Sen. Salazar Leads Senate Effort to Protect Colorado & Other Military Installations from Encroaching Growth
Today, eleven Senate Republicans and Democrats joined United States Senator Ken Salazar in a continued push for appropriations of at least $75 million in FY09 to make certain that the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI) continues to be successful in addressing encroachment, preserving the readiness of our Armed Forces and ensuring the long-range sustainability of our military installations, ranges and airspace.
Senators Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Richard Burr (R-NC), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Mel Martinez (R-FL), Kit Bond (R-MO), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Norm Coleman (R-MN) joined Senator Salazar on the letter requesting the appropriation. All the Senators on the letter represent states with military bases facing encroachment issues similar to the growth beginning to surround Fort Carson, Buckley Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base and Peterson Air Force Bases in Colorado.
"Colorado is home to many of our country's premier military installations - they form the backbone of our nation's homeland defense," said Senator Salazar. "Unfortunately, several of those installations, most notably Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora and Fort Carson, Schriever Air Force Base and Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, now face an increasing threat from rapid population growth and encroaching development, which could hamper their ability to train troops for their mission and to defend our nation. This funding will ensure that the already nationally successful REPI program will continue to help bases like ours in Colorado work with local communities to manage growth before it reaches the fences."
The full text of the Senators' letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense is included below and a signed copy is available by clicking here.
Dear Chairman Inouye and Ranking Member Stevens:
We are writing to respectfully encourage the Committee to appropriate at least $75 million in Fiscal Year 2009 for the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI) within the Operations and Maintenance, Defense-wide account.
Congress and the Department of Defense (DOD) recognized several years ago that accelerating development, population growth, and loss of habitat on non-military lands pose a growing threat to military readiness and to the development and fielding of future weapon systems. Accordingly, in the FY 2003 National Defense Authorization Act Congress provided the Secretary of Defense and the Secretaries of the Military Departments with new authorities to partner with state and local governments and conservation organizations in establishing buffer zones to protect testing and training areas around the country. The Secretary of Defense implemented this authority by establishing the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI).
The REPI program has already proven to be a great success. In Fiscal Years 2005 and 2006, DOD used REPI authority to provide over $49 million to support installation projects and to leverage over $106 million in partner funds. Congress and DOD provided an additional $40 million in FY 2007 and $46 million in FY 2008, and these funds are leveraging significant additional funding from partners. Since FY 2005, REPI-funded projects have been or are being implemented at more than 40 installations and ranges throughout the country, including National Guard installations in several states. An additional 10-15 installations are expected to initiate projects in the next few months.
Recent DOD and RAND Corporation assessments have validated the effectiveness of REPI, but they indicate that the program needs additional resources to meet the challenges that encroachment is posing to military installations and ranges. The RAND report, entitled "The Thin Green Line," concluded that the REPI program is underfunded, that opportunities for effective action to protect bases are being lost, and that the cost of effective action will only increase over time as developmental pressures intensify. Section 2828 of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act recognized the findings of these reports through a "Sense of Congress" and directed DOD to address them.
In addition to the statutory and policy guidance that the House and Senate have provided DOD on encroachment issues in recent years, Congress has taken several steps to increase funding for REPI. We appreciate your leadership in helping increase FY 2008 funding for the program to $46 million, $16 million above the Pentagon's budget request. This year, the Administration requested $40 million and featured the program prominently in its budget request of Congress. While we share the view that the Pentagon should advertise the results that REPI is delivering, we also believe that the proposed funding level is far too low to effectively meet the challenges that encroachment is posing at military installations around the country.
In our view, REPI needs to be funded at a level of at least $75 million in FY 2009 if it is to continue to be successful in addressing encroachment, preserving the readiness of our Armed Forces, and ensuring the long range sustainability of our installations, ranges, and airspace. We respectfully encourage the Committee to fund the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative at this level.
Thank you in advance for your thoughtful consideration of our request. We look forward to continuing to work with you to support this important program.