown Daily Times Op-Ed

“Working to Protect Fort Drum”

“When I came to Congress, I promised to be a strong voice for Fort Drum and to work across the aisle to protect and strengthen this critical installation.

This commitment is why I have prioritized my work on the House Armed Services Committee during my time in Congress. It’s why I have visited with the brave men and women of the 10th Mountain Division as they defend us overseas in Afghanistan. And it’s why I’ve spent countless hours in Congress and in our community working on Drum’s behalf.

In March 2015, I was proud to stand with so many of you as we rallied to defend Fort Drum during the Pentagon’s listening session and successfully prevented up to 16,000 military personnel cuts. In Congress, I worked across the aisle to lead the entire New York delegation’s effort on Drum’s behalf.

As the largest single-site employer in the state, these cuts would have been devastating to our region’s economy. Worse, as the most-deployed division to Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, these cuts to the 10th Mountain Division would have had severe repercussions for our national security. As a community, we understood this and proudly came together.

But staving off these cuts was just the first step. I remain committed to undoing the disastrous sequester budget cuts to our defense that threaten Fort Drum, our region and the security of our nation. 

This is why I was pleased to help the House pass the Bipartisan Budget Act last year. This two-year agreement provided needed certainty to the budget process in Washington while giving critical budgetary relief to our military. 

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I have faithfully worked on behalf of Fort Drum. I co-sponsored language in the National Defense Authorization Act that would stop further reductions to the U.S. Army’s end-strength given the uncertain world and the need for trained and ready U.S. land forces.

And I was pleased that the NDAA provided needed funding for the NCO Academy at Fort Drum. This project will provide more barracks and operational space so that we are meeting standards for NCO training.

I also fought long and hard to ensure that Fort Drum received an on-time transfer of Apache helicopters in order to see that our 10th Mountain Combat Aviation Brigade continues to be well-trained and equipped. Any delay would have grave consequences on the 10th Mountain’s readiness, deployment schedule and dwell time. 

Going forward, we must continue to work together to protect Drum, and I assure you that I am committed to stopping any new round of Base Realignment and Closure. In the north country, we saw firsthand the devastating effects that BRAC can have on the military and our local community when Plattsburgh Air Force Base was closed. This is why I supported the year-end government funding bill in December that included language to prohibit any funding from being “used to propose, plan for or execute a new or additional Base Realignment and Closure round.”

Protecting Fort Drum also means planning for its future. Recently I worked to take steps to ensure that Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield has the equipment it needs to expand the use of airspace and maximize training capabilities.

I also have been leading the fight in Congress to construct an East Coast Missile Defense site. A third missile interceptor site will allow us to better defend against rogue nations like Iran and North Korea, and I have been working closely with the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization and the entire Fort Drum community to make the case to the Missile Defense Agency that this is the best location for the Department of Defense to develop this system. This sentiment was echoed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry when I brought him to Fort Drum recently for a tour. 

We live in an increasingly dangerous world; this makes Fort Drum and the brave soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division needed more than ever to be ready to defend our country. Over the past 20 months, I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to meet and interact with many soldiers and families on Fort Drum, and I want to thank them for their service and sacrifice. 

I will continue to work in Congress and with our community to protect and strengthen Fort Drum. Climb to glory!”

 

To read today’s op-ed in the Watertown Daily Times, click here: http://bit.ly/2cUNJbb

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