Keeping White Sands Missile Range secure is everyone’s responsibility.

Keeping White Sands Missile Range Secure

Keeping White Sands Missile Range secure is everyone’s responsibility.

“Everybody is a sensor,” said Director of Emergency Services Stephen J. Edmonds. “We want to make this installation a hard target.”

“We want to do things that are going to make WSMR a safe place to work, live, and play,” Edmonds said. “A lot of the research and development that occurs on the installation is tied to how we are going to fight our future wars, and individuals that can come on the installation and collect information can find ways to determine what we are doing and how we are doing it and use that as a methodology to find a way to defeat the technology we are working on right now. That places our military at risk.”

In order to keep WSMR physically secure Tom Benavidez, Chief of Physical Security at WSMR, said they will be reinforcing physical security measures that will more than likely ruffle a few feathers.

The first security measure that will be reinforced is the visitor control plan for up range access, which requires anyone traveling up range to carry a hard copy of their Form 102 WAB on their person, which validates their permission to be up range.

The form is good for up to 1 year and the security manager at each organization determines who gets up range access.

Benavidez said there have been several recent attempts to access the range by piggybacking into the range via the access gates. Anyone entering a gate must make sure the gate closes behind them, not allowing anyone to follow them in.

The person accessing the gate is responsible for making sure no one piggybacks after they enter. These types of violations carry consequences for violators.

Edmonds said they still have people utilizing gates that are not authorized for primary access to the installation. He said everyone entering the installation is required to go through a vetting process.

“If you are coming in any other way then you are bypassing that vetting process.”

“If they are using gates that are unmanned to come to work because it is convenient for them that means they are bypassing the vetting process which is supposed to occur every time someone comes through the gate,” Edmonds said. “Convenience really isn’t our mindset.”

Right now, the only two access control points that meet the Army regulation for continuous proper vetting are the Las Cruces and El Paso gates.

The Stallion Range Complex gate currently uses Automated Installation Entry, but plans are in place to have the gate manned with the capability for continuous proper vetting.

Benavidez said that individuals should not assume that just because they are enrolled in velocity, they have access to go up range.

“Gate entrance is for official business in support of a mission.”

Benavidez said they have had multiple up range violations. “We have people that are going into sites they are not supposed to, and usually on weekends. We have people that are travelling up range using Range Road 7 as a thoroughfare to take a short cut to Albuquerque, and they have their families with them,” Benavidez said.

“My job is to ensure the safety and security of the installation.”

Benavidez said they started shutting down all the bypass gates along Highway70 and have limited access from 36 down to 12 gates.

He said there were a lot of gates that were not necessary. People used them out of convenience.

“All our gates are there for official business in support of a mission.”

“We are trying to find ways to enhance the security on the installation and get people to understand that there are collection efforts that are going on here on a regular basis,” Edmonds said. “In some cases, it could be individuals trying to come on the installation that we know might be adversaries.”

In the last year WSMR security has caught individuals bringing drugs onto the installation, and there have been several instances of foreign nationals who have no business on the installation trying to get in.

“We are not just checking I.D.s at the gate or just doing traffic enforcement,” Edmonds said. “We are doing a litany of other things that all roll into the overall security of the installation and by virtue of providing that security what it does is it increases the safety of the individuals coming on and off the installation.”

Edmonds said they are trying to get folks on the installation to know and understand that security is a significant thing.

“Over the years people have forgotten about that and if you don’t enforce it people start getting lax.”

Just recently an individual who did not belong on the range was trying to get off the installation, but a contractor noticed there was something off and once they were out of the installation, he boxed the individual in and called security.

“That tells me that people are starting to sit up and pay attention. We need everybody on the installation thinking like that,” Edmonds said. “It is extremely difficult to secure 2.3 million acres. The way that we do it is through the use of technology, which we are in the process of doing, but also making sure everybody is a sensor.”

The point being is if everybody is out and they all have their sensors tingling and they are looking for things that are out of the norm, they can report it. If everybody is out there paying attention, they amplify the security measures.

Benavidez said this means changing the current climate and culture that has existed for many years.

“We need to get people to understand that the security and safety of the residents, the workforce, and installation assets is our primary function,” he said. “We are asking everyone to step up and do their part.”

“We have come up with a couple of plans of action on how we can increase security across the spectrum, and we are already seeing some of the fruits of our labor. I have every expectation that security on the installation will continue to go up,” Edmonds said.

By Miriam Rodriguez

WSMR Public Affairs