New York Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s office announced this week that President Donald Trump has accepted her invitation to visit Fort Drum. The president plans to sign the national Defense Authorization Bill there on Monday.
In her invitation extended to the president in March, Congresswoman Stefanik noted that since 9-11, Fort Drum’s 10th Mountain Division has been the Army’s most deployed division to both Iraq and Afghanistan. She also noted that Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush visited the military base during their first terms. Stefanik, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, announced this week that President Trump will travel to the base to sign the National Defense Authorization Act on Monday.
NY Republican Party Regional Vice Chair and Essex County GOP chair Shaun Gilliland says he is quite happy that the president will visit. “Those soldiers are the most deployed soldiers in the Army and you know they definitely are out there on the line sweating and bleeding for the country and I think it’s great that the president’s going to come up to see them and thank them for their service. They deserve it.”
Gilliland adds that recognition of Fort Drum extends across the district. “Fort Drum and the activities there are a very, very significant economic driver for the western part of New York 21. And so it’s very important for the region and for the state. I mean New York for the past several decades has done nothing but rid itself of military bases and Fort Drum is kind of the last one standing and it’s a gem for the readiness of the Army.”
Fort Drum is in Jefferson County near Watertown. In adjacent Lewis County, GOP Chair Michael Young is excited about Trump’s visit. “It’s an acknowledgement as to the importance of this base. You know it’s one of the largest training bases in the Northeast if not the largest. And you know it’s one of the few cold weather training sites that the country has. And we’re very proud of its position in our military defense.”
Young says signing the nation’s Defense Authorization bill at the military installation acknowledges Fort Drum’s continued importance in national defense and to northern New York’s economy. “And obviously any aid in that bill which improves the infrastructure of Fort Drum is very important to all of us because it’s an economic driver in the community.”
St. Lawrence County GOP Chair Tom Jenison hopes the visit by the president spurs a decision by the Department of Defense. “They are waiting to find out if Fort Drum is going to be chosen for the site for the Missile Defense System. And for him to see this and to have input in what the Department of Defense is obviously critical.”
Young acknowledges that while the visit to Fort Drum is expected to focus on the military, he feels it will also help boost Republican campaigns across the region. “He’s coming in his capacity as president to sign things. He’s the Commander-in-Chief. Obviously there are political overtones. He’s traveling from here to Utica to a fundraiser for Congresswoman Tenney so I mean you know that’s the normal course of business especially at this time of year in this type of an election. So obviously his appearance benefits our parties of candidates whether it’s here in northern New York or in central New York.”
But Jenison doesn’t think the visit will mean much for local candidates. “I don’t really think that it’s going to be a big boost. But it just shows indeed that you know the president is coming here, seeing the great facility which Fort Drum has and how it hopefully will help grow the future of the North Country.”
Essex County’s Shaun Gilliland hopes the purpose of the visit, to sign the Defense Authorization Bill, and politics remain separate. “He is not making his visit to Fort Drum into a political rally or anything. So it’s there for the troops. And it’s noteworthy that the National Defense Authorization Act is going to be signed there by the president. And that includes a lot of benefits including a 2.1 percent pay raise for the troops. So that’s what I think that everyone should concentrate on and these are for these hardworking soldiers and their families.”
Details of the president’s visit to Fort Drum had not been released as of broadcast.