PHOTO: U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich tours existing facilities for Holloman's RPA missions. Funding for the construction of new facilities has been jeopardized by President Trump's border wall emergency declaration, April 24, 2019.
The Trump administration announced that it plans to divert billions of dollars of funding for military construction projects to pay for the president's misguided and ineffective border wall. On the chopping block are $125 million for critical defense projects in New Mexico at is Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range aimed at improving the safety and combat effectiveness of our service members.
I hope you can take a moment to read and share a column I just wrote in the Alamogordo Daily Times about why I believe this is a terrible idea. I want to assure you that I will do everything I can to bring some sanity into what has become a nakedly political, win-at-any-cost effort that directly undermines our men and women in uniform.
I encourage you to write me or call my office at (202) 224-5521 about this or other issues important to you or your family.
Yes, you read that correctly. The President of the United States is ordering the Pentagon to divert billions of dollars of funding for military construction projects to pay for his misguided and ineffective border wall. The White House just confirmed that this includes $125 million for critical defense projects in New Mexico aimed at improving the safety and combat effectiveness of our service members.
On the administration's chopping block is $85 million Congress appropriated to replace the MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) training facilities at Holloman Air Force Base. Holloman trains 100 percent of the Active Duty Air Force and Air Force Reserve MQ-9 crews, and many crews from allied nations. The facilities they use for training - originally built in WWII - do not fully meet the needs of their rapidly growing mission.
I visited the current training facilities at Holloman earlier this year. Holloman has the only combat airframe in the entire Air Force forced to conduct flight training completely in an unclassified environment, severely limiting our pilots' ability to train effectively at the most appropriate point in their education. Even more egregiously, the building is falling apart, with some equipment literally being held together with duct tape. That is nothing short of a health and safety risk to our service members.
To say the current facilities urgently need to be replaced would be an understatement. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I fought hard to secure the $85 million in funding needed to build a new purpose-built RPA facility at Holloman. A new facility would enhance efficiency, expand training of pilots and sensor operators before they transition to an operational unit, and ensure that major equipment like ground control stations are operated in classified facilities.
The White House is also diverting $40 million that was approved for the construction of a new Information Systems Facility at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR). This would be the first major military construction project in direct support of testing and evaluation at White Sands in nearly 20 years. Without this facility, the reliability of the Range's information systems will be compromised, putting the testing of systems critical to outperforming our adversaries and saving the lives of service members at risk.
Replacing an outdated facility that was built in 1962-and also recently caught on fire-would allow WSMR to better function across the range by upgrading and consolidating existing systems, currently located in 10 separate buildings, into a single state of the art, purpose-built facility.
Instead of supporting projects like these that are essential to critical and ongoing national security missions, President Trump appears to be hell-bent on raiding critical military construction and disaster response funds to build a southern border wall.
I want to assure you that I will do everything I can to bring some sanity into what has become a nakedly political, win-at-any-cost effort that directly undermines our men and women in uniform.