Task Force on Military and Veteran's Affairs Policy Resolutions

These are policies originally adopted by the Military and Veterans’ Affairs Task Force and subsequently adopted by NCSL. These official policy statements determine NCSL positions on the wide range of federal actions that affect the states.

National Conference of State Legislatures 2011-2012 Policy Position

1.  DOD Matching Funds-Federal Conservation Programs (Military Affairs)

The sustainability and long-term viability of many Department of Defense installations and ranges continue to be threatened by incompatible development and loss of habitat in areas in the vicinity of or ecologically related to those installations and ranges. DoD’s Sustainable Ranges Initiative (SRI) and in particular the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI), has been highly effective, within the limits of available resources, in protecting DoD bases. However, truly effective steps to protect those bases requires much better integration of the conservation programs of other federal agencies with the efforts of DoD and its SRI/REPI partners. A critical step in enhancing the collaboration between DoD and other federal agencies would be to enact legislation allowing funds provided by DoD to protect bases from encroachment to qualify as match or cost share in the conservation programs of the Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies.
One example is the Farmland Protection Program (FPP) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The FPP provides funds to State, Tribal and Local Governments, as well as non-governmental organizations to assist in the purchase of development rights to farm and ranchlands with the purpose of maintaining the agricultural uses of those lands.

Prior to the 2008 Farm Bill, The FPP (formerly the FRPP- Farm and Ranchland Protection Program) provided additional benefits as well. DoD was able to use its funds to assist States, local governments, and non-governmental organizations in meeting the matching funds requirements of the FRPP for a number of easements on lands that abut military installations in states such as South Carolina, Kansas and Oklahoma. By preserving these agricultural lands and limiting the residential and commercial development on these properties, the DoD was able to achieve mutual objectives of land conservation and preventing development of critical open areas adjacent to military installations and thereby preserving DoD's ability to test and train on those installations without acquiring any new land for DoD ownership.

However, with the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill, the Farmland Protection Program was reauthorized and modified to become a grant program similar to other federal land conservation easement programs. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)-- which administers the FPP-- the changes made to the program in the 2008 Farm Bill had the unintended result of terminating NRCS's authority to accept matching funds from the DoD.

The Farmland Protection Program had been successful in maintaining farm and ranchlands for agricultural uses while simultaneously offering a great benefit to the communities surrounding military installations.

NCSL believes that the mutual benefits to landowners, conservation, and the military experienced under the former FRPP by the ability to use DoD funds as matching funds should be restored to that program, Department of Agriculture conservation programs in the 2012 Farm Bill and all other federal conservation programs. NCSL also believes that the mutual and reinforcing benefits to farmers, ranchers, local communities, outdoor recreation, and the military experienced under the FPP prior to the 2008 Farm Bill should also be extended to all other federal conservation easement programs through the enactment of legislation specifically authorizing the use of DoD funds as match or cost share in any such programs.

Expires August 2012
 

2.  Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative

The Department of Defense (DOD) Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI) enables DOD to work with partners to protect valuable habitat and avoid land use conflicts in the vicinity of priority installations. Maintaining availability, accessibility and capability for realistic training, live fire testing and other operations is crucial to ensuring a trained and ready force to support the DOD mission to fight and win the nation's wars.

The United States originally established military installations in rural areas far from population centers. As the nation's population has grown, urban sprawl now abuts many installations. Noise, dust, and smoke from weapons, vehicles, and aircraft prompt citizen complaints about military training forcing a conflict between meeting mission requirements and being good neighbors. Noise and light pollution concerns, the presence of cultural and historic resources, or endangered species can result in training restrictions affecting military readiness. This is referred to by DOD as encroachment.

REPI is an innovative tool that both protects the mission and achieves conservation objectives by proactively addressing encroachment that can cause costly workarounds and compromise training and testing. REPI uses the authority at Title 10, Section 2684a of the United States Code to enter into the agreements with non-Federal governments and private organizations to share funds towards these common objectives. REPI is overseen by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and implemented through Service programs.

Through REPI, the Services reach out to state and local governments, and non-governmental organizations to identify mutual conservation objectives and cost-share conservation easements from willing landowners to protect habitat or prevent development of key open areas. The easements typically permit the landowner to maintain ownership and continue current uses as a farm, forest or ranch and do not add military land for training or testing.

REPI provide significant and long term benefits to the people and the landscape in communities surrounding military installations. It enhances military readiness; protects high value habitat; strengthens military/community relations; and provides the opportunity for partnerships among key stakeholders, such as state and local governments and the military. NCSL supports REPI and believes there is a limited window of opportunity for REPI partnerships to protect land and habitat in support of military training and testing. In addition, the increasing numbers of willing sellers in the existing real estate market present significant near-term opportunities to leverage REPI funding with state and local partners. Recent studies have documented the success of the program and also the need for $150M in annual funding over a 10-12 year period to proactively address the partnership opportunities and leverage non-federal dollars to maximize accessibility, availability and capability of current military lands for training and testing.

NCSL applauds the United States Congress for recognizing the critical need to protect DoD bases and the limited window of opportunity to do so, and for continuing its strong bipartisan support for REPI.

Expires August 2012 
 

3.  State-Federal Partnerships In Land Management Around Federal Facilities

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) calls on Congress and the Administration to enable and encourage federal agencies to enter into formal partnerships with state governments to enable the better management of land in and around military and other federal facilities. Such partnerships will enable states, local communities and the federal facilities, ranges, and training air/sea/land space they serve to work jointly on matters of importance to all stakeholders. The adoption of memorandums of understanding or other agreements between federal agencies and state wildlife, parks, and environment agencies will establish a mechanism for the federal agencies to:

  • assist state agencies to acquire landowner agreements around military facilities;
  • assist communities and states to be better prepared for the next BRAC round by ensuring mission capabilities at military facilities; and
  • identify within the federal agency the person or office to whom state agencies and communities may contact for assistance in coordinating conservation easement/contracts or other appropriate negotiated transaction.

NCSL also urges the establishment of an interagency coordinator or coordination program to facilitate state agencies and communities addressing all relevant agencies in a "one stop" manner.
In partnering with such agencies as the Department of Defense (DOD), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Department of Interior (Interior), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) states and local communities will be able to:

  • protect water resources benefiting local communities and federal facilities ranges, and training air/sea/land space;
  • improve wildlife habitat around federal facilities, ranges, and training air/sea/land space and throughout the state;
  • expand public understanding of how critical state land conservation actions are to protect the mission and economic welfare of federal entities;
  • expand public support for federal assistance of state efforts to acquire permanent conservation easements, contracts or other appropriate negotiated transactions and long term leases with landowners to protect federal installations from civilian encroachment that will adversely impact mission capabilities and economic benefits to communities, and increase land for contract training;
  • expand state agency, private landowners, and DoD facilities' ability to develop longitudinal training capabilities through partnerships that expand training opportunities in combination with preserving agricultural lands; and that permit federal and national guard training areas to be linked for expanded joint training; and
  • encourage tourism to the conservation lands acquired by state agencies.

Expires August 2012