Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, where hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on military upgrades, anticipates an additional $10 million investment that would improve military training and create dozens of jobs.
The money, contained in the National Defense Authorization Act, would fund a state-of-the-art machine-gun range for Army, Army Reserve, and National Guard soldiers as well as Navy and Air Force personnel.
About 10,000 servicemen and servicewomen train at the joint base each year and need practice to qualify on light and heavy machine guns. The range would replace the Mobile Military Operations on Urban Terrain site.
"The joint base is critical to our national security and local communities," said U.S. Rep. John Adler (D., N.J.), in whose district the country's first tri-service facility is located.
"If you are training Army personnel to protect our national security, it is absolutely vital that you have a first-class facility," U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D., N.J.) added.
The range, if approved in the Senate as part of the same Defense Authorization bill, would be the latest in a string of investments on or near the 60-square-mile facility in Burlington and Ocean Counties. More than 42,000 military and civilian personnel and their families live and work on and around the site.
Housing improvements have come with the recent $500 million base project, including construction, renovation, and conversion of 2,400 units. More than 1,000 homes have been built, and 450 others were renovated.
Hundreds of millions in federal money have been spent on runways, hangars, and other buildings in recent years.
And more projects are planned for several of the base's surrounding towns: Wrightstown, New Hanover, North Hanover, Pemberton Borough, Pemberton Township, and Springfield Township in Burlington County, and Lakehurst Borough and Manchester, Jackson, and Plumsted Townships in Ocean County. A plan in Wrightstown calls for a $60 million downtown center with medical offices, college classrooms, and retail.
The House action on the range funding last week was contained in a wide-ranging bill authorizing a $764 billion national budget. It included extra pay for service members and would strengthen other national-security efforts.
The $10 million for the range is expected to make closing the joint base that much more unlikely in the event of future defense cuts.
"In a post-9/11 environment, we must do all we can to fully prepare for an attack and support our troops and their families," Adler said Friday.
"Finally," he said, "Congress got it right by giving our soldiers the necessary resources to help keep our military the finest in the world."