Col. Bruce Grant (ret.) argues that the Gulf Range Complex is an irreplacable military asset that cannot be sacrificed for oil exploration.
A vital military range is at risk from Big Oil – and the clock is ticking.
The eastern Gulf of Mexico is a military range essential to our military’s success and critical to delivering the required combat capabilities to our men and women deployed overseas – and the oil industry wants to drill for oil there.
The Gulf Range Complex is a unique national resource that stretches from the Florida Panhandle down to Key West supporting several Florida bases. Proximity to this range is one of the main reasons Florida has many of its 20 military bases in the first place.
No other area in the U.S. offers a comparable combination of air space, water space, and existing infrastructure to support military activities. The Department of Defense has already begun investing money to upgrade this range to accommodate the most modern fifth- and sixth-generation military equipment.
Other local mentions of the Gulf Range Complex
Large quantities of munitions fired, dropped into Gulf Test Range
Lawmakers: Oil, gas ban to protect Gulf Test Range
In 2005, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared Gulf drilling incompatible with military training and weapons testing. As a result, Congress passed the Gulf of Mexico Security Act of 2006 prohibiting oil exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, east of a designated Military Mission Line (MML), until 2022. This prohibition – currently under attack by the oil lobby – must be extended beyond 2022 to protect this unique national asset.
So exactly how is our military readiness at risk from gulf drilling? Eglin Air Force Base’s research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) of missiles and conventional weapons would be negatively impacted. Additionally, hypersonic missile testing would be compromised since the Gulf is the only place in the continental U.S. we can effectively test hypersonic missiles, a military capability where we are playing catch-up with the Chinese and Russians.
Live air-to-air missile shots by fighter aircraft operating from Tyndall Air Force Base and Eglin against aerial targets result in debris or live bombs falling to the surface of the Gulf, endangering anyone in the area.
Finally, the Navy uses much of the Gulf for its training and testing of sub-surface mine warfare countermeasures. All of these missions are vital to national security and cannot be conducted safely with oil derricks and personnel in their way.
Drilling in the Gulf range area would put Florida’s bases at great risk. Why keep bases close to a range that is no longer viable? More importantly, our armed forces would lose the premier training and testing area in the U.S., a blow to military readiness. The potential cost in lives could be tragically high.
In a trade-off that pits more oil (and profit dollars) against the readiness and lives of our forces, give me the lives of our armed forces every time.
Energy independence should not come at the expense of our nation’s defense. As a unique, irreplaceable national asset, the Gulf range is of the highest military importance. Those who argue for drilling are dead wrong with no understanding of the military ramifications. If nothing is done soon, the moratorium will expire and exploration and drilling will begin. Congress has not acted and it appears they never will.
Perhaps Gov. Ron DeSantis can get President Trump’s help on this issue. It may be our only hope to save this unique national asset.
Until then the clock is still ticking.
Bruce Grant is a retired Army colonel who has worked for the past seven years with the Florida Defense Support Task Force and continues to work to protect Florida’s military infrastructure as a member of the Florida Defense Alliance.
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