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Drone hangar project moves forward in congressional budget discussions

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A $4.7 million expansion to an unmanned-aircraft hangar at Fort Drum’s Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield is moving closer to reality, passing multiple hurdles in congressional budget discussions.

The House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee approved versions of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act on Friday that included the funding.

The hangar funding and overall authorization bill must still be approved in the full Senate and in conference negotiations between the two chambers.

The project would build two more bays onto a two-wing hangar that is being built for the New York Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing, Syracuse. The newly planned funding also would support a wider taxiway between the hangar and airfield.

The initial hangar project is scheduled to be completed in August.

The hangar expansion project is the only military construction requested for Fort Drum in fiscal year 2014 in either the Department of Defense’s fiscal year budget or either of the congressional authorization bills.

The wing’s 25 to 30 airmen stationed at the airfield handle takeoff of the 10,500-pound MQ-9 Reaper aircraft before transferring control by satellite to training pilots in Syracuse, and perform maintenance work. The unit has flown drones at the airfield since October 2011.

The funding received support Friday from Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh.

“This technology is a key tool to our national security, and our military installations in New York state are leading the way in its development,” Sen. Gillibrand said in a statement. “Building this facility can help us harness its full potential to keep us safe, and improves this important new mission for the New York Air National Guard.”

Mr. Owens, in a press release about the House approval of the defense spending bill, said supporting the growth of projects such as the hangar expansion could create new activity.

“Maintaining a diverse mission set at Fort Drum that enhances the core mission and further highlights the installation’s joint training capability is critical to ensuring long-term growth,” he said.

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