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White Sands Missile Range (WSMR)

White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) is a Test and Evaluation Command Installation operated primarily for the support of research, development, test, and evaluation of weapon and space systems, subsystems, and components. WSMR, established in 1945, is the largest all-overland test range in the Western Hemisphere, and is the Department of the Army's (DA) largest installation, covering approximately 2.2 million acres. With the addition of several extension areas, the range can be expanded to nearly four million acres for certain types of testing. WSMR is bordered by Fort Bliss (DA) to the south and by Holloman Air Force Base to the west. At the end of fiscal year 1992, the installation employed 2,717 military personnel and contractors. Between 1945 and 1989, a total of 38,029 missile firings were completed at WSMR, including the world's first atomic explosion at the Trinity site on July 16, 1945.

Facilities located entirely within WSMR boundaries include: the San Andres National Wildlife Refuge (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; USFWS), the White Sands National Monument (WSNM; National Park Service), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) White Sands Test Facility. The Joranda Experimental Range (USDA Forest Service; USFS) also overlaps over a portion of WSMR.

WSMR has cooperative agreements with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF), USFWS, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the USFS, and The Nature Conservancy. The New Mexico State University Cooperative Fisheries and Wildlife Research Unit (NMSUCRU) of the National Biological Service conducts research with WSMR.

Lands within WSMR were used by prehistoric peoples, but permanent White and Hispanic settlements were uncommon until the late 1800's, following the defeat of the Apache Indians. The primarily native grass range lands were used for livestock grazing and small scale mining operations until 1950, when all nonfederal co-use contracts were rescinded. With the exception of feral horses, most of these lands have not been grazed by livestock for over 40 years.

Vegetation surveys in the area have a long history, beginning during an 1846 Mexican War expedition and most recently by The Nature Conservancy. The flora is largely representative of the Chihuahuan Desert, with influences from the southern Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, and the Mogollon Rim. The rich plant diversity of WSMR, greatest in the mountainous regions, reflects both the variety of habitat types and past land use practices. Only one federally listed endangered plant species is found on WSMR, Todsen's pennyroal (Hedeoma todsenii). There are about 159,000 acres of Piñon-Juniper mountains on WSMR but no commercially viable forests, with only a very small stand of ponderosa pine growing near the summit of Salinis Peak.

Most of WSMR lies within the Tularosa Basin, a closed drainage basin varying in elevation between four and five thousand feet. The remainder lies within the Joranda del Muerto Basin. The Tularosa Basin is bound on the west by the San Andres, Organ and Oscura Mountains, and to the east by the Sacramento Mountains. Elevation on the WSMR rises from about 4,000 feet near Lake Lucero to 8,959 feet at Salinis Peak. The world's largest gypsum deposits, known as White Sands, are located within WSNM and wholly within WSMR. Climate at WSMR is characterized as moderately severe, semi-arid high desert, continental, with summers having hot, dry days and moderate nights and generally cool winters. Annual rainfall averages just over 10 inches in the basin and 17 inches at elevations around 8,000 feet.

BRAC 2005

In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD would realign the Army Research Laboratory White Sands Missile Range, NM, by relocating all Army Research Laboratory activities except the minimum detachment required to maintain the Test and Evaluation functions at White Sands Missile Range, NM, to Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. This recommendation would realign and consolidate portions of the Air Force and Army Research Laboratories to provide greater synergy across technical disciplines and functions. It would do this by consolidating geographically separate units of the Air Force and Army Research Laboratories. This recommendation would enable technical synergy, and would position the Department of the Defense to exploit a center-of-mass of scientific, technical, and acquisition expertise. Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 382 jobs (186 direct jobs and 196 indirect jobs) over the 2006-2011 period in the Las Cruces, NM Metropolitan Statistical Area (0.5 percent).




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