The amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) transits the Coral Sea as the sun rises over the horizonThe Proposed Action is to conduct training and testing activities at sea and in associated airspace within the Study Area. Activities include the use of active sound navigation and ranging (sonar) and explosives while employing marine species protective measures. Proposed activities are similar to ongoing activities that have been occurring in the Study Area for decades and are generally consistent with those analyzed in the previous EIS/OEIS and approved in the 2016 Record of Decision, and earlier environmental planning documents.

The purpose of the Proposed Action is to maintain a ready force, which is needed to ensure the Navy can accomplish its mission under Congressional direction in section 5062 of Title 10 of the U.S. Code to:

Maintain, train, and equip combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas.

To achieve and maintain military readiness, the Navy proposes to:

  • Conduct training and testing activities at sea and in associated airspace at levels required to support military readiness requirements beyond 2020; and
  • Accommodate evolving mission requirements, including those resulting from the development, testing, and introduction of new vessels, aircraft, and weapons systems into the fleet.

The type and level of activities included in the Proposed Action account for fluctuations in training and testing to be able to meet evolving or emergent requirements.

Realistic training and testing are crucial for military readiness, personnel safety, and national defense

The Navy must be ready to respond to many different situations when called upon. The skills needed to achieve military readiness are challenging to master and require constant practice. Training activities must be diverse and as realistic as possible to prepare Sailors for what they will experience in real-world situations and ensure their success and survival.

Equipment and systems must be tested before use by Sailors during deployment. Systems are tested in varying marine environments, such as differing water depths, seafloor types, salinity levels, and other ocean conditions, as well as replicated warfighting environments, to ensure accuracy and safety.

While simulators provide early skill repetition at the basic operator level and enhance teamwork, there is no substitute for live training and testing in a real-world environment.

Defense against enemy submarines is a top priority for the Navy. To detect and counter hostile submarines, the Navy uses both passive and active sonar. Torpedoes, in-water mines, and quieter submarines are true threats to global commerce, national security, and the safety of Sailors. Active sonar is the most effective method of detecting those threats.

Sonar proficiency is a complex and perishable skill that requires regular, hands-on training in realistic and diverse conditions, such as those provided in the Study Area. Lack of realistic training will jeopardize the lives of Sailors in real-life combat situations.

Sonar

Submarines of the previous generation were noisy and could be detected with passive sonar before they came close enough to deploy short-range weapons against a vessel. Extremely quiet, difficult-to-detect, diesel-electric submarines can approach close enough to deploy long-range weapons before entering the passive sonar detection range of U.S. vessels. Active sonar has a longer detection range that is needed to allow Navy Sailors to detect, identify, and track quieter, modern submarines before they are close enough to attack.

Training and testing at sea with explosives significantly enhances the safety of U.S. forces in combat and improves readiness and equipment reliability. Training in a high-stress environment, including the use of and exposure to explosive ordnance, is necessary for Sailors to be fully prepared to respond to emergencies, national security threats, and to ensure their safety.

For more information on the Proposed Action and types of training and testing activities, please see the project fact sheet booklet and posters.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to evaluate a range of reasonable alternatives to achieve the purpose of and need for the Proposed Action. The Navy will consider a no action alternative as well as action alternatives that support the required military readiness activities into the reasonably foreseeable future. Additional action alternatives may be formed by input received during this scoping process and will be presented in the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS.

Through the development of the Supplemental EIS/OEIS, the Navy will:

  • Update the environmental analyses of military readiness activities contained in the 2015 Final EIS/OEIS
  • Adjust training and testing activities from current levels to the level needed to support Navy requirements beyond 2020
  • Update the 2015 environmental impact analyses to account for changes to Navy requirements resulting from the development, testing, and introduction of new vessels and weapons systems that will become operational by 2025
  • Update environmental analyses from the 2015 Final EIS/OEIS by continuing to use the best available science and most current analytical methods to re-evaluate the potential effects of military readiness activities on the marine environment

Training and testing activities proposed in the Supplemental EIS/OEIS are generally consistent with those activities analyzed in the previous EIS/OEIS and approved in the 2016 Record of Decision, and earlier environmental planning documents. Below are some key updates to be made.

In the Supplemental EIS/OEIS, the Navy will:

  • Include a No Action Alternative in which proposed training and testing activities would not be conducted and Marine Mammal Protection Act authorization would not be issued by NMFS
  • Include analyses of increases in testing of some new vessels and weapons systems, and decreases in other testing activities
  • Include analyses of both increases and decreases in the annual occurrence of certain activities
  • Recategorize or rename some testing activities to be consistent with Navy testing activity categories
  • Include improved acoustic models, updated marine mammal and sea turtle densities, and updated marine species criteria and thresholds based on NMFS’s 2016 guidance
  • Update the environmental analysis using current best available science and analytical methods
  • Review procedural mitigations, where appropriate, and consider geographic mitigation, where applicable

Proposed training and testing activities are similar to those that have been occurring in the Study Area for decades.