WASHINGTON An additional 500 National Guard members and a need to update facilities are just two of the reasons the Utah National Guard used to explain to a House subcommittee Thursday why the federal government should give the state of Utah land near Camp Williams, about 25 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, introduced "The Utah National Guard Readiness Act" in September that would have the Bureau of Land Management give the state parcels of land on the boundary of Camp Williams so it could allow the National Guard to use it. Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, and Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, have co-sponsored the bill.
"We are constantly struggling to improve, upgrade or expand our facilities at Camp Williams to meet national requirements to train and deploy troops ready to meet the technological and tactical conditions wherever they may be called to serve," said Col. Scot Olson, director of Construction Facilities Management for the Utah National Guard, during a House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands hearing Thursday.
Bishop is the top Republican on the subcommittee, and Cannon also is a subcommittee member.
"The existing limitations in the utilities, available land, topography and access restrict our ability to adequately address planned increases in force structure," Olson said in his statement. "The expansion of these facilities supports our national defense, not just the Utah National Guard."
The bill would give the state about 258 acres of land of 18,000 acres already withdrawn to be used by the military.
Bishop submitted a letter of support from Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., calling for the bill's passage.
"If we do not act now to secure the transfer of these lands to the State Armory Board, the urgent development and expansion of Camp Williams will be more costly and very likely be unnecessarily delayed," Huntsman said in the letter.
The Bureau of Land Management told the subcommittee that is it has technical corrections to the bill and would "like clarification why it is necessary to convey land directly to the state of Utah for use by the National Guard."The House Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to vote on the bill next Wednesday. If passed, it would be ready for consideration on the House floor.