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Sunday, 25 December 2016 14:14

Arizona & the National Defense Authorization Act Featured

Steven Smith and Julie Tarallo

It’s been a long wait, but on Friday, December 23, 2016, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (NDAA). 

Arizona has an extensive military presence and there are many items in this law that affect our state. This resolution includes wildfire management, search and rescue, military industry and manufacturing, Air Force bases, border security, veterans, even water conservation. Read the updates below from Representative Paul Gosar and Senator John McCain for further analysis.

An Early Christmas Gift: Gosar-McCain Jobs Bill Signed into Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released the following statement after the president signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2017 which included a Gosar-McCain sponsored bill H.R. 4601, legislation that will resolve a non-controversial legal hurdle allowing for the pursuit of new economic development projects within the City of Flagstaff:

“Arizonans can celebrate an early, bipartisan Christmas gift this year in the form of new jobs and economic growth in Flagstaff at no cost to taxpayers. I’m proud to have worked closely with Senator McCain, BNSF Railroad and the City of Flagstaff to pass this important legislation into public law. This commonsense bill will ensure that private land is utilized for commercial development and will not revert back to the federal government as a result of an outdated provision from the 1860’s. As one of the fastest growing regions in the country, it is critical that federal law supports economic growth and not impede job creators from building a stronger Arizona.” 


H.R. 4601, legislation introduced by Congressman Gosar, was included in S.2943 as section 2824 and signed into law on December 23, 2016.

S.2943 includes important funding for our troops and their missions. Congressman Gosar strongly supports our men and women in the military and voted in support of both versions of the NDAA that passed the House this year. 

This legislation is endorsed by the City of Flagstaff, which requested that this legislation be introduced, and BNSF Railroad, the two affected parties in this legislation.

The Railroad Act of 1866 granted land to various railroads for establishment of a large rail network to deliver goods throughout the United States.  When the land was given to the railroads from the Federal Government, the Act included a reversionary clause which stated that the land would revert back to the federal government if it wasn’t used as part of the national railroad network.

In 2006, the City traded land of equal value (a little less than 15 acres each) with the BNSF railroad.  The land exchange was appraised using federal standards.  The purpose of the trade at the time was to allow for construction and expansion of the Fourth Street Bridge. Shortly after the City obtained the new parcel, it was sold to a developer.  

Currently, the reversionary clause on the original BNSF parcel still exists. The developer that purchased the original BNSF parcel from the City cannot get title insurance on the land because of that reversionary interest clause. This bill simply transfers the reversionary interest clause from the original BNSF parcel to BNSF’s new parcel.  Such action will resolve the title insurance issue and allow for important economic development to occur within the City of Flagstaff.


Parcel 1 14.98 Acres of Recently-sold City Land (Originally the BNSF Parcel)

Parcel 2 14.79 Acres of BNSF Acquired Land (Originally City Parcel)

Statement By SASC Chairman John McCain On President Obama Signing The National Defense Authorization Act Into Law

Washington, D.C. ­– President Obama today signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (NDAA). The legislation, championed by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ), authorizes critical support for America’s national defense, service members, and military families. Chairman McCain released the following statement on provisions in the NDAA that are of significant importance to the Arizona:

“With the President’s signature today, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 is now law,” said Chairman McCain. “In addition to advancing major reforms to the Defense Department and reinvesting savings into greater resources, training and pay raises for our troops, this bill ensures Arizona will continue to make important contributions to our national defense. From keeping the A-10 at Davis-Monthan flying combat missions against ISIL, to maintaining the last search and rescue unit in the country at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, and strengthening security and drug interdiction efforts on our southern border, the NDAA will provide Arizona’s military community the support they need to rise to the challenges of a more dangerous world.” 



The NDAA once again prevents the premature retirement of the A-10 Warthog, which continues its vital role in the fight against ISIL and supporting NATO’s efforts in Eastern Europe to deter Russian aggression. Despite the Obama Administration’s repeated attempts to retire the A-10 fleet, the NDAA fully funds the flight hours, pilot training, fuel, maintenance and ammunition for all A-10s for the upcoming year. The NDAA also prohibits any retirement of A-10 aircraft until Air Force senior leaders provide an assessment of the outcome of F-35A operational testing with regard to its suitability to accomplish current A-10 missions by ensuring comparison testing between the two aircraft.


