September 13, 2017
Editorials, New York

Don’t blow it: Wind projects put Fort Drum at risk in next BRAC process

Watertown Daily Times | September 13, 2017 |

An effort to downsize the military appears to be gaining momentum on Capitol Hill, and that could have dire consequences for Northern New York.

According to a story published Sept. 5 by The Hill, U.S. Department of Defense officials support a proposal by two federal legislators to examine which military facilities should be shuttered through the Base Realignment and Closure process. U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., drafted a bill in July to hold another BRAC round in 2019.

“A Base Realignment and Closure – meant to divest the DOD of unused or underutilized military infrastructure – could help the Pentagon save money and reorganize for new military technologies, said Lucian Niemeyer, the new assistant secretary for energy, installations and environment,” The Hill reported. “McCain and Reed’s draft legislation would require a list of potential base closures and realignments to be compiled by the Pentagon, reviewed by the Government Accountability Office, certified by the president and then submitted to Congress by the fall of 2019. Congress would vote on passing the BRAC after a 60-day public comment period. The plan also places a $5 billion limit on the base closures, which would start by 2021.”

All military posts are at risk when the BRAC process is underway. Of course, it makes sense for government officials to periodically review which facilities are less useful than they were in previous years.

The military’s top priority for these bases is to maintain our national security to maximum extent possible. If some do not serve this purpose the way they used to, it’s appropriate for the Pentagon to consider closing them.

This calls for DOD officials and congressional leaders to assess what the Pentagon needs most out of the posts that exist. This will help them evaluate where government resources should be allocated to carry out this mission.

Those involved in the BRAC process, therefore, will be looking for military posts that have diminished usefulness. Efforts to erect wind turbines throughout the north country would put Fort Drum in serious jeopardy.

If allowed to be constructed, the collection of wind projects now being proposed would severely interfere with Fort Drum’s radar functions. Radar distortion challenges air traffic controllers in safely guiding low-flying airplanes, drones and helicopters. Fort Drum’s ability to provide mission-level training would be severely compromised, putting the base at a distinct disadvantage in a BRAC round. The wind towers also could keep Fort Drum from being named the site for an East Coast missile defense system.

The state’s drive to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels is admirable. Wind power can be a good addition to the renewable sources of energy we can access.

But the problem with New York’s approach is that the major demand for power is downstate while all of the proposed wind projects are being considered for upstate. And residents are paying for wind power subsidies through their federal, state and local taxes. This multi-layer mandate for funds to benefit wind project investors is preposterous.

State Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, is considering legislation to prevent wind projects from receiving state subsidies if they would interfere with operations at Fort Drum. This is an excellent idea, and we strongly encourage her colleagues to support it.

But given the push in Washington to identify military bases that should be closed, it’s not enough.

State officials must stop the eight wind projects under consideration that impact Fort Drum’s operational and mission readiness. Legislators will look for reasons to downgrade the importance of posts that appear vulnerable, and we shouldn’t give them a rationale for closing one that adds $1.2 billion annually to the north country’s economy.

[rest of article available at source]

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