WASHINGTON, D.C. —U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, welcomed an announcement from the U.S. Army that it will be moving up plans to fund a $34 million project at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) to 2019 from 2023. The investment will fund an urgently needed Information Systems Facility to replace the existing communications center that was built in 1962 and caught fire two years ago. According to the official notification of intent from the Army, an additional $2,040,000 will go towards the design of the new modern facility.
“In the era of big data and technology, a modern information facility is critical for transmitting the vast amounts of data generated during military testing. White Sands Missile Range is a national treasure for our military with 2.2 million acres of terrain, zero-to-infinity airspace, and expertise that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the country,” said Senator Heinrich. “This new information center I've fought for is a big victory for White Sands Missile Range and for the future of our military. I applaud Army leadership, Lt. General Bingham, and the White Sands Missile Range community for taking action to start this necessary project.”
The existing facility at White Sands Missile Range was built in 1962 and serves as the gateway for all communications and data to the outside world, and houses critical equipment providing support for administrative command and control and testing and evaluation users. The facility is relied upon to provide critical support for modern missile testing ranging from the Standard Missile-2 (SM2) and Patriot Missile system-3 (PAC3), to JASSM and CALCM, and other next generation weapon systems.
The near meltdown and fire on July 2, 2015, that almost cascaded into a full electrical fire is symptomatic of the stress on the aging facility and its shortfalls in meeting today's needs and basic building codes. Current usage remains above 80 percent of the electrical breaker capacity and the building is at risk of critical failure, which would result in the loss of the entire communications system for WSMR, as well as the emergency 911 service for southern New Mexico.
In a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Senator Heinrich raised concern over the Pentagon not funding construction projects that support testing and evaluation at White Sands Missile Range for 18 years in a row. According to its 2046 Strategic Plan, White Sands Missile Range has not had a military construction project in support of testing and evaluation since 1999. Heinrich specifically pointed Army leadership to the deteriorating communications center, stressing the urgency for replacing the building.
In 2016, Senator Heinrich sent a letter to Acting Army Secretary Murphy to bring attention to the deteriorating condition of the building and to urge the Army to fund a replacement.
Senator Heinrich also sent a letter in March of 2017 to Lt. General Bingham, Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, stating, “I urge your immediate attention and advocacy to reverse the neglect of our nation’s test ranges, and I respectfully ask that you take action to move this specific project forward.”