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Trump to sign $716 billion defense policy bill at Fort Drum

President Donald Trump signs the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, during an event on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, at the White House in Washington, D.C.

OLIVIER DOULIERY/ABACA PRESS/TNS

By ABRAHAM KENMORE | Watertown Daily Times | Published: August 8, 2018

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) The White House confirmed Tuesday that President Donald Trump will visit Fort Drum on Monday to hold a signing ceremony for the $716 billion defense policy bill approved by the Senate last week. The bill would authorize several significant Defense Department increases, including servicemembers’ pay and the number of troops, equipment and weapons for the 2019 fiscal year.

Trump will also deliver remarks during the visit.

U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik wrote Trump a letter in March inviting him to Fort Drum. She released a statement Tuesday afternoon when the visit was confirmed.

"I am honored that President Trump has accepted my invitation to visit Fort Drum and the brave men and women of the 10th Mountain Division on Monday," Stefanik said. "I am honored that the president will sign the historic National Defense Authorization Act in our district at Fort Drum. I am proud of the partnership with this administration to begin rebuilding our military and the president's visit is an important opportunity to highlight this achievement and to thank our men and women in uniform for their service."

Fort Drum officials did not respond to a request for comment on the presidential visit, but Edward W. "Fritz" Keel, executive director of military-civilian cooperation organization Advocate Drum, said he was glad Trump was visiting.

"I think this is great for the north country; it's a great chance to highlight the support the local community has for Fort Drum," Keel said. "I think it's great he's going to use this opportunity to sign the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act."

Jefferson County Republican Chairman Donald G.M. Coon III also said he was happy about the visit.

"Always exciting to have the president of the United States in Jefferson County," Coon said. "It's good to have the president here at Fort Drum. He obviously understands the importance of the fort not only to the military but to the local economy."

The past three presidents have all visited the post.

Bill Clinton visited in March 1994 to thank soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division for their service in Somalia and to note the division's relief efforts in south Florida after the region was struck by Hurricane Andrew. He also met with military families on Fort Drum.

In July of 2002, President George W. Bush visited the fort, praising the 10th Mountain Division and calling for higher salaries for military personnel. He also made the prescient promise to deploy the division again the 10th Mountain has been the most frequently deployed division in modern history.

In January 2011, President Barack Obama visited a day after announcing a draw-down of troops in Afghanistan, where he told soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division that they were still needed to win the war.

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