WASHINGTON, DC – In a victory for our national security and Florida’s military community, last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed Congressman Neal Dunn’s (FL-02) amendment to fast-track needed improvements to the military training range in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Dr. Dunn’s amendment to the defense appropriations bill provides $30 million to accelerate the next step of the Gulf Range Enhancement program, a previously approved project to improve test and training data collection on 5th and 6th generation weapons in the Joint Gulf Range Complex. The lack of adequate instrumentation along Florida’s entire Gulf coast restricts many missions to the northern portion of the range. The 96th Test Wing estimates that 80 missions annually are not conducted because of air space and infrastructure congestion.
The $30 million, fast-tracked through Dr. Dunn’s amendment, will immediately fund the construction of a data collection and monitoring site in Carrabelle, along with fiber connections to Eglin’s existing facility in Gulf County.
“The Gulf Range is a national treasure, a one-of-a-kind resource essential to our national security,” Dr. Dunn said. “As threats and extremism increase around the world, we should be doing everything in our power to arm our men and women in uniform with rigorous training and state-of-the-art equipment. For that, the military needs a robust Gulf Range. This funding will help to make sure the military has the cutting-edge test and training area it needs.”
The Joint Gulf Range Complex is used for high-altitude, supersonic air combat training for frontline fighters like the F-22 based at Tyndall Air Force Base and the F-35 based at Eglin Air Force Base. The range also enables hypersonic weapons testing, space launch, missile testing, electronic warfare, drone targeting and training, and Naval training missions.
“Tyndall’s importance to our region cannot be overstated. With a strong Gulf Range, we make Tyndall’s mission and personnel strong for the future,” Dr. Dunn added.
The amendment will also fund improvements to the Gulf Range Drone Control System. By enhancing the utility of the Joint Gulf Range Complex to the military, Dr. Dunn’s amendment will strengthen the case for extending the oil and gas moratorium in the Eastern Gulf, which is set to expire in 2022.
Future stages of the Gulf Range Enhancement program call for improvements down the coast all the way to Key West.
The amendment was cosponsored by Florida Congressmen Matt Gaetz (FL-01), Tom Rooney (FL-17), and Francis Rooney (FL-19).