Happy fundraiser Thursday! Have you given yet? OK, that’s all for that.
So President Barack Obama unveiled the fiscal year 2014 budget blueprint yesterday (read more from the White House here.) Although, as NPR’s Scott Horsley said yesterday on the network, there’s something in it for everyone to dislike (score!), there’s also something in it that people attached to Fort Drum and its surrounding communities may like very much.
That something, Syracuse.com reports, is $4.7 million in funding for the Pentagon to build a new launch and recovery facility at the base for MQ-9 Reaper Drones. Military appropriations are a little complicated, but it seems the money is earmarked for the New York Air National Guard’s 147th Attack Wing, which operates the drones from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse. Some of that money will then be used to build a hangar at Fort Drum (the 147th flies the drones over Fort Drum airspace for training missions). The balance will be used to widen a taxiway from the new hangar to Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield.
Obviously, this could bring substantial construction-related money into the Watertown area, and as we know money spent locally has a nice multiplier effect. But what if Fort Drum’s troop numbers are reduced in another round of Base Realignment and Closures (BRACs)? Well, WWNY-TV is reporting that North Country Congressman Bill Owens isn’t a fan of the BRAC idea, but he thinks if it does happen, it could actually benefit Fort Drum.
Here’s what that’s all about: President Obama sent Congress the proposed 2014 defense budget on Wednesday (it’s $526.6 billion, by the way), and he’s looking for the House to approve BRAC in 2015. Owens says he won’t be voting for it, and he doesn’t think it’ll have much support on Capitol Hill, but if it does pass it might not be all bad. He hasn’t read the bill as of yet, so he doesn’t know all the details, but Owens told WWNY that he believes “that if the Army restructures, what we may see is that, in fact, an increase in troop strength at Fort Drum.”
If the legislature does approve another BRAC round, the actual process of base closures would begin in 2016 and would be a multi-year process. Owens says if it is included in future BRAC rounds, he’ll fight to keep Fort Drum (whose economic impact on Jefferson County is enormous) intact.