Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that included funding requested by Congressman Bill Owens to construct an Alert Holding Area Facility for Fort Drum's efforts to prepare American troops for deployment. In addition to providing $6.7 million for the Fort Drum project, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2011 (H.R. 5822) addresses military construction needs to train and house soldiers throughout the nation and accelerates the Army's program to modernize troop housing for trainees.
"I am glad to see this project progress through the legislative process," said Owens. "Fort Drum currently has no dedicated area for pre-deployment inspections to ensure the integrity of our soldiers' equipment, and the construction of this project will do just that, while enhancing troop safety overseas."
Funds will be used to construct an Alert Holding Area for pre-deployment preparation. The facility will also act as a marshalling area where equipment can be stored to ensure it is not tampered with. Without a dedicated area for all of these activities, port call windows could be missed, aircraft could be delayed and equipment will continue to be improperly documented, causing for inefficient deployments and inaccurate unit movement data. This project will greatly reduce inefficiencies in deployments, saving taxpayer funds and increasing the division's ability to meet America's security needs.
"Beyond the critical Drum project, this bill ensures that we make good on our promise to provide American heroes with key health services and benefits, while allowing us the resources to house and train our future veterans who have just entered the service," said Owens.
As our troops return home from Iraq, H.R. 5822 provides a 7.4 percent increase over the previous year for veterans health care and benefits and ensures that partisanship does not delay vital funding that American veterans are due. After H.R. 5822 is signed into law, Congress will have provided a 70 percent increase in funding for veterans' health care and benefits since 2007.
H.R. 5822 strengthens the VA workforce to tackle claim backlogs and to process new educational benefits provided through the new GI Bill enacted in the last Congress. It also allows the VA to process newly eligible claims for disabilities of Vietnam veterans and their survivors due to exposure to Agent Orange and provides new family caregiver benefits for disabled veterans.
"This bill maintains the integrity of the promise we made to our troops when they entered the service," added Owens. "Meanwhile, the funding included in the legislation will allow Fort Drum to continue to play a role in the direction and effectiveness of American fighting forces. We are fortunate to jump another hurdle with this program, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure this project continues to move along and is approved by the President."
Now that the House has passed the legislation, it must be approved by the Senate before it can be considered by the president.