Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland) today praised Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel for his decision to protect New York City's National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team from closure. The Department of Defense had informed Congress in late March of its plan to shut down one of New York State's two Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Response Teams due to budget cuts beginning in June, but at a House Appropriations Committee hearing today, Secretary Hagel assured Congresswoman Lowey that the teams would be protected from closure.
New York State currently has two National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Response Teams. The National Guard 2nd Civil Response Team is based at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia. The other, the National Guard 24th Civil Response Team, is based at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn. Personnel and vehicles from New York's 24th Civil Support Team had been assisting the City of Boston with the Boston Marathon and is now supporting Massachusetts's National Guard Civil Support Team with its response in the wake of the April 15 terrorist attacks.
The National Guard's 24th Civil Support Team helps detect chemical, biological, nuclear and other explosive devices and assists local first responders such as police, fire and other departments during terrorist attacks involving weapons of mass destruction.
Secretary Hagel's assurance to Congresswoman Lowey that both of the state's National Guard Civil Support Teams would remain in operation came during a House Appropriations Committee Defense Subcommittee hearing earlier today. Congresswoman Lowey is the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. Video of Congresswoman Lowey's discussion with Secretary Hagel of the issue can be viewed here. In the hearing, Congresswoman Lowey also questioned Secretary Hagel regarding his plans to address the backlog of veterans' benefits claims.
"New York City continues to be a target for terrorist attacks and faces threats posed by weapons of mass destruction. New York's Army National Guard Civil Support Teams are critical to protecting New York City and New York State from future attacks," said Lowey. "The team based at Fort Hamilton is also assisting with the response to the tragic attacks in Boston, showing that these teams are essential not just to keeping New York safe, but also to aiding others in the region who face the threat of terrorism."
"That's why the Department of Defense's original decision to disestablish the unit was not only penny wise and pound foolish, it was simply unacceptable," Lowey added. "I was pleased to hear Secretary Hagel say today that the Department of Defense will keep this terrorism emergency task force in place so it can continue to help keep New Yorkers safe."
Lowey also recognized the leadership of House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chairman Congressman Bill Young (FL) and Subcommittee Member Congressman Bill Owens (NY), who also fought to prevent National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams in Florida and New York from being eliminated.