White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), Holloman Air Force Base (AFB), and Fort Bliss are contiguous installations located in southern New Mexico and western Texas, in the New Mexico Counties of Otero, Doña Ana, Sierra, Socorro, and Lincoln, and the Texas County of El Paso. The installations are located near the Cities of Las Cruces and Alamogordo, New Mexico, and El Paso, Texas. In combination, the three installations encompass more than 3.3 million acres and restricted airspace covering nearly 10,000 square miles. Interdependent missions and assets abound across the three installations. WSMR, Holloman AFB, and Fort Bliss coordinate airspace, range usage, and frequency spectrum for multiple users through a regional partnership called “The Triad.”
WSMR is the largest instrumented open-air land test range in the continental U.S. and is classified as a Major Range Test Facility Base with a research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) mission. Approximately 3,200-4,300 test events per year are conducted at WSMR, of which five (5) to 12 percent are considered potentially hazardous requiring evacuations and road closures.
Home to the 49th Wing and its 18 partner agencies, Holloman AFB will transition in 2013 from two operational F-22 squadrons to an F-16 training mission. Holloman AFB also hosts the Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Formal Training Unit for the MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1 Predator; the Air Force’s only Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources base; and the German Air Force Flight Training Unit and its Tornado aircraft. Holloman AFB also has a significant RDT&E mission.
Home to the Army’s 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss is used to train, mobilize, and deploy seven Brigade Combat Teams currently stationed at the installation, including Heavy, Infantry, Stryker, Fires, and Sustainment Brigades, and a Combat Aviation Brigade. Training requirements focus on live-fire weapons qualification, combat skills training, and off-road vehicle maneuvers. Since 2005, over 30 new live-fire ranges have been or are being constructed on Fort Bliss ranges in New Mexico.
A pristine environment for baseline weapons system testing is critical, especially for the test and evaluation missions at WSMR and Holloman AFB. Civilian development that creates electromagnetic radiation, such as cell towers, wind turbines, and energy transmission lines, may interfere with systems and negatively impact the mission. Several firms have proposed large scale energy transmission projects in the region, and given the vast renewable energy resources of the Southwest, development of large scale energy projects are expected to continue. As a result, WSMR, Holloman AFB, and Fort Bliss sought opportunities for proactive, long-range planning efforts with neighboring local jurisdictions and the States of New Mexico and Texas to ensure sustainability of military operations and test and evaluation missions.
Joint Land Use Study Planning Process
With support from OEA, the State of New Mexico Office of Military Base Planning and Support worked with affected counties and cities to establish a Regional Planning Organization (RPO) to undertake a regional JLUS. The six counties and three cities each signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), with the three military installations as concurring parties, to form the RPO. Doña Ana County serves as the local sponsor to apply for and manage an OEA grant to conduct the regional JLUS. The MOA establishes a framework for membership on the JLUS Policy and Technical Committees. Beginning in December 2012, the JLUS is projected for completion by August 2014. One promising and unique approach to ensuring land use compatibility for the region includes strategies to preserve open space, agriculture, and ranching, such as programs to support new farmers and ranchers and partnerships with land trusts.
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