Washington, D.C. – With a New York City terrorism emergency task force at-risk of being eliminated in the Pentagon’s upcoming budget, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator Charles Schumer, a long-time supporter of operations at Fort Hamilton, announced today that a key Senate panel passed her provision that would permanently authorize New York’s two National Guard teams. Currently, New York has one unit that helps authorities fight terror in the Big Apple and another unit located in Albany. The “National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team” (WMD CST) located in Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn immediately responds to and supports local agencies in the event of a terrorist attack in the New York metro area. Gillibrand’s language in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which passed out of the Senate Armed Services Committee, now heads to the full Senate for a vote.
“New York City remains a top terrorist target and we must continue to be vigilant in investing federal resources to protect New York and the nation,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It is critical that we preserve New York’s two anti-terrorism emergency task forces, including the one devoted solely to New York City to help keep us safe.”
“It just made no sense at all to cut this vital program at Fort Hamilton that can help New York City respond to a major attack, and I’m glad we were able to prevent it from happening,” said Senator Schumer. “Terrorists continue to make New York City a top target and we need to continue to fully fun all of our counter-terrorism operations in order to protect ourselves from future attacks. And heaven forbid an attack occurs, we need our WMD support team right here at Fort Hamilton in order to help us cope with the damage and save lives.”
The New York National Guard runs the 24th Civil Support Team with nearly two dozen full-time soldiers and airmen in the city’s only army base in Fort Hamilton. New York National Guard’s 2nd CST has twenty-two trained full time guard members on duty. These units help detect and identify chemical, biological, nuclear and other explosive devices and assists local agencies and first responders such as police, fire and other departments during emergencies and terrorist attacks involving weapons of mass destruction.
In 2009, Senator Gillibrand secured $700,000 in federal funds to launch this citywide civil support team stationed in Fort Hamilton, which aims to respond and support localities in the event of a terrorist attack within New York City. Senator Gillibrand has also announced efforts last year to protect and preserve resources for Fort Hamilton. Senator Schumer has delivered numerous grants and federal resources for various operations and capital projects at Fort Hamilton, including critical support for the Reserve Station, barracks and housing and the Community Club.
The National Guard has weapons of mass destruction civil support teams around the country to address WMD foreign or domestic threats, such as chemical and biological weapons. Because of the risk New York State faces, and the size of the state, there are currently two teams, so if one is needed, the other one remains available to address threats in other parts of the state. The funding in the President’s FY 2013 puts New York State’s second team at risk. The New York National Guard estimates the operating cost for the second WMD CST team is approximately $500,000 annually.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 will go to the full Senate for passage, then to Conference with the House, after which it will go to the President for signature.