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Fort Drum funding maintained as defense authorization bill leaves Congressional conference

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Funding for Fort Drum has been preserved following a combined Senate and House of Representatives conference session for the new defense authorization bill.

The post is scheduled to receive $138.2 million in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013. 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 bill also calls for the Department of Defense to complete an environmental assessment for sites that could house ground-based interceptor missiles, but does not indicate a specific funding level to do so. Prior to committee, the House bill dedicated $100 million for the task, while the Senate bill did not have include any funding.

Fort Drum has been identified as one of the possible sites to place missiles, due to the placement of the missile defense data terminal complex.

The only other two locations with the data terminals like the one planned for the post, Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., also 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.

Plans for an east coast missile site have been met with some reservations by the Pentagon, along with researchers who claim America’s current missile defense technology is too expensive and inadequate for dealing with long-range threats.

Overall, the combined authorization bill includes $552.2 billion for base national defense and $88.5 billion for Overseas Contingencies Operations, with the combined total coming in at $1.7 billion over the president’s budget request.

Other highlights include a pay raise of 1.7 percent for soldiers along with other bonuses, moderate increases to certain TRICARE (armed forces health care program) costs, along with increased cyber-security measures and a ban on transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the continental United States.

The bill also requires the president to inform Congress of any plans to reduce force levels in Afghanistan and outlines Congress’ preferences for ending U.S. action in the region. It also places a cap on the number of service members who can be separated from service per year.

The combined bill will need to be approved by the House and Senate before it can be signed into law by the president.

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