Senior officials from the Army, Navy and Air Force assured lawmakers that military readiness and environmental concerns can coexist.
The services’ principal deputy assistant secretaries for energy, installations and environment testified today at the House Armed Services Committee’s readiness subcommittee hearing on building military readiness while protecting natural and cultural resources.
Jordan Gillis, representing the Army, said land is one of the most important resources needed to accomplish Army readiness. It provides maneuver space for units training, weapons range complexes, as well as land for Army military education complexes, he explained.
Examples of two of the most important training areas in the United States are the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, and the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Besides those, each installation has its own training area where troops prepare for larger-scale training at NTC and JRTC and real-world operations, Gillis said
Most installations were established decades ago, and some more than a century ago, he noted. At the time, he said, they were in remote locations to decrease the impact on local communities. However, over time, communities have grown, increasing encroachment issues that affect training, he said.
However, the Army is dedicated to working with local communities to mitigate encroachment challenges, such as noise from live-fire training or aircraft, Gillis said.
Gillis said that besides the goal of attaining a high level of readiness, he said, the Army is also committed to environmental and cultural protection of its land.
Jennifer L. Miller, representing the Air Force, and Todd C. Mellon, representing the Navy, said their land-based ranges also are critical to readiness, and they echoed Gillis in saying their services are committed to the environmental and cultural protection of their land.
The three officials told lawmakers that they consult and cooperate with the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state and natural resource agencies to prepare robust and integrated natural resource management plans.
Regarding the protection of cultural resources such as archaeological sites and historical structures, the three service leaders said they consult with and partner with state historical preservation offices and tribal leaders.