U.S. Senate committee drops plans to expand Fallon, Nellis training ranges
The U.S. Senate has apparently decided not to support the massive land expansions sought by Naval Air Station Fallon and the Nevada Test and Training Range outside Nellis Air Force Base.
The Senate Armed Services Committee conducted a mark-up of the National Defense Authorization Act that laid out an $8.15 billion construction and maintenance program among other military priorities for the coming fiscal year.
That program includes language providing for “land conveyances at Camp Navajo, Arizona and Panama City, Florida.”
But then the mark-up document states that the existing land withdrawals at Fallon and the southern Nevada Test and Training Range will only be extended, not expanded.
That clearly indicates the committee does not plan to include the controversial plans to greatly increase the amount of land the Navy and Air Force have for their fighter and bomber pilot training bases in the legislation.
Naval Air Station Fallon applied to close nearly 770,000 acres in five rural counties to public access. Native American groups and conservationists have strongly opposed the plan. Navy officials argued they need the added land because training in modern, high speed aircraft requires much more space.
In southern Nevada, the Air Force sought to add 260,000 acres including a large swath of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, to the test range.
That move was also strongly opposed by the Moapa Band of Paiutes whose ancestral lands are within the land withdrawal as well as conservation groups.
According to the mark-up, the construction program this year “focuses on the facility sustainment backlog” — deferred maintenance and upgrades to existing bases and sites.
Although the Senate’s initial version of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2020-2021 leaves out the range expansion, the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee still hasn’t presented its version of the NDAA. This indicates only the Senate committee does not plan to include the controversial plans to greatly increase the amount of land the Navy and Air Force have for their fighter and bomber pilot training ranges in the legislation.