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U.S. Senate approves $138.2 million in spending at Fort Drum in defense authorization bill

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FORT DRUM — The U.S. Senate approved a version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013 on Tuesday that would appropriate $138.2 million to support the construction of a handful of new facilities on the post.

The funding includes $95 million to construct a new aircraft maintenance hangar, $25.9 million to construct a new missile defense data terminal complex and $17.3 million to construct a new specialty care clinic. The amount matches the total authorized by the Senate Armed Services Committee in May and the total approved by the House of Representatives earlier this year.

“These funds will ensure that Fort Drum remains an integral part of our national defense, provide essential support to the men and women who serve our country in uniform and provide a shot in the arm for the north country economy,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer in a released statement. “The new clinic, hangar and missile tracking complex will ensure that our brave soldiers have the tools they need to keep us safe and strong.”

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, a Senate Armed Services Committee member, called the funding in a statement “a great investment” for the post that would benefit soldiers and create construction jobs.

“This federal funding would help improve support services for the soldiers stationed at Fort Drum and ensure our men and women in uniform have the very best facilities and opportunities,” Sen. Gillibrand said. “They and their families have sacrificed for all of us and we owe them for their incredible service.”

Before the president can sign the authorization bill, the Senate’s legislation must be reconciled with the House’s version.

One notable gap between the bills is the planned development of a missile defense site in the East by 2015. The House bill allots $100 million to find and assess possible locations, while the Senate bill does not have the funding.

Fort Drum is thought to be one of the potential sites, as the projected funding of a missile data terminal would make the base the first eastern site to have such a facility. The two other sites that have similar terminals — Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. — have missiles on site.

In September, Richard Lehner, a Missile Defense Agency spokesman, said the terminal’s placement did not mean missiles would also be placed at the post.

Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement he hoped House and Senate leaders could act quickly on a combined bill “so we can do our part to strengthen installations like Fort Drum and supply our troops in the field with everything they need to complete the mission.”

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