The Army, needing more room for combat practice with advanced battlefield technology, wants to expand its training areas by up to 70% in the next four years, says a Pentagon official who oversees training.
The Army now uses about 7 million acres on 102 training sites and ranges across the USA. Its wish list for land acquisition by 2011 totals another 4.9 million acres, says James Gunlicks, Army deputy director for training. That's about the size of Connecticut, Delaware and the District of Columbia combined.
Proposals already underway in California, Colorado and Hawaii would add 540,000 acres. Those include a 120,000-acre addition to the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California and a controversial proposal to almost triple the size of Colorado's 235,900-acre Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site.
Gunlicks says the need for 4.9 million acres "does not necessarily mean the Army will be able to purchase that much. But we would like to have that additional (land)."
He says that most training sites aren't big enough to accommodate realistic maneuvers using modern combat tools: faster fighting vehicles, advanced weapons and more sophisticated command and communications gear."