WASHINGTON - Ninth District Congressman Doug Collins made a special appearance before the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday to make the case for Army ownership of Camp Frank D. Merrill in Dahlonega.
Camp Merrill is the 282-acre property that provides the mountain phase of the U.S. Army's Ranger School. Since 1951 the Army has operated the facility, which houses 200 active duty soldiers training as one of the world's most elite fighting forces, under the supervision of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).
Collins says this arrangement has led to "duplicative" procedures and rules that are designed to "satisfy both departments but really result unnecessary federal bureaucracy and waste."
As just one example of the negative effects of this duplicity, he cited a group of trees surrounding a landing zone for helicopters needed to be trimmed because their growth had created a safety concern. Because of the two-level approval process of structural and environmental changes required by dual management of Camp Merrill, it took two years of continued safety hazard for the trees to be trimmed. In that time, the cost to trim the trees doubled.
"While this may appear a miniscule amount of money," Collins said, "remember a redundant approval process can be traced back for over 50 years," making the real waste due to this arrangement untold.
Collins talked about his proposed solution: "My legislation [H.R. 3960] reverses decades of redundant oversight and enacts a land exchange between the Department of Army and the Forestry Service. This exchange will allow the Army to gain administrative control of Camp Merrill and Forestry Service gets new lake property on Lake Lanier."
Collins urged the committee to include this solution as part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.