Source: The News-Enterprise, Katherine Knott
Fort Knox is secure for the long-term, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.
The Senate Majority Leader visited the U.S. Army post Tuesday and met with Fort Knox Commanding General Maj. Gen. John Evans Jr. McConnell’s stop was a day after President Donald Trump signed the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.
The $716 billion defense bill included a 2.6 percent pay raise for service members and a large increase in military spending. An amendment attached to the bill secured Fort Knox’s energy program for the future.
On his visit to the post, McConnell also observed training exercises.
“I’m proud of what’s going on here at Fort Knox,” he said. “Its facilities have reinvented itself over the years. … I think Fort Knox looks good for the future.”
McConnell said spending increases will help the military respond to threats around the world from Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.
“(The threats) are frankly about as challenging as you can imagine,” he said. “It almost makes you look back to the Cold War with yearning.”
McConnell said Russia is acting like the former Soviet Union.
“The Russians are not our friends,” he said. “They try to create problems in every way they can.”
The defense bill is an appropriate response to their actions, he said. To not increase spending would have been to deny reality, McConnell said.
“We gave the Department of Defense exactly what they asked for,” he said.
The amendment related to Fort Knox’s energy program was the work of McConnell, U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.
Since 2015, it has used its own energy resources to power the post and no longer is dependent on the power grid.
However, the departments of defense and interior have disagreed over which agency had jurisdiction over natural gas. Kentucky lawmakers have sought for years to protect the program.
“It’s a great advantage to Fort Knox to be able to access that,” McConnell said. “It reduces the operating cost of keeping the post running.”
Fort Knox worked to overhaul its energy systems after a 2009 ice storm. Now, if a weather emergency knocks out the grid for the surrounding area, Fort Knox will be able continue running.
Jim Iacocca, director of the Knox Regional Development Alliance, said defense leaders are promoting the energy resilience of military installations. However, because of those jurisdictional concerns, they couldn’t highlight Fort Knox.
“Now, the Department of Defense can publicly acknowledge the energy resilience of Fort Knox,” he said.
Iacocca said energy independence is a selling point for new missions.
“(Fort Knox) is a role model,” he said.