FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 16, 2012
SCHUMER, OWENS: FEDERAL DELAYS ARE HAMPERING EFFORTS TO KEEP DRUGS FROM ENTERING THE US THROUGH FRANKLIN COUNTY – URGE FEDS TO SPEED-UP ESTABLISHING NORTHERN BORDER INTELLIGENCE CENTER AT LOCKWOOD ARMY RESERVE CENTER
At Lawmakers’ Request, Army Agreed To Transfer The Unused Facility To Franklin County, Clearing The Way For A Northern Border Intelligence Center – Yet Delays Have Caused Property to Sit Vacant While Drugs Continue To Flow
In Letter To Army Secretary, Schumer & Owens Urge Army To Speed-Up Review And Transfer Title ASAP
Schumer, Owens: We Must Slice Through Red Tape & Get This Done, Not Roll Out The Red Carpet For Drug Smugglers
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congressman Bill Owens urged Army Secretary John McHugh to speed-up the Lockwood Army Reserve Center title transfer that would clear the way to establishing a Northern Border Intelligence Center in Franklin County. Last July, at the lawmakers’ request, the Army said it would begin transferring the title for the vacant property to Franklin County so that the facility can house federal, state, and local law enforcement agents who could better coordinate the effort to keep drugs from being smuggled into New York via the Canadian border. Since that time, the process has been bogged down during the National Environmental Policy Act and Environmental Condition of the Property documentation process. Schumer and Owens are strongly urging the Army to speed-up the process and get the title transferred so the facility can begin the transformation process.
“Every day that we wait to get this facility up and running is a day when smugglers are free to pass back and forth between New York and Canada, running drugs,” said Schumer. “We have to end these delays and put real boots and resources on the ground in the North Country to fight back against this growing scourge. We’re strongly urging the Army to make double-time here and get this title transferred now. That way, federal, state, and local law enforcement will have a great facility where they can work hand-in-glove to keep our streets and communities safe.”
“It’s well past time to finalize this process and allow the new intelligence to center open its doors,” said Owens. “The Lockwood facility will help make the region safer and allow law abiding citizens to contribute to the robust trade relationship we have with our neighbors to the north, creating jobs and bolstering economic development in the process."
When agreeing to transfer the title to Franklin County, the Army told the lawmakers that, “normal governmental property disposal processing takes at least 9 to 12 months which depends on the amount of U.S. Government and State historical and environmental work required.” Given the serious and growing drug smuggling problem, the lawmakers are encouraging the Army to speed-up the timeline and complete the transfer so the transition to an intelligence center can begin as soon as possible.
The proposed Northern Border Intelligence Center in Franklin County would involve the application of personnel and technology to enhance border security and to minimize drug trafficking across the northern border. This intelligence center would allow for collaborative work and communication between the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office, officers and agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency, Homeland Security Investigations, United States Border Patrol, New York State National Guard, New York State Police, Malone, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake Police Departments and the St Regis Mohawk Tribal Police, along with the State of New York and Franklin County. The lawmakers believe that establishing a Northern Border Intelligence Center will greatly help to coordinate efforts in dealing with cross-border criminal activities that directly impact the safety and security of the northern New York region.
Canada is a significant source for illicit drugs like MDMA, ecstasy and highly-potent marijuana that are then consumed in the U.S. Often these drugs enter via New York’s northern border. In such an environment, where traffic flow is spread across vast expanses of border, Schumer and Owens note that it is critical to rely on intelligence, information-sharing, and strong partnerships with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies, to maximize resources and success. The lawmakers also stated that the Lockwood Army Reserve Center would be the perfect location for this new law enforcement center, and could help the facility play an integral role in implementing the recently-released Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy.
According to statistics from media reports and the Department of Homeland Security, drug smuggling from Canada into the United States is on the rise. Last year, there were more than 24,000 arrests across Upstate New York related to the possession of illicit drugs, an average per-county increase of 84% from 2001. These figures demand a series of border security solutions designed to identify, investigate, and interdict drug traffickers who travel by land, air, and sea. Schumer and Owens’ push to establish a Northern Border Intelligence Center in Franklin County is the latest piece of a comprehensive strategy to secure the U.S.-Canadian border.
A copy of Senator Schumer and Rep. Owens’ letter to Secretary McHugh appears below:
Dear Secretary McHugh:
We write in regard to your assistance in conveying the Lockwood Army Reserve Center to Franklin County, New York. As you know, the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office has expressed an interest in establishing a Northern Border Intelligence Center in this currently vacant property.
We appreciate your response to our letter in July, 2011, in which you indicate the Army is currently in the process of completing the National Environmental Policy Act and Environmental Condition of the Property documentation. However, we understand this review could take up to a year to complete and respectfully request your assistance in expediting this process.
In November, 2010 the Government Accountability Office released a report indicating that a wide swath of the northern border needs additional attention to prevent illegal cross border activity. Congress passed the Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy Act of 2010 in response to these concerns. We believe a Northern Border Intelligence Center would play an important role in implementing the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s recently released National Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy, which seeks to reduce the two-way flow of illicit drugs between the United States and Canada. Franklin County is home to the federally recognized St. Regis Mohawk Indian Reservation, which straddles the United States-Canadian border and has been increasingly exploited by transnational criminal organizations.
In the interest of protecting New York’s northern border and the surrounding communities from cross-border criminal activity, it is vital that we dedicate the resources necessary to confronting this challenge in a timely manner. We would also suggest looking into whether an interim lease technique, which was utilized at the Plattsburgh Air Force Base after its closure in 1995 to allow for the rapid reuse of its facilities and could be used for the Lockwood Army Reserve Center.
Thank you for your attention to this issue. We look forward to your response.
Charles E. Schumer Bill Owens
U.S. Senator Member of Congress
cc: Colonel Jose Cepeda, 99th Regional Support Command, United States Army
Derek Champagne, District Attorney, Franklin County