Gleason testifies on land withdrawal

Supervisor urges congressional subcommittee to support China Lake request

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Gleason testifies on land withdrawalDrawing on his unique background as a former commanding officer of the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake, Kern County 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason testified before a congressional subcommittee last week on the importance of Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s legislation that would permanently withdraw and reserve public land in support of the Navy’s operations here.

Gleason joined McCarthy in pointing to the continuing innovations to meet the changing needs of national defense, China Lake leadership’s nationally recognized commitment to environmental stewardship and growing number of missions to support House Resolution 4458.

“As someone who has worked very hard to carry out the critical national defense missions of the base, I want very much to see those missions continue to help protect our national security,” Gleason testified.

In addition to the permanent withdrawal of the 1.1 million acres of land occupied by China Lake, the bill would add to that some 26,000 acres that includes the Cuddeback Gunnery Range, a retired Air Force asset that was used for testing.

“The goal of this bill is simple — to match China Lake’s fence line with its Military Restricted Airspace as much as possible,” McCarthy testified. “The last major range expansion at China Lake was over half a century ago in the 1950s, and since then, its mission has grown.”

He cited in particular a need to separate manned and unmanned platforms, which present scheduling conflicts and safety concerns within the current airspace.

McCarthy also noted that China Lake won the Chief of Naval Operations Environmental Award in 2010, making the local base a model for other installations, and has since undertaken additional measures of protection.

“I have no doubt China Lake will manage its existing and newly acquired land under this bill, consistent with its proven record of environmental stewardship,” said McCarthy. “The men and women who work at China Lake have demonstrated that they can meet critical military requirements to ensure our warfighters can complete their mission and return home safely, while protecting the environment.”

The Obama administration has announced opposition to the bill, saying that it would support continued military use, but not the permanent set-aside. Bureau of Land Management has also objected to 19,000 acres of the tract, citing popular use as a recreation area as well as its significance as a wildlife corridor.

While other critics question the necessity of adding land to already sizeable property, insiders point to the greatly increased flexibility of previously disturbed earth, such as that on the former gunnery range.

In his testimony, Gleason also points to the advantage of conducting operations such as unmanned development and irregular warfare in remote areas.

“I can tell you that acquiring the Cuddeback Range has been a high priority at China Lake for a number of years,” said Gleason. Supporting a rapid-response role while meeting emerging missions requirements and maintaining safety and security “requires not only space to conduct these new missions, but added buffer zones to protect against impacts to the base’s neighbors and to protect the highly secure nature of this work.”

While the mission of the base has grown exponentially since the last expansion, its holdings have remained unchanged.

“Without these range resources to provide decision-quality engineering data to improve new warfare systems, our nation’s warfighters will face an increased risk in the field.”

“China Lake plays an important role in securing and strengthening our military readiness,” said McCarthy. “I am proud of the community support for this legislation. With the innovative work that China Lake personnel do every day in support of our military men and women, I will continue to fight to make sure this legislation moves forward and that our military has the proper tools it needs to meet current and future threats.”

Courtesy photo - Supervisor Gleason testifies before congressional subcommittee.

Story First Published: 2014-05-07