WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, during a Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing on the Posture of the Department of the Navy in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2022, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) questioned Admiral Michael Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations, about the Navy’s proposed expansion of Naval Air Station Fallon. Additionally, Senator Rosen secured a commitment from Admiral Gilday to incorporate recommendations from Nevada stakeholders regarding modernization of Naval Air Station Fallon, as well as ensuring the Walker River Paiute Tribe receives compensation for previous contamination caused by the Navy. A transcript of the Senator’s remarks can be found below, and a video of the Senator’s full exchange can be found aquí.
ROSEN: Thank you, Chairman Reed and Ranking Member Inhofe, for holding this hearing. And thank you so much for your service and for being here today.
Of course, in Nevada, we have our wonderful Fallon Naval Air Station, and we’re proud to host it. It’s home to TOPGUN [and] our nation’s premier Carrier Air Wing. It’s home to the Navy SEAL training center. And so, last year, you 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 about 900,000 acres. Federal land managers currently allow access to the public for much of the proposed expansion area for grazing, for hunting, for mineral exploration, and geothermal development. And the Navy’s proposal would curtail many of those activities, in addition to restricting tribal access to some of their most important cultural sites.
The FY21 NDAA included a provision Senator Cortez Masto and I offered that mandates the creation of an Intergovernmental Executive Committee, or IEC, to allow local, state, and Tribal governments a public forum to collaborate with the Navy to provide advice and exchange information. In doing so, we can support the Navy’s modernization requirements and keep up with current and emerging threats and technologies while maintaining Nevada’s natural resources and cultural resources.
But, the Navy sent over a legislative proposal to this Committee almost identical to last year’s, unfortunately, and it didn’t incorporate any suggested changes or feedback from our local stakeholders.
So, Admiral, I am really pleased that you did your IEC right away, but why hasn’t the Navy’s proposal been modified to incorporate some of these?
GILDAY: Ma’am, I think for the very reasons you mentioned, there are a number of stakeholders involved here. As you know, we’ve had over 300 engagements with the Native American tribes, trying to work through some of those difficulties. There are other difficulties that may or may not coincide with the Tribes, that involve the county. There’s also the state, and there’s also the Department of Interior. So, the IEC, we’ve had two meetings so far. The Walker Paiute Tribe is a vice-chair, as well as the County Commissioner, the County Commission is also a vice-chair. And I think the way forward here — that I’m optimistic about — is we are now getting all the stakeholders in the same room together so that we can work through all of these issues in a way that allows us, we hope in the end, to modernize the range. We haven’t done so since the mid-’80s. We’re two generations behind with respect to aircraft. We’re facing a problem now, where, if we don’t modernize this range, the first time F-35’s would be able to deploy their full capability will be in combat. We’re building wind farms off the California coast that again cut into our training ranges, and so, we’re running out of space to train. But we’re using, for some years now, precision weapons, GPS-guided weapons with longer ranges, with sophisticated aircraft, and we can’t train our pilots and our aircrews to their full capability. So, again, very enthused, ma’am, by the IEC. A meeting, next Monday, is the next one, tracking it very closely, and of course, very much appreciate your support as we work through this.
ROSEN: Well, thank you. I look forward to working on that with you and all the allies and partners. I want to just quickly talk about Fallon’s B-19 range, because in 1959, the Navy did drop live inert ordinance right outside of there, speaking of the Walker River Paiute Tribe, and that’s nearly 6,000 of their acres where you dropped this ordinance. And so, it contaminated all of that. And so, will you commit to working with me and the Nevada delegation on ensuring the Tribe is fairly compensated for this contamination?
GILDAY: Yes, ma’am, you have my commitment.