The NDAA fully funds the EC-130H Compass Call electronic attack airplanes stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. Last year’s NDAA prohibited the Air Force from retiring the EC-130H Compass Call for another year. These jamming and surveillance aircraft are critical to protecting our ground troops from sophisticated electronic attacks in conflicts across the Middle East such as Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan as well as against potential threats in the Pacific and Europe. The NDAA also authorizes the Air Force to proceed with recapitalization of the EC-130H Compass Call fleet to a more capable and efficient aircraft platform.


The NDAA funds 63 F-35 fighter jets for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Luke Air Force Base and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma will provide unparalleled training at the Barry Goldwater Range complex for many of America and our allies’ next-generation of fighter pilots.


The NDAA prohibits the Marine Corps from retiring the last search and rescue unit in the country at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma. This unique search and rescue mission provides critical assistance not only for military air operations, but also for civilian and local law enforcement in the region. More than half of all Marine aviation sorties are flown out of MCAS Yuma, which necessitates keeping this asset for safety reasons for our military pilots as well as for local needs.


The NDAA ensures that Arizona’s defense industry continues to manufacture and innovate new weapons systems and defense technologies that our troops need to defend and protect the nation:


  • Directs a study of increased utilization of excess solid rocket motors currently being stored in Arizona for new space launch opportunities.


  • Fully funds the Army’s request of $1.14 billion for 52 Apache helicopters to be remanufactured at Boeing in Mesa and authorizes the Army to enter into a long-term contract with Boeing for Apaches. This will provide Mesa with stability and predictability for Apache manufacturing for several years and save critical taxpayer dollars.


  • Directs the Air Force to increase the use of commercial and next-generation communications satellite constellations provided by Arizona’s satellite industry.


  • Requires the Army to plan for the growth of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) throughout the military, including the increased use of training resources and ranges at Fort Huachuca.


  • Nearly doubles the budget for Raytheon to manufacture 96 additional Tomahawk missiles for a total of 196 missiles in 2017 and over 500 Sidewinder missiles which will be manufactured at Raytheon in Tucson.
  • Fully funds the Navy’s request for 125 SM-6 missiles to be developed and produced at Raytheon in Tucson.
  • Fully funds the Navy’s request for 2 Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) airborne payloads that will enable Navy units to detect sea mines.
  • Increases funding to the Missile Defense Agency to procure 35 SM-3 Block IB missiles, which are engineered and developed in Arizona.


The NDAA provides much-needed funding for military construction projects in Arizona, including:

  • Luke Air Force Base, Phoenix: $20 million for F-35 Flightline Operations and Maintenance Facilities;
  • Fort Huachuca, Sierra Vista: $1.87 million at Fort Huachuca for communications facility renovations for the Defense Information Systems Agency; and
  • Army Reserve, Phoenix: $30 million for a new Army Reserve Center in Phoenix that will meet force protection and training standards. This will support more than 600 Army Reservists in the Phoenix area.


  • Requires the Department of Defense to coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security on military training operations in Arizona and along the southern border, which will enhance the military’s ability to share information and intelligence collected during training that could benefit the drug interdiction and border security operations of the Department of Homeland Security and civilian law enforcement. These provisions will not only increase military readiness, but also help Arizona to stop illegal drug trafficking and secure its borders through enhanced intelligence and information sharing.
  • Requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop metrics to measure the effectiveness of security along the border, including at ports of entry, between ports of entry, and in the maritime environment. These metrics will enhance the ability to more accurately assess progress in securing the border by using consistent and robust performance measures and will help inform how our border security capabilities can be most effectively employed.
  • Authorizes the creation of Department of Homeland Security Joint Task Forces to enhance situational awareness of threats and trends concerning illicit trafficking and to more effectively conduct joint operations to secure the land and maritime borders of the United States. 
  • Codifies the authority of the Secretary of Defense to provide support to federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement for countering drug smuggling and transnational organized crime operations.


The NDAA funds $30 million in supplemental impact aid to local educational agencies with military dependent children and $5 million in impact aid for schools with military dependent children with severe disabilities in Arizona and around the nation.


