Congress Clears National Guard Land Transfer
Members of Utah's Congressional delegation have announced that the U.S. Congress has passed a measure that will transfer federal lands currently held by the Army Corps of Engineers within Camp Williams to the State of Utah for use by the National Guard.
The provision, which was included in the Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Authorization Act, will allow the Utah National Guard to increase its control of additional areas within Camp Williams in order to expand facilities and training opportunities.
"The role and capabilities of the Utah National Guard continue to expand in positive ways, and we're just trying to make sure they have room for that solid growth," Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said.
The transfer was originally introduced by Mr. Bishop in the House as the Utah National Guard Readiness Act, but Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) spearheaded compromise language in the Senate which allowed the provision to gain approval in that body. The compromise language was then incorporated into the final version of the defense bill.
"I am very pleased that my compromise language was accepted in the final legislation and applaud Congressman Bishop for his yeoman's work in passing this legislation in the House," Hatch said. "Senator Bennett also deserves thanks for his important support during the consideration of this legislation. It was truly a joint effort."
The details of the measure call for 916 acres of federal land at Camp Williams to be transferred to the State of Utah for the use of the Utah National Guard, specifically to fulfill future military growth and expansion under the Guard's master plan. According to the offices of Utah's Congressional delegation, having the State of Utah own title to these important lands near the existing Camp Williams Headquarters buildings will assist the Guard in developing new missions and facilities, since the State will be able to underwrite the financing of the development of this land for military purposes. It is believed that control of these parcels will also help the Guard by simplifying the expansion process.
The transfer is subject to a reverter that mandates that the lands must be used for military purposes.
"The land in question here is already withdrawn by the feds for military use, so all we're doing is transferring it to the State, for the same use," Bishop added. "This will make expansion and any future upgrades by the Guard a lot easier and less costly."
According to documents prepared by the National Guard, the land transfer will permit easier access to utilities and services necessary to support expanded development and military use. The reduced cost to bring these services into certain areas within Camp Williams represents a significant economic advantage when considering the cost of upgrading old and inadequate services already onsite.
In testimony before the Natural Resources Committee on March 6 of this year, Colonel Scott Olson of the Utah National Guard warned that failure to transfer the lands specified in the bill could have "several significant negative impacts." He added that with the bill the Guard would gain greater efficiency in planning and be able to negate the costs associated with a piecemeal approach to expansion.
Bishop, who sits on both the Natural Resources and Armed Services Committees, applauded the State of Utah and the National Guard for working constructively with his office on this legislation. "I'm proud of the training that takes place at Camp Williams and the military service the Guard provides around the world," he said. "They need this extra space so they can continue to grow and be a critical part of our national security."
"Our National Guard does amazing work, and they deserve all the support we can provide," Hatch added. "This transfer ensures they will have the capacity to attract and execute new missions."
A Subcommittee hearing for the original legislation and a subsequent full Committee mark-up in the House Resources Committee were held in the Spring of this year, with the full House then adopting versions of the transfer language twice, most recently in the defense bill last week. The Senate cleared the final version of the defense bill, including the Utah land transfer language, over the weekend. That bill now heads to the President for his signature, which is expected in the next few days.