Written Statement of
General Robert H. Foglesong
Vice Chief of Staff, United States Air Force
Committee on the Environment and Public Works,
United States Senate
Committing this Nation to combat is arguably the hardest decision the President and Congress will have to make. This Nation’s leadership expects, even demands, that its military be ready to go to war. The effectiveness of America’s military ultimately guarantees our way of life. The United States Air Force’s effectiveness starts with training--training the way we fight. Key provisions in this year’s Defense Authorization Act (S. 2225) impact how we will manage the installations, ranges, and airspace so vital to our combat readiness and effectiveness.
Maintaining continued operations at our installations and access to our ranges and airspace is critical. In fact, if our ability to train our aircrews should diminish, America will soon lose its edge in air combat proficiency. We cannot solely rely on current Air Force technology to provide an advantage against our next adversary--our next adversary may have access to more advanced equipment than ours. Our installations, ranges, and airspace are critical national assets that allow the Air Force to test new equipment, develop new tactics, and train our forces to be combat-ready.
It is self-evident that we must be able to train as we are expected to fight. To do so, we must maintain adequate test and training resources. Our goal is to meet our evolving military needs while addressing and resolving, to the maximum extent possible, public concerns and federal, tribal, state, and other agency issues. However, competing needs or uses for these resources, coupled with legal and procedural requirements to adjust for new mission needs, are eroding the resource base that supports our test and training capability.
We have followed a practice of flexibility and willingness to adapt to the extent possible without compromising our operations. Sustainable access to ranges benefits many people. Our ranges contain significant cultural and natural areas, are used for grazing and crop production, and allow hunting or other forms of outdoor recreation. We share airspace and airwaves with major sectors of our economy. However, we are faced with restrictions as well as competing economic uses for assets that undermine our mission performance and can ultimately affect our readiness, a condition commonly referred to as encroachment.
Range Management and Encroachment
The Air Force is experiencing encroachment that stresses our ability to maintain training and readiness in several areas: spectrum, air quality, noise, unexploded ordnance, endangered species, and access to shared-use airspace. Chapter 101A of S. 2225 contained language designed to clarify the interpretation and application of governing statutes for air quality, munitions response, and species and habitat protection that will ensure that military training and readiness are not compromised as the military departments carry out their environmental protection responsibilities. In addition, the legislation provides for improved property conservation procedures to assist private sector organizations in conserving and protecting land and natural resources.
Species and Habitat Protection
Currently, 79 federally listed threatened and endangered species live on approximately nine million acres of Air Force lands and waters. As an example, on the Barry M. Goldwater Range (BMGR) in Arizona we follow the movement of approximately 100 Sonoran Pronghorn antelope. The DoD flies about 70,000 sorties yearly on the BMGR and our biologists track the antelope’s movements to ensure they are not in the target area. If they are spotted, the missions projected for that area are diverted or canceled. Working hand-in-hand with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Arizona Department of Game and Fish, we strive to ensure the survival of this endangered subspecies of antelope.
At the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR), operated by Nellis Air Force Base, the Air Force supports the Bureau of Land Management’s wild horse program on over 390,000 acres of the NTTR. In the southern portion of the range we have fenced target areas to ensure the Desert Tortoise is not affected by our operations. Additionally, in Nevada and Arizona we work with local communities and tribes to ensure the protection of cultural resources.
At Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, we monitor the nests of about 100 Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtles daily, physically protecting their homes with wire mesh. We do this to ensure compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and guarantee our aircrews get the training they need to accomplish their mission.
At Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, we electronically tag and track endangered Gulf Sturgeon to ensure they are not impacted by our operations. The water impact/detonation area is monitored for sturgeon prior to training. If sturgeon are detected in the area, detonation is moved or delayed. Eglin also serves as the home to the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker. By working closely with the FWS, we have been able to nearly double their population. Additionally, our biologists are doing everything possible to aid the Flatwoods Salamander and Eastern Indigo Snake. Again, we do this to support the ESA, serve as good stewards of our nation’s resources, and maintain our combat readiness.
