WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment Todd Mellon, along with representatives from the Army and the Air Force, on Feb. 12 testified before the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Readiness about building military readiness at land-based ranges while maintaining natural and cultural resources.
The Department of the Navy’s (DON) latest land-based range modernization project involves the Fallon Range Training Complex (FRTC) in northern Nevada. The training on the FRTC occurs nowhere else in the world and is critical for defending and securing the United States and its interests abroad. Modernization of the FRTC is needed to safely provide more realistic training using today's faster, more advanced aircraft and weaponry.
“The use of land-based ranges is essential for us to meet critical priorities outlined in the National Defense Strategy which, among other things, requires us to prepare for peer and near-peer competitors," Mellon said in his opening statement. "Congress has placed public lands in our custody for this purpose.
"To ensure we can train on these lands frequently and repeatedly, we protect and manage the natural and cultural resources entrusted to us," he continued. “We believe that military readiness and good stewardship go hand-in-hand, and the Department has an excellent track record of balancing these priorities.”
The DON conducts training activities on lands and in designated airspace across the country with the cooperation of mstates, tribes, and private landowners, and works closely with the Departments of Interior and Agriculture while conducting flight operations over the millions of acres they maintain for public use. The DON has developed partnerships with these agencies at increasingly high levels as it balances national security needs with the nation’s goals of managing its national and cultural resources.
“The importance of our ordnance ranges for naval gunfire, aviation and combined arms training cannot be overstated," Mellon said. "Training in a real-world environment that is representative of current and future weapons capabilities is essential in ensuring our warfighters are fully prepared to survive in combat.
“While virtual and constructive training is an important element in building warfighting skills, it cannot replicate all the skills that must be honed prior to an actual enemy engagement; some of these skills can only be obtained through hands-on realistic training,” Mellon said.
As important as this training is, the DON recognizes that frequent, repeated use of live-fire ranges has the potential to affect the environment. Because these ranges provide important habitat for wildlife, including endangered species, and contain significant cultural resources, the DON consults and partners with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and with state natural resources agencies to prepare and implement robust integrated natural resources management plans. These partnerships have been highly effective in improving wildlife populations and habitat.
Similarly, the DON protects cultural resources by developing integrated cultural resources management plans in partnership with state historic preservation officers and tribes. According to Mellon, the DON proudly safeguards the many cultural sites on its installations, which include over 15,000 archaeological sites and over 20,000 historic structures.
The DON has a proven record of environmental stewardship and working with its partners. It remains committed to collaborating with federal, state, and local government agencies and tribes to deliver the range capabilities the DON requires to meet the present and future challenges in a manner that protects natural and cultural resources.
Since 2016, the DON has conducted over 300 outreach briefings to key stakeholders on the FRTC modernization proposal alone. The DON’s FRTC proposal evolved directly from stakeholder contributions during the National Environmental Policy Act process to reduce and avoid significant impacts.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment is responsible for overseeing and formulating policy for Navy and Marine Corps facilities sustainment, restoration, and modernization; military construction; acquisition, use and disposal of real property and facilities; environmental protection, planning, restoration and natural resources conservation; and safety and occupational health.