Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, advocated for the unique role of Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division in our nation’s defense to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during today’s hearing on the Department of Defense budget for Fiscal Year 2024.
During her questioning about Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division, Milley asserted it would be strategically worthwhile to develop a third missile defense site on the East Coast at Fort Drum.
Watch her full line of questioning here.
Highlights from her questioning include:
Stefanik opened her questioning by saying, “I want to ask both Secretary Austin and General Milley about the unique role the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum play in Great Power Competition. I recently had the opportunity to visit with Major General Anderson, who is doing a great job after the tremendous job of General Beagle up at Fort Drum. We discussed General Anderson’s Alpine Initiative to return the 10th Mountain Division to its roots of cold weather operations and mountaineering."
Stefanik then asked, “Given that both you, Mr. Secretary, and you, General Milley, were Commanding Generals at Fort Drum, you’re very familiar with the unique strengths of the 10th Mountain, what role do you see the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum, specifically, playing in outcompeting our adversaries in the Arctic?”
Austin responded, “I think 10th Mountain Division can play a significant role and does play a significant role in that endeavor. I would also say they are a multi-purpose division. As they have demonstrated, they can go a number of places and be very effective, because their strength is their quality of their people and their leadership. That’s been demonstrated over and over again."
Milley replied, “First, they’re trained in Arctic operations, so that is a key thing. As we know, the Arctic is opening up. Second, they’re light infantry, so they can rapidly deploy. In fact, it’s the most deployed division in the Army. The rapid deployment is key. That acts as a strategic deterrent. They were one of the first units to deploy to Europe. The third thing is they’re optimized for urban combat as light infantry. They’re very effective. As the world becomes evermore urbanized, the probability is higher rather than lower that decisive fights and battles will occur in highly dense urban areas.”
“The 10th Mountain has a lot of unique capabilities, and they bring to the fight rapid deployment, urban combat, mountain warfare, winter warfare. It’s a great place to work and live and serve our country,” Milley confirmed.
Stefanik replied, “You took my line General Milley, I always like to point out that it is the most deployed division in the U.S. Army since 9/11, and we’re grateful for so many military families that I’ve gotten to know over many years.”
Stefanik continued her line of questioning by advocating for the need for a third missile defense site in light of Iran and North Korea’s increasing nuclear weapons capability.
Stefanik said, “For over a decade, it has been U.S policy to be ready for a third homeland missile defense site should the Iran threat mature…Fort Drum has been designated as a potential third site.” She then asked, “Why would be important to include a third homeland site to provide more confidence to intercept any potential missile?”
Austin confirmed, “Certainly, Fort Drum has tremendous capability and a great community. If that site is chosen, it would be a good choice.”
Stefanik asserted, “That site has been chosen by the Department of Defense. That was announced a few years ago. We worked on that in the NDAA…Fort Drum has been designated as the potential third site.”
She then followed up by asking, “What is the process of ensuring that we’re focused to meet the needs, not of the past, but of the future, because it takes a long time for that infrastructure investment to be potentially completed. What is the timeline?”
Milley replied, “The question is, is it strategically worthwhile? I personally think yes, because we have a missile threat from North Korea, we have an arrayed system of sensors in the Western Pacific all the way to California, and we’ve got missile capabilities that can engage North Korea.”
“I personally think developing those systems on the East Coast would be helpful, and it would further enhance the protection of the United States,” Milley concluded.