Rosen Secures Commitment from Navy Secretary Nominee to Meet with Tribal Leaders as the Navy Pursues NAS Fallon Expansion

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) questioned Mr. Carlos Del Toro, current CEO of SBG Technology Solutions, nominee to be the Secretary of the Navy, about the Navy’s land withdrawal request for Naval Air Station Fallon. A transcript of the Senator’s remarks can be found below, and a video of the Senator’s full exchange can be found here.

ROSEN: Thank you, Chairman Reed, and of course, Ranking Member Inhofe, for holding this hearing. We’ve got lots to work on today, but I’d really like to thank Mr. Del Toro for speaking with me yesterday, and I thank the nominees for your willingness to serve.

But, Mr. Del Toro, I really want to speak specifically today about Fallon Naval Air Station. Nevada is proud to host Fallon Naval Air Station. It is home to TOPGUN and our nation’s premier Carrier Air Wing and SEAL training center. And so, last year, the Navy requested an expansion of over 600,000 acres of federal land and over 65,000 acres of non-federal land – which would expand the Fallon Training Range Complex to 900,000 acres.

Federal land managers currently allow the public to access much of the proposed expansion area for grazing, hunting, mineral exploration, and geothermal development. And the Navy’s proposal would curtail many of those activities, in addition to restricting tribal access to really important cultural sites.

So, in FY21 NDAA, we included a provision — Senator [Cortez] Masto and I, put in — that mandates the creation of an Intergovernmental Executive Committee, or IEC, to allow local, state, and Tribal governments this public forum to collaborate, to communicate with the Navy, and to give advice to what we need to do, and exchange all of that information that’s really important to make sure that if we do expand, that it is done so in agreement with others. And of course, we do have to worry about modernization requirements, and we have to keep up with emerging threats and technologies. But I have to think of Nevada’s natural resources and our cultural resources.

Recently, however, the Navy sent over a legislative proposal to this Committee, which, unfortunately, after having some of these meetings, was identical to the request from last year. It doesn’t incorporate any suggested changes that came out from the local stakeholders or the Nevada delegation.

So, Mr. Del Toro, as the Navy pursues modernization of the range, can you commit, if confirmed, to exchanging information, collaborating with local, state, and Tribal governments, all of the relevant environmental stakeholders, and be sure that you will begin to incorporate these [considerations] as you try to submit any requests to this Committee?

DEL TORO: First of all, let me thank you, Senator, for your commitment to national security. Fallon, Nevada, the base there is incredibly important to our national security, for our naval aviators, for our SEAL teams, and your commitment has been very long, and we’re very grateful to it.

It’s incredibly important to expand that Naval Air Station, as you know and the range, in order to accomplish our national security mission. In doing so, it’s also equally important to respect the Tribes that have sacred land there, and I commit to doing all the things that you said—working with the Committee that was established. And I also look forward to meeting with those tribal leaders as well, too.

I’m not actually sure if they’ve ever met with the Secretary of the Navy, but I commit to you that I will meet with them and have these critical discussions.

I think there are also interagency discussions that need to be had with the Department of Interior to try and correct the problem that you mentioned, and I look forward to working with you and your staff on all of these issues to make them right. 

ROSEN: Thank you. And so, I’m hoping if confirmed, you’ll submit a legislative proposal that would incorporate the stakeholder input. 

But briefly, in just the minute I have left, in 1959, the Navy dropped live and inert ordinance outside of Fallon’s B-19 range. We talked about this. Approximately 6,000 acres was contaminated of the Walker River Paiute Tribe’s reservation. If confirmed, again, will you commit to working with me and the Nevada delegation to ensure the Walker River Paiute Tribe is fairly compensated?

DEL TORO: Senator, I confirm that I fully commit to working with you and your staff on this incredibly important issue, as well. 

ROSEN: Thank you.