White Sands Expansion Provision Included in Defense Authorization Act


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. and Tom Udall, D-N.M. made the following statements in response to a provision included in the compromise language of the fiscal year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), released yesterday. The provision is part of a bill the New Mexico senators introduced earlier this year, which passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to strengthen the missions at White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss.

“I am pleased that both the House and Senate came together to support this important provision for White Sands Missile Range. This expansion is critical to strengthening WSMR’s vital national security mission and will further protect it from encroachment,” Heinrich said.

“However, I am disappointed that similar buffer zone provisions for Fort Bliss failed to advance in the House. Despite receiving broad support from the Department of Defense, Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, White Sands Missile Range, community leaders, and specifically from Fort Bliss, the House neglected to introduce and consider common sense legislation that will further protect Fort Bliss from encroachment and incompatible development. I will continue to advocate for the buffer zone provisions for Fort Bliss and encourage my House colleagues to support their passage in next year’s defense bill,” Heinrich said.

“White Sands Missile Range is a critical and valuable asset for New Mexico and for our national security, and I’m glad that that these measures to strengthen WSMR were included in this year’s defense bill. This commonsense bill sets aside an enduring buffer that clarifies the boundaries and protects this unique asset from incompatible development,” Udall said. “Fort Bliss needs similar protection, and we’ll continue to work to ensure that the remaining portions of our bill can be passed and enacted as soon as possible.”

The Heinrich-Udall bill was reintroduced as part of an amendment to the NDAA. House negotiators objected to the language since the Fort Bliss provisions were never introduced in the House of Representatives. 

The bullets below summarize the specific land exchanges:

  • White Sands Missile Range (included in NDAA) Transfers 5,100 acres of land from the BLM to the Army in order to provide a critical safety and security buffer to NASA’s White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) and the Department of Defense’s Aerospace Data Facility – Southwest, which are both key tenants of White Sands Missile Range;
  • Fort Bliss (not included in NDAA) Transfers 2,050 acres of land in Fillmore Canyon from the Army to the BLM to create a boundary that is more clearly identifiable to the public to prevent accidental trespass onto Fort Bliss; and
  • Fort Bliss (not included in NDAA) Prohibits the BLM from selling or exchanging 35,550 acres of land in order to prevent incompatible development near the Fort Bliss Dona Ana Range Complex and Training Areas that include some of the Army’s premier large weapons system firing ranges and artillery firing boxes. This land will still be accessible to the public for recreation, grazing, transportation, and other existing uses.