July 16, 2021

Following Meeting With Fort Drum’s New Commanding General Milford Beagle, Gillibrand Outlines Military Priorities

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division for a meeting with the Commanding General, Brigadier General Milford Beagle Jr., who assumed command of the 10th Mountain Division this week, to discuss their shared priorities and plan for the future of the Fort Drum base. Following their meeting, Senator Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, held a press conference to discuss her priorities for Fort Drum and its facilities and service members, as well as her efforts to improve the quality of life of members of the military and their families. 

“I was honored to visit Fort Drum today to meet with our service members and Commanding General Milford Beagle Jr. to discuss our shared priorities,” said Senator Gillibrand. “As chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, I work every day to advocate for the health, safety and morale of our service members and their families. From reforming the military justice system to fighting to secure resources for infrastructure improvement at Fort Drum, I’m proud to support our men and women in uniform. Our service members risk their lives to keep us safe, and I will ensure that our military operates in a manner worthy of their dedication.”

During her visit, Senator Gillibrand discussed several priorities, including:

Fort Drum Community Projects

Senator Gillibrand has submitted funding requests to the Senate Appropriations Committee for several Fort Drum community projects, including three that were included in her Congressionally Directed Spending (CDS) request. This funding would support projects to maintain and improve Fort Drum’s facilities and water infrastructure. They include: 

  • $42 Million for the Construction of a Field House: This funding would support the construction of a Physical Fitness Testing Facility Field House in support of testing for the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT).
  • $27 Million For Water Infrastructure Improvements: The Wellfield Expansion Resilience Project would help develop the Fort Drum water supply
  • $10 Million For a New Railhead: This funding would complete the construction of a new railhead at Fort Drum.

Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act

Senator Gillibrand is a tireless advocate for New York’s veterans. Approximately3.5 million veterans have been exposed to burn pits that spewed toxic fumes and carcinogens into the air. It has long been established that burning waste and garbage has significant negative impacts on the environment and human health--which is why using burn pits on American soil is against the law and exposure to other toxic substances is highly regulated. However, millions of our men and women in uniform were exposed to carcinogenic toxic fumes released by burn pits that were used throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Southwest Asia. Gillibrand is the champion of the fight to address this looming health crisis in the military community and leads the bipartisan, bicameral Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act. This legislation would streamline the process for veterans to obtain VA benefits for illnesses due to exposure to these toxic fumes.

Clean Water for Military Families Act and the Filthy Fifty Act 

Hundreds of contaminated military sites across the country jeopardize the health, safety, and well-being of military communities who have suffered from exposure to per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) pollution and toxic drinking water. While tests of Fort Drum’s drinking water show it’s safe, military families are often exposed to polluted drinking water that’s been contaminated by PFAS chemicals from firefighting foam. Senator Gillibrand is a long-time champion of combatting and cleaning PFAS in New York State and across the nation. Specifically, the Clean Water for Military Families Act and the Filthy Fifty Act directs the Department of Defense (DoD) to identify and clean PFAS at U.S. military installations with some of the highest detections across the country. 

Expanded Child Tax Credit

More than 15,000 military service members and about 3,700 civilian personnel work at Fort Drum, with about 15,000 family members living in the local area. In addition, more than 3,000 military retirees reside within the local region. Last year, Fort Drum had a $1.8 billion economic impact on the region. Senator Gillibrand fought hard in the Senate to ensure that the families and service members of the Fort Drum community receive the expanded Child Tax Credit, the largest anti-poverty measure in decades, that was included in the American Rescue Plan. In Jefferson County, more than 1 in 5 children were living below the poverty line even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is estimated that New York families will receive $7.03 billion in total relief and 87% of children under the age of 18 will benefit from the enhanced Child Tax Credit. This historic economic lifeline targets low- and middle-income families struggling to make ends meet.This funding can help families pay for essential goods, like rent, groceries, diapers, back to school clothes, and child care. Starting yesterday, July 15th, families began receiving their monthly payments of up to $250 for each child aged six to seventeen years old and $300 for children under the age of six. It is projected that the expanded Child Tax Credit could help lift nearly one-half of all children out of poverty.

Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act 

In May of 2021, the Department of Defense released its FY20 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, and the data demonstrates that while reports of sexual assault in the military remain at record highs, the number of cases that went to trial after substantiation of allegations of sexual assault decreased, and conviction rates dropped significantly. Despite repeated efforts to end the scourge of sexual assault in the military, the number of assaults only continue to rise while prosecutions decline. Senator Gillibrand’s bipartisan Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act (MJIIPA) would create an impartial, fair, and accountable military justice system. This historic legislation would professionalize how the military prosecutes serious crimes — including rape and sexual assault, murder, manslaughter, child endangerment, child pornography, and negligent homicide — by moving the decision to prosecute from the chain of command to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors, and provides for several new prevention provisions such as better training for leadership and increased physical security measures, while ensuring that commanders still have the ability to provide strong leadership and ensure a successful command climate. In addition to tackling the serious issue of sexual assault in the military and holding service members accountable for their crimes, the legislation would address systemic barriers to justice for service members of color. This legislation was recently endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus and would help reduce bias by moving prosecution decisions to professionals. Over the past several weeks, Senator Gillibrand has called for unanimous consent to open debate on the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act 19 times and will continue fighting for the justice system service members deserve. Following nearly a decade of advocacy, the MJIIPA has 66 co-sponsors and would pass in the Senate if afforded a vote. 

The Full Text of the Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act Can Be Found Here.

The Full Text of the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act Can Be Found Here.

For More Information From The White House On The Child Tax Credit, Please Click Here.

The Full Text of the Clean Water for Military Families Act Can Be Found Here. 

The Full Text of the Filthy Fifty Act Can Be Found Here.