Amendment a Victory for U.S. National Security and Florida’s Military Community
WASHINGTON, DC – In a victory for our national security and Florida’s military community, today the House passed Congressman Neal Dunn’s (FL-02) amendment to fast-track needed improvements to the military training range in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Dr. Dunn’s amendment to the defense appropriations bill provides $30 million to accelerate the next step of the Gulf Range Enhancement program, a previously approved project to improve test and training data collection on 5th and 6thgeneration weapons in the Joint Gulf Range Complex. The lack of adequate instrumentation along Florida’s entire Gulf coast restricts many missions to the northern portion of the range. The 96th Test Wing estimates that 80 missions annually are not conducted because of air space and infrastructure congestion.
“The Gulf Range is a national treasure, a one-of-a-kind resource essential to our national security,” Dr. Dunn said. “As threats and extremism increase around the world, we should be doing everything in our power to arm our men and women in uniform with rigorous training and state-of-the-art equipment. For that, the military needs a robust Gulf Range. This funding will help to make sure the military has the cutting-edge test and training area it needs.”
The Joint Gulf Range Complex is used for high-altitude, supersonic air combat training for frontline fighters like the F-22 based at Tyndall Air Force Base and the F-35 based at Eglin Air Force Base. The range also enables hypersonic weapons testing, space launch, missile testing, electronic warfare, drone targeting and training, and Naval training missions.
“Tyndall’s importance to our region cannot be overstated. With a strong Gulf Range, we make Tyndall’s mission and personnel strong for the future,” Dr. Dunn added.
The $30 million, fast-tracked through Dr. Dunn’s amendment, will immediately fund the construction of a data collection and monitoring site in Carrabelle, along with fiber connections to Eglin’s existing facility in Gulf County. The amendment will also fund improvements to the Gulf Range Drone Control System. By enhancing the utility of the Joint Gulf Range Complex to the military, Dr. Dunn’s amendment will strengthen the case for extending the oil and gas moratorium in the Eastern Gulf, which is set to expire in 2022.
Future stages of the Gulf Range Enhancement program call for improvements down the coast all the way to Key West.
The amendment was cosponsored by Florida Congressmen Matt Gaetz (FL-01), Tom Rooney (FL-17), and Francis Rooney (FL-19).
Dr. Dunn took to the House floor this afternoon to debate his amendment:
Mr. Chair, throughout the country there are remote areas where the men and women of our Armed Services prepare for war in order to protect peace.
Although these places are often overlooked, our investments in the military’s test and training ranges are returned many times over to the nation in the projection of American military supremacy around the globe, protecting the homeland, and preserving international order.
In the southeast, the Joint Gulf Range Complex facilitates testing and training of supersonic and hypersonic weapons systems, including combat training for frontline fighters like the F-22 and the F-35.
The 325th Fighter Wing and the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group at Tyndall Air Force Base, the 96th Test Wing, 53rd Wing and the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin AirForce Base, and Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field all make extensive use of the Joint Range Complex. There is no comparable area in the United States that can offer similar opportunities of advanced testing and joint-training exercises.
However, deployment of the instrumentation necessary to collect data during training on 5th and 6th generation weapons systems is not keeping up with the Air Force’s needs. Instrumentation limitations have restricted F-35 and F-22 training missions to the northernmost portion of the range. According to a study by the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, this limitation causes congestion, which obstructs an average of 80 training missions per year.
This amendment, which I am offering with my Florida colleagues Mr. Tom Rooney, Mr. Matt Gaetz, and Mr. Francis Rooney, will accelerate investments approved by Congress to deploy new infrastructure along the Joint Gulf Range Complex.
The amendment will maximize the utility of this vast range – a true national treasure – for combat training and advanced test and evaluation missions that prepare the warfighter to defend our freedom.
Mr. Chair, I urge my colleagues to support the amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.