By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
An elite anti-terror unit at the Fort Hamilton Army Base could be disbanded by the Department of Defense, a trio of lawmakers is warning.
Bay Ridge's Republican Rep Michael Grimm has joined with the state's Democratic Senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, to call on the Department of Defense and the National Guard to do everything in their power to retain the two Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams (WMD-CSTs) located in New York, including one team at Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge.
The WMD-CSTs provide support to civil authorities in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threat. Although the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 permanently authorized the additional WMD-CST’s for New York, the DOD and the National Guard recently began preparations to stand down one of New York’s teams, Grimm said. He, Schumer, and Gillibrand stated that closing down one of the New York units would disregard clear congressional direction and possibly put New York at risk for potential terror threats.
“At a time when New York City remains the number one terror target in the nation, it is completely nonsensical to cut such an essential asset to our safety and security. The 24th National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team located at Fort Hamilton plays a crucial role in assisting our New York Police Department, first responders, and other agencies in the event of high-risk situations. Shutting down New York City’s only CST would be a tremendous loss and could leave our city more vulnerable to attack,” Grimm said.
“It makes absolutely no sense to disarm and weaken New York City by eliminating a major terror response team,” Schumer said. “We must do everything we can to protect New Yorkers and make sure they are prepared in the event of a potential terror threat. Fort Hamilton is a perfect location to ensure the protection of New York City and I urge the Department of Defense to suspend action to make non-operational any Civil Support Teams,” he said.
“New York City remains a top terrorist target and we must remain vigilant in investing federal resources to protect New York and the nation,” said Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“We cannot afford to weaken our city’s fight against terror by closing one of New York’s vital anti-terrorism emergency response teams. It is critical that the Defense Department ensures Fort Hamilton’s unit devoted solely to New York City remains open,” Gillibrand said.
The National Guard has weapons of mass destruction civil support teams around the country to address weapons of mass destruction, 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. Florida and California also each field a second team.
The New York National Guard runs the 24th Civil Support Team with nearly two dozen full-time soldiers and airmen at Fort Hamilton, New York City’s only active military base. 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.
In their letter to the Dept. of Defense, Schumer, Gillibrand and Grimm wrote that they recognized that DOD faces the difficult challenge of balancing cuts while redefining security strategy, but that cutting the anti-terror unit would be a major mistake.