East Greenbush, N.Y. – In case you missed it, on Tuesday, the Watertown Daily Times reported that Congresswoman Elise Stefanik secured tens of millions of dollars in funding for Fort Drum and the largest pay raise for service members in two decades through the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act.

Read the full article below:

Watertown Daily Times: D.C. finalizes federal budget: Defense spending up 3% with investments at Fort Drum, military pay raises

By Alex Gault

WASHINGTON — The final portion of the 2024 federal budget has been signed into law, almost seven months late, and that portion includes some key investments for Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division.

On Saturday, President Joseph R. Biden signed the last fiscal year 2024 appropriations package, which allocates $1.2 trillion in money that will fund the federal government until September, when the fiscal year ends.

The first package was approved earlier in March, allocating $459 billion. The package signed into law Saturday funds the annual defense budget, federal financial services, homeland security, health and human services, and other topics that were more difficult to negotiate than the first package.

While the federal defense budget increased by 3% under the now largely complete 2024 federal budget, domestic spending in other categories has been kept essentially flat.

The 2024 Defense Appropriations Act approves a total of $825 billion in total funding — as has happened annually for years, this year’s package is the largest yearly defense budget in U.S. history.

That includes a 5.2% pay increase for service members, the largest single boost to base military pay since 2002, and millions of dollars dedicated to affordability programs targeted to lower earners in the enlisted ranks. The U.S. Department of Defense has $10 million to address food insecurity among the ranks, $167 million for DOD-managed child care programs, including an expansion to their universal pre-kindergarten pilot program.

$50 million will be put into the Defense Community Infrastructure Program that provides grants to communities hosting military posts in the U.S., and another $265 million will be added to the millions already spent on chemical cleanup operations, especially focused on PFAS which have been found at Fort Drum and most other military posts.

According to Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, a senior member of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, $45 million in funding from that package is allocated to projects and investments that Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division will benefit from.

“This critical funding will go towards upgrading equipment and fielding infantry units,” she said in a statement. “As our nation faces significant threats at home and abroad, it has never been more important to ensure funding for the 10th Mountain Division, the most deployed military unit in the US Army since 9/11, and Fort Drum to support our service members and bolster our military preparedness.”

Stefanik pointed to the $10 million allocated to accelerate funding to Army unmanned aircraft systems for light infantry units, including the 10th Mountain Division. Another $15 million will go to bolster Army radio systems used on posts for emergency response and on-base security, and $10 million was allocated to the 10th Mountain Division engineer for land surveying equipment used for reconnaissance, obstacle reporting and construction.

And more money is set aside for the potential East Coast missile defense site that DOD officials have preliminarily agreed to build at Fort Drum. While DOD officials have expressed muted interest, if any at all, in building such a system, and have said they would likely reevaluate potential sites for the system if they do begin building it later on, Stefanik has pushed for more and more direct support for a site at Fort Drum in every budget process for the last few years.

This year, $11 million has been allocated for DOD-wide planning and design for the Missile Defense Agency, and $10 million has been allocated for development at Fort Drum.

In a statement shared with the Times by Stefanik’s office, David J. Zembiec, chair of Advocate Drum, said the defense funding package makes important investments in Fort Drum.

“This funding expands Fort Drum’s capabilities and mission readiness, which certainly enhance(s) its military value to the Army and DOD, thereby helping to ensure its continued presence here in the north country,” he said.

Biden signing this package of federal spending bills into law formally ends this year’s fraught budget fight, where conservative Republicans in the House have held up the final budget for nearly seven months. The final package, called an “omnibus” for combining six different appropriations bills into one, got mixed support among Republicans when they voted on it Friday.

Rep. Claudia L. Tenney, R-Cleveland, voted against the package, calling it “wasteful government spending.” Tenney, who has positioned herself as both a conservative and a moderate among Republicans in the House this year, said there were inclusions in the package she found completely unnecessary, while it also failed to address some key issues.

Tenney pointed to a number of small projects funded by the omnibus funding package, as well as continued support of abortion and birth control through the VA, as key points of dissent. She also said she was concerned that the bill didn’t make meaningful steps in “reining in” federal regulation of firearms.

At the same time, Tenney lauded the bill for including a handful of infrastructure investments for her home district, including a $750,000 grant to help the town of Watertown with its Army Water Line Pipeline Replacement Project, and a $1 million grant to help the city of Watertown with its water quality improvement project.

“This 1,050-page spending monstrosity does not provide the relief that the American people are demanding and will only increase already sky-high prices and add to our national debt,” Tenney said in a statement Friday. “There are positive aspects of this bill, including the 12 community funding projects we submitted to help residents of NY-24. Other positives include fully funding veterans’ health care and toxic exposure programs, military construction projects and important agricultural research programs, but this bill in its entirety, negotiated behind closed doors, is a bridge too far.”