The NDAA includes a provision that requires the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to review flight path changes like those in Phoenix and take steps to mitigate the negative effects these changes have had on the community. It also ensures that other airports and communities have the opportunity to fully engage with the FAA before any future changes are made.

“This legislation provides an important step forward in making sure Phoenix residents impacted by flight path changes at Sky Harbor International Airport have the opportunity to make their voices heard,” said Chairman McCain. “This legislation requires the FAA to mitigate the negative effects of flight path changes that have already been implemented, while providing impacted communities and airports a seat at the table before any future changes are made.”

“I am pleased this bill includes measures to address complaints of Arizonans who have been negatively impacted by the flight path changes at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The provisions we were able to add establish a process to address those hardships and ensure the FAA will better consult with affected communities on future flight changes,” said Senator Flake.


The legislation includes a provision aimed at enabling forest thinning activities using Camp Navajo, an Arizona National Guard facility located near Flagstaff, Arizona. Specially, the provision effectively transfers federal land under Camp Navajo from the Forest Service to the Department of Defense, which will help streamline an Arizona National Guard program to lease portions of the facility as an industrial park. Currently, the land is technically owned by the Forest Service but its uses are largely limited to military functions under the 1940’s Public Land Order issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that originally established the depot. The provision will save the National Guard from any claims of triggering a “reversionary interest” right through non-military use activity, which will return Camp Navajo to full Forest Service jurisdiction. 

Camp Navajo is strategically located near the interchange of Interstate 40 and Interstate 17, and supports many miles of railroad tracks that connect the facility to much of northern and eastern Arizona. Northern Arizona University Ecological Restoration Institute has identified Camp Navajo as a promising host of a “world-class center” for public-private industry partnerships establishing a timber mill, biomass plant, or wood products research facility.

“Catastrophic wildfire continues to be one of the top environmental challenges for Arizona in the 21st century,” said Chairman McCain. “This provision will help unlock Camp Navajo’s business potential, particularly as it relates to enhancing industry’s role in thinning our overgrown forests and reducing the threat of wildfire. I applaud the Forest Service, notably the leadership team at Kaibab National Forest, and the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, for working together to develop and advance this project.”

“We must use every resource at our disposal to prevent devastating wildfires. Forest thinning efforts help restore Arizona’s forests, reduce the risk of out-of-control wildfires, and protect rural communities,” said Senator Flake.

“Restoring forest health requires the removal and processing of massive amounts of small trees and biomass,” said Dr. Wally Covington, executive director of Northern Arizona University’s Ecological Restoration Institute. “Creating a place that can use this biomass would improve forest health and reduce the amount of smoke from forest restoration activities. Since 1996 the private sector has indicated interest in locating a processing facility at Camp Navajo. This action can help make this a reality.”

Roughly 300,000 acres of national forest land in Arizona are slated to be ecologically restored using industry partners, according to the Forest Service’s Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI).


The NDAA also includes a provision that provides federal recognition of the Cochise Conservation Recharge Network (CCRN), a project by the City of Sierra Vista, Arizona, and Cochise County that will harvest tens of thousands of gallons of rainwater every year and use it to recharge nearby underground aquifers that support flows in the San Pedro River. Today, the San Pedro River, one of the last free-flowing rivers of the southwest, is threatened by drought and excessive groundwater pumping. The NDAA provision authorizes the Secretary of the Army or the Secretary of the Interior to enter into agreements in support of the CCRN project.

“The San Pedro River is a precious desert gem,” said Chairman McCain. “I applaud the city and county for developing the Cochise recharge project, and I hope this federal recognition will help preserve the San Pedro for the enjoyment of future generations.”

“Water conservation is a top priority in Arizona and it is crucial that we continue to develop solutions that will give drought-stricken states the tools to tackle this issue,” said Senator Flake.   


The NDAA transfers Fort Wingate, a decommissioned Army depot located near Gallup, New Mexico, to the Navajo Nation. For decades, the Navajo government has been seeking to restore its jurisdiction over the fort, which has long been managed by the federal government. In the 1990’s the Fort was closed during the Base Realignment and Closure Process.

Last modified on Sunday, 25 December 2016 15:34
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Editor Lynne LaMaster


Prescott, Arizona