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New York’s budget adds millions of dollars for retaining Fort Drum, FAA drone project

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The state’s announced budget includes two funding items to help support operations at Fort Drum.

In the new budget, the state added $2 million to its base retention fund, primarily in support of the post.

The funding comes as the Army studies the effects of potential cuts in service members and civilian workers at installations nationwide, including Fort Drum. Army leadership has been pushing Congress to support a new round of Base Realignment and Closure.

On Thursday, Army Secretary and north country native John M. McHugh told lawmakers that the service spends about half a billion dollars annually on what he described as an “empty facilities tax.”

“It’s a very good showing from the state, that they’re aware of the significance of the events that are starting to unfold, and the fact they have to put a lot of effort into preserving what we have,” said Carl A. McLaughlin, executive director of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization.

Mr. McLaughlin said the organization still is awaiting further guidance on how to respond to the Army about its force-size requirements. He noted that New York will have to compete with the rest of the country to demonstrate that its installations deserve to stay in place.

Besides the base-retention funds, the budget includes $1 million to support the launch of an unmanned aircraft project operated by the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance. The north country was one of six regions nationwide selected in December by the Federal Aviation Administration for drone testing. The testing will include flights at Fort Drum, taking advantage of its military airspace.

In a statement, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., called the funding a “smart investment” to get more test-site users involved with the program.

“Most importantly, much of the UAV test-flight data the FAA needs to advance the commercial side of this game-changing and job-generating technology will come from team NUAIR and the jobs it’s poised to attract,” Mr. Schumer said in the statement.

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