San Francisco says no to Marines' high-tech exercise

San Francisco this week slammed the door on a Marine Corps proposal to use neighboring national parklands as the site for a major military exercise designed to test cutting-edge information technologies in an urban environment.

The National Park Service, which oversees much of the land earmarked for the exercise, turned down the Marines' request for a permit to conduct the exercise because of environmental and safety concerns.

In a letter obtained by Federal Computer Week, B.J. Griffin, general manager of the Presidio in San Francisco, told the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab that the plan for Urban Warrior "presents a very complex, high-profile project that differs greatly in scale from that originally presented to us."

Known as Urban Warrior, the exercise was scheduled to take place in March along portions of the coastal areas of San Francisco and throughout various buildings of the Presidio, a military base turned over to the National Park Service in 1997. The Marines developed Urban Warrior to address the inability of standard command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) systems to overcome interference caused by concrete walls, phone lines, electronic devices and urban structures.

"We determined that [Urban Warrior] was of such a large scale that it was no longer consistent with the mission of the National Park Service," a spokesperson for the service said.

In her letter, Griffin argued that the proposed landings at Baker Beach "will attract a far larger number of spectators than can be accommodated or controlled."

In addition, the Park Service's Advisory Commission yesterday passed a resolution recommending that the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes the Park Service and the Presidio Trust, "not support [the exercise] occurring on Park Service or Presidio land," according to the spokesperson.

A spokesperson for the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, Va., said the Marine Corps had scaled down the exercise from the original plans and is willing to add additional personnel and resources to ensure the safety of endangered species and other sensitive areas of the environment. As a result of the Park Service's decision, the Marine Corps has moved its proposed landing site from Baker Beach to a nearby Coast Guard beach and is looking for alternative locations for other portions of the exercise.

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