June 07, 2017

VIDEO: Udall Urges Support for NM Military Bases at Appropriations Hearing on Military Construction Funding for FY2018

VIDEO: https://youtu.be/Zj65QKWv62g

WASHINGTON — Late yesterday afternoon, U.S. Senator Tom Udall highlighted the critical role that New Mexico's military bases play in national security, and urged support for funding and resources for military construction projects at Holloman and Cannon Air Force bases, and the New Mexico National Guard, during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies. Udall questioned former White Sands Commanding Officer Lt. Gen. Gwendolyn Bingham about the fiscal year 2018 needs of White Sands Missile Range and military construction projects at New Mexico's Air Force bases, including Holloman, which soon will be home to two additional F-16 training squadrons.

Udall told Lt. Gen. Bingham, "White Sands will play an important role in developing weapons and capabilities to protect forward deployed forces from long range threats." Bingham agreed with Udall’s assessment, saying White Sands is a "crown jewel" and "one of a kind [missile] range" that is critical to enabling the United States to test various assets.

Udall asked Bingham to name the most important construction and maintenance projects in the pipeline at White Sands to testing these capabilities, and Bingham noted that a plan and design to replace the communications center that suffered fire damage in 2015 is a current priority. The facility was a gateway for all communications and data to the outside world, and was relied upon to provide critical support for modern missile testing. The building is currently at risk of critical failure, which would result in the loss of the entire communications system for White Sands, and affect emergency 911 service for the region. Udall has advocated for multiple years to move up military construction projects at White Sands, and he welcomes the Army’s decision to move up plans to fund the project to 2019 from 2023. He will continue to support additional projects at White Sands.

Udall discussed the tests at White Sands that are being devoted to "countering the anti-access area-denial capabilities being developed by our near peer competitors -- China and Russia," asking whether the panel agreed that test ranges and facilities like White Sands must be a priority in the budget for military construction and maintenance in order to effectively counter these capabilities. Bingham concurred, affirming that White Sands "is a priority for us because it enables readiness."

Udall reiterated the need to prioritize White Sands during the budget process, saying "as the Department of Defense sets priorities, I hope that we will continue to recognize the specialized and irreplaceable facility that is White Sands Missile Range."

In addition, Udall submitted several questions to the record, including one for U.S. Air Force Major General Timothy S. Green about the relocation of F-16 training squadrons to Holloman Air Force Base. Udall asked for his assurance that he will work with the Department of the Army and both White Sands and Holloman to "ensure that the base has the resources and facilities it needs to train the next generation of F-16 pilots.” Last week, Udall, Senator Martin Heinrich, and Representative Steve Pearce welcomed the Air Force’s announcement that it completed final approval for the interim relocation of the F-16 squadrons to Holloman. The Air Force’s decision to relocate the F-16s to Holloman followed a joint effort from Udall, Heinrich and Pearce to urge the Air Force to choose Holloman as the relocation site.

Below is the text of Udall’s opening remarks:

New Mexico’s bases greatly benefit, as you all know, from military construction. I appreciate the work of this committee and the Armed Services to make sure we have the best facilities for our troops at New Mexico’s three Air Force Bases. This includes important projects for fiscal year 2018 at Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases, as well as a project for the National Guard in Las Cruces. The Remotely Piloted Aircraft facility at Holloman and the special operations facilities at Cannon will significantly improve the capabilities of our airmen and women at these bases.

General Bingham, it is good to see you again. I want to let you know that the communities surrounding White Sands Missile Range were extremely grateful to you for your service at the base as well as your service to the community of Southern New Mexico.

I am glad to see that your stewardship of White Sands did not go unnoticed, and that you have been promoted to Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management. I would like to draw upon your experience as the Commanding Officer of White Sands [in my questions].