U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced, after their more than year-long push, that the just-announced bipartisan omnibus spending package for Fiscal Year 2020 sets aside $44 million in federal funding for two top-priority projects at Fort Drum: a new railhead and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) hangar. Schumer and Gillibrand said the bill is expected to pass this week and be signed into law shortly thereafter.
Fort Drum’s current railhead is limited by spatial constraints, which makes it challenging to support operations during the harsh winter months. Furthermore, Fort Drum requires additional facilities and space to house and properly service new Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Schumer and Gillibrand explained that the new railhead and UAV hangar will address both of these issues at Fort Drum. Schumer directly advocated for new railhead funding with senior Army officials after Fort Drum leadership expressed that it was their number one objective. Prior to Schumer’s intervention, funding for the new railhead was not included in Army budget documents.
“Securing a new railhead that will increase deployable readiness for the world-class troops at Fort Drum is the base’s #1 objective, so I am very pleased that my efforts have paid off, and full funding for the project will pass next week in the omnibus appropriations bill,” said Senator Schumer, who has made securing this railhead a top priority. “And building a new UAV hangar will be a crucial new asset to enhance Fort Drum’s capabilities in this vital field. Not only will these projects greatly enhance Fort Drum’s capabilities, they will also bring good-paying construction jobs to the North Country, boosting the regional economy.”
“I am proud that the railhead and hangar projects at Fort Drum were awarded funding in the end of year spending bill,” said Senator Gillibrand, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Committee. “These projects are critical to the 10th Mountain Division’s mission. The railhead project will help make sure that our troops are prepared when called to duty and the hangar project will help expand Fort Drum’s capacity to train personnel for national security missions. New York houses some of our nation’s most important national security assets, and I was thankful to visit our Fort Drum troops earlier this year. I will always fight for the resources they need.”
Schumer and Gillibrand explained that the current Fort Drum railhead is outdated and in desperate need of an upgrade. Fort Drum has a limited capability in place to simultaneously load and unload trains for mobilization, and therefore multiple missions must be staggered and delayed. Loading trains for deployment often forces Fort Drum to hold inbound trains miles away in the Town of Watertown’s rail yard, which increases costs. In addition, the current railhead has limited capacity for storage and harsh winter conditions often restrict operations. The railhead project will fix many of the operational and safety constraints currently experienced by the installation.
The senators said the new railhead project would improve loading operations at Fort Drum by building 1.2 miles of new railroad loading tracks. Additionally, the $21M project would fund the construction of new ramps, a side loading area, protection measures from weather, new lighting, and a new Alert Holding Area equipped with a cargo inspection building. Schumer said that these measures would greatly benefit Fort Drum’s loading capacity, ensuring that the base could meet all of its deployment requirements.
Additionally, Schumer and Gillibrand explained that Fort Drum is currently incapable of accommodating three new TUAV platoons, as it lacks the requisite facilities. They said the new $23 million UAV hangar project would address this issue by constructing a new maintenance hangar for the platoons, new airfield pavements to include a hangar access apron, an extension to the installation’s existing runway, a taxiway, overrun area, new storage facilities, new vehicle parking space and a new takeoff area.