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Fort Hamilton’s WMD response team is still endangered

Fort Hamilton’s National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team (WMD CST) is once again facing elimination despite Congressional approval of a bill that ensures future funding.

“New York City remains a top terrorist target and we must continue to be vigilant in investing federal resources to protect New York and the nation,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “It is critical that we preserve New York’s two anti-terrorism emergency response teams, including the one devoted solely to New York City to help keep us safe.”

While every state has a WMD CST, New York is one of three states (along with California and Florida) that have two teams due to an increased risk of terrorism.  One is based in Albany and the other at Fort Hamilton. The latter, which is tasked with responding to chemical, biological, nuclear and if need be, conventional threats in and around New York City, was on the chopping block as the federal government sought to trim the national budget.

Protest movements against possible elimination began as early as last summer when Congressmember Michael Grimm rallied outside the fort. “I hope and pray there will never be another terrorist attack,” he said as he addressed a crowd outside the base. “But I know that, if there is, it’s not going to be in Topeka or Boise. It’s going to be in New York City. We are the number one target in America.”

Gillibrand was successful in adding a provision to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 that allocated long-term funding for two WMD CSTs in New York State.

However, the Department of Defense has gone ahead with its plan to do away with the team regardless, prompting response from a number of New York lawmakers. In a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Gillibrand, Grimm and other politicians urged him to suspend any “action to make non-operational any WMD-CSTs currently authorized and appropriated by law.”

Threats to the viability of Fort Hamilton, the only active one in the five boroughs, have come before. Grimm helped stop the Army Corps of Engineers from relocating off the base in 2011, and the fort itself faced the threat of closure at the hands of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) some years ago.

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