SOUTHWEST DEFENSE COMPLEX: AMERICA'S FUTURE DEFENSE -- HON. WILLIAM M. THOMAS (Extension of Remarks - September 24, 1998)
HON. WILLIAM M. THOMAS
in the House of Representatives
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 1998
- Mr. THOMAS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the Southwest Defense Complex, a proposal to consolidate defense research, development, testing, evaluation, and training in the Southwest United States. This proposal links 12 bases in 5 states (California, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona) and will focus on addressing two of the challenges facing defense in the future: the use of communication technology to transfer information across great distances in order to attack efficiently and with higher success rates and the ability to use resources to their maximum in a time of decreasing defense budgets. This consolidation is vital to the future of U.S. national security and for the Department of Defense to achieve optimum use of its facilities. The Southwest is ideal for defense research and training because of the large amount of land, air, and sea space in the region.
- Future warfare promises to be very different from war in the past. Dependence on technology is steadily increasing; as such, the ability to manage information will be the key to battle. A futuristic attack may play out like this: knowledge about the enemy and targets to be hit are obtained from large distances. Then the armed services evaluate targets based on priority and decide what resources to use against them. Decisions about each step may be made by individuals who are thousands of miles away from each other: the soldier on the ground who obtains the information about possible targets, the commander who decides which targets to hit, and the pilot who fires the weapons. The effect of the attack can be assessed within moments and the pilot can be updated as he travels. The coming dependence on technology that provides fast, accurate transmission of information will cause the coming years to be unlike any other era in history.
- The Department of Defense is reevaluating how it researches, develops, and tests new technologies and trains personnel. We are developing tactics to use our superior information systems to maximize use of equipment and fighting personnel, thus decreasing costs and human risk. As technology becomes cheaper and more accessible, we must be ready to confront others with sophisticated technologies. Lastly, our need to adapt our defense strategy and structures comes at a time when our military budget is decreasing. This change makes it even more critical for the Department of Defense to find a more streamlined way to squeeze the maximum out of its resources.
- These challenges require our military to respond with increased integration and consolidation of research, development, testing, and training, and the Southwest provides the perfect opportunity to perform these activities. Multiple use of resources between branches of the service is necessary in order to make sure that precious resources are used to their fullest. For example, it makes much more sense to develop missiles in one place instead of in five different locations. Bases in the Southwest have already begun to share resources and cooperate in testing. Navy and Air Force facilities in California share the use of optical sensors for visual tracking of aircraft, so that each service does not have to duplicate investment. The western range bases have a common data display format so that they may easily share information. F-15 aircraft stationed at Edwards Air Force Base are flown against unmanned drones at the Naval Air Warfare Center at Pt. Mugu, both in California, so that they do not have to fly cross-country. We need to encourage the services to continue taking such efficient and cost-effective steps. This resource use is the foundation of the proposed Southwest Defense Complex and is the reason that the Complex is critically important.
- The Southwest provides a great deal of space to test new technology and train soldiers to use it, both of which are vital to the successful defense of our nation in the future. In order to develop technology in the most cost-effective manner, lab and field-testing need to be in close proximity to each other. Technology can then be developed, tested in the field, and sent back to the lab in order to be adapted further to the battle environment. Commercial technology can be quickly adapted to military uses in order to decrease costs. The most cost-effective way to test and train commercial technology is to have the lab that is adapting it in the vicinity of the field where it is being tested. On the human side of the operation, in order for operations to run smoothly, military personnel need to train as they expect to fight. Soldiers should practice and train maneuvers using technologies in a real-world environment. In this way, both the technology and the people that use it will be as prepared as possible for future threats to national security while utilizing military resources to their maximum.
- Physical space is vital to the type of testing and training just described. A single open-air test range requires nearly two million acres of open land. The Southwest is the only region of the country that offers land of this size, as well as air and sea space needed for other kinds of testing. The Southwest offers over 335 million acres of federally owned land. Over 490 thousand square miles of air space is available in the Southwest, and 484 thousand square miles of sea are open for training activities. This land can be used without the interference from civilians or substantial electromagnetic interference--both of which are a problem in the rest of the country.
- Climate and weather considerations are also critical to testing and training under the most efficient conditions. The Southwest's weather and climate are ideal for these purposes. For example, China Lake Naval Air Warfare Center in California has 260 clear days per year and has very low levels of atmospheric distortion. Visibility at China Lake is frequently over 100 miles and seismic activity is very low. However, there are a variety of climates in the Southwest Complex: arid deserts, cold and icy climates, and mildly humid and moist seashores. These conditions provide optimum circumstances for training and testing since the region combines a variety of climates for real-world testing with optimum weather for maximum efficiency in use of time.
- Thus, the Southwest offers advantages that no other area of the country can. We have large amounts of open air, land, and sea space for testing and training, particularly of new and commercially-adapted technology. We offer existing facilities with personnel with experience in sharing of equipment in order to have maximum benefits from scarce resources. These assets make the Southwest Defense Complex critical to the future of defense and national security and they allow the Department of Defense to thoroughly prepare for future threats using state-of-the-art technology while decreasing costs. This is an opportunity that the United States cannot afford to pass up. I thank my colleague, Rep. McKeon for his support of the Southwest Defense Complex. I especially want to thank those in my district who have put forth great efforts to advocate this proposal such as Steve Perez, Ken Peterson, and John McQuiston of the Kern County Board of Supervisors.
- I strongly urge my colleagues to support the Southwest Defense Complex in order to enhance our national security for the future.