In some cases, our installations and ranges are the only large, undeveloped, and relatively undisturbed areas remaining in growing urban areas. This can result in Air Force lands becoming a refuge in the region that can support endangered species. Biological Opinions resulting from required Endangered Species Act assessments have resulted in range and airspace restrictions mainly associated with aircraft noise and munitions use. We operate with altitude restrictions because of the noise and its possible effects on endangered species in states such as Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
The potential designation of range areas as a critical habitat or marine sanctuary may seriously limit our ability to perform training and test missions. We need to work within the Administration to ensure a balance between two national imperatives: military readiness and environmental conservation.
Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)
UXO and the disposal of residue material (primarily scrap metal) on air-to-ground ranges is one area where we have extensively investigated our practices and policies. UXO and range residue (used targets, inert ordnance, etc.) physically occupy only a small part of any air-to-ground range, but its presence is an increasingly expensive problem. The costs associated with clearing closed ranges have led us to the conclusion that we need to plan and manage for the entire life-cycle of a range.
The Air Force first started clearing ordnance from active ranges in the late 1940’s. Active range clearance not only provides for safe target area operations, but also provides airfield-recovery training for our Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians. Air Force policy requires that active air-to-ground ranges be cleared on a quarterly, annual, and five-year basis at varying distances from each target. Our currently scheduled UXO and residue removal program, along with modifications to our range-clearing practices, will ensure long-term range sustainability and the safety of personnel on the range. Our ultimate goal is to manage our ranges effectively and efficiently throughout the life-cycle process providing for sustainable operations, safe and effective UXO management and long-term environmental stewardship.
The Air Force also understands its responsibility to manage materiel from our ordinance if it travels off-range, and supports Section 2019 of the bill because it clarifies our obligation to respond to potential off-site impacts from our munitions training.
Many of our largest and most important installations are located in areas that are experiencing rapid growth and the attendant pressures resulting from air quality standards. A number of our bases are currently located in “non-attainment” areas, which are places that failed to meet EPA standards for air pollution, and more bases are in areas that are trending toward non-attainment. Air quality pressures generally affect operations at our installations more than on our ranges, but they potentially limit our basing options for force realignments and weapon system beddowns. If any beddown action is found not to conform to the state implementation plan for Clean Air Act compliance, the Air Force must either obtain air quality credits or reduce other emissions at the base to counterbalance the impact. Military mission requirements frequently demand operational changes with little or no lead-time to adjust for requirements such as conformity. The Air Force supports the legislative provision that allows for emission limit compliance over a three-year period so that mission critical operations can still take place while appropriate mitigation is arranged. We continue to work with state regulators and local communities to ensure we have the flexibility to base aircraft at our installations which have huge investments in infrastructure not only on the installation itself, but also in the ranges used by its aircraft.
The RF frequencies below about 5000 MHz are the most valuable part of the spectrum for the kinds of highly mobile functions carried out at our test ranges. Over the past decade, the Federal government has lost access to over 235 MHz of bandwidth in this part of the spectrum -- due primarily to International and Congressionally mandated reallocations. For example, until 1992, the DoD and private sector aerospace industry were authorized to use 80 MHz of designated spectrum in "Upper-S Band" to transmit real-time telemetry data from flight tests of manned aircraft. This spectrum bandwidth was needed to support increasing telemetry bandwidths requirements for future fighters and bombers. In 1992, the World Radio Conference (WRC) reallocated the lower 50 MHz of this frequency band to provide spectrum for broadcasting high quality audio from geostationary satellites. In 1997, under the requirements of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, we were forced to transfer an additional 5 MHz of the original 80 MHz wide frequency band, leaving only a 25 MHz increment for flight test telemetry in this spectrum. Loss of this 55 MHz of spectrum causes, for example, delays in major flight-test programs.
In conclusion, we thank the committee for allowing the Air Force to share the details of its concerns over the growing issue of encroachment. The Air Force understands its obligation to identify competing human and environmental needs and to establish a compatible use of resources. However, it also recognizes it has a unique need to perform a military mission. The multi-billion dollar effort in Defense programs to conserve, protect, and restore the environment will continue to achieve lasting successes in all areas of protecting human health and the environment. The Air Force appreciates the Committee’s support so that we can maintain our stewardship of the environment and still train and prepare the men and women of the Armed Forces.