With one of two New York terrorism emergency task forces at-risk of being eliminated in the Pentagon's upcoming budget, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced today that the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 that included her provision that would permanently authorize New York's two National Guard teams has cleared both chambers of Congress. Currently, New York has one unit near Schenectady that helps authorities fight terror and another unit located in New York City. The "National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team" (WMD CST) located at Stratton Air National Guard Base near Schenectady immediately responds to and supports local agencies in the event of a terrorist attack in the region. The legislation now heads to President Obama to be signed into law.
"New York remains a top terrorist target and we must continue to be vigilant in investing federal resources to protect our state and the nation," said Senator Gillibrand. "It is critical that we preserve New York's two terrorism emergency task forces to help keep us safe."
The New York National Guard's 2nd Civil Support Team in Scotia has twenty-two trained full time guard members on duty. The National Guard's 24th Civil Support Team has nearly two dozen full-time Soldiers and Airmen in the city's Army base in Fort Hamilton. These units help detect and identify chemical, biological, nuclear and other explosive devices and assists local agencies and first responders such as police, fire and other departments during emergencies and terrorist attacks involving weapons of mass destruction.
The National Guard has weapons of mass destruction civil support teams around the country to address WMD foreign or domestic threats, such as chemical and biological weapons. Because of the risk New York State faces, and the size of the state, there are currently two teams, so if one is needed, the other one remains available to address threats in other parts of the state. The funding in the President's FY 2013 puts New York State's second team at risk. The New York National Guard estimates the operating cost for the second WMD CST team is approximately $500,000 annually.
In addition, Senator Gillibrand cosponsored and helped include report language recognizing the increasing importance of the Arctic Region to our broader national security. Stratton Air National Guard Base is home to the only ski-equipped airframes in the country, that could be needed for work in the Arctic Region. The report language urges continued interagency and international collaboration and the development of an investment strategy for funding emerging requirements in balance with a resource constrained environment.
Senator Gillibrand also worked with her Senate Armed Services Committee colleagues to block the full set of Air Force proposed cuts for Fiscal Year 2013 to Stratton's National Guard unit, and to establish an independent Commission of the proposed restructuring, which would be reviewed by the defense committees in Congress.
Federal defense spending must be authorized before it can be appropriated. The House of Representatives approved the NDAA conference report last night, with the Senate voting for its approval today.