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'Area 51' Last Of Secret Military Bases

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'Area 51' Last Of Secret Military Bases


Copyright c 1998

Copyright c 1998 Scripps Howard


(August 5, 1998 00:30 a.m. EDT - Many people who believe in UFO's also believe "Area 51" is where the Air Force keeps its stockpile of captured flying saucers.


And maybe an autopsied alien body or two.


Others believe the military base in the southern Nevada desert is the testing grounds for America's most secret military machines, everything from the F-117 stealth fighter to electromagnetic pulse weapons that would make Buck Rogers nervous.


What is certain is that there is something out there in that moonscape property north of Las Vegas. Officially designated the "Nellis Air Force Bombing and Gunnery Range" on Nevada maps, the federally protected territory in Nye, Lincoln and Clark counties covers an area equal to Rhode Island and Connecticut combined.


What also is certain is that more than 1,850 federal civilian workers are employed in mostly well-compensated jobs at several ultra-high-security facilities in and near the range, according to a Scripps Howard News Service analysis of government payroll records maintained by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.


"This really is one of the last big secret military bases in the United States. It used to be that the Air Force tried to pretend that Area 51 didn't exist at all," said Jeff Moag, a researcher for the National Security News Service based in Washington.


The Air Force last year conceded the existence of the base and its position along dried-up Groom Lake when it released a publication that suggested experimental Cold War-era aircraft could have been mistaken for flying saucers. At a Pentagon press briefing, Air Force Col. John Hanes was asked about Area 51.


"If you are talking about Groom Lake, Nevada ... quite frankly, I have no knowledge or expertise in the matter," Hanes said. "I understand there are classified things that go on there. And that's all I have to say about it."


Whatever they do in the Nellis Bombing Range, they continue to do it under the Clinton administration.


There were exactly 2,000 civilian employees of the departments of Defense, Army, Navy, Air Force and Energy in the Nellis Bombing Range area as of Sept. 30, 1992. Five years later, and despite massive job layoffs ordered by President Clinton as part of his government reinvention policies, there were 1,851 employees still working there.


The payroll records show that the Department of Energy, which has control of the nation's stockpile of nuclear bombs, employs 32 people in the town of Mercury, Nev., the only city inside the bombing range. This town can be found on most maps but is not counted in the U.S. Census.


Some or all of these people may be employed as part of Energy's Yucca Mountain project, a plan to open an underground repository to deposit America's used nuclear fuel.


Non-government military observers for several years have said they believe that hundreds, or thousands, of military and civilian workers who are employed in the desert facilities take daily flights from Las Vegas airfields into the base. The computer records appear to confirm this.


The Department of Energy officially employs a total of 448 people in the Las Vegas area, even though there are no known federal projects in the city that could justify such employment. The Air Force has 1,068 civilian employees there, some of whom certainly work at Nellis Air Force Base.


But more suspect are the 166 civilian employees of the departments of Defense and Army, the 156 Environmental Protection Agency workers, the 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency employees and at least two representatives of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff. Some of these people work in the still classified operations conducted inside the bombing range.


Among the most popular occupations for this workforce are "miscellaneous administration," "secretary," "general engineering," "general physical sciences" and "management programming."


The average salary for the Department of Energy personnel last year was nearly $59,000 a year, well above average for a federal employee. The payroll for all of the civilian workers in the area totaled $80.6 million.


The analysis found that federal cutbacks that have removed nearly 16 percent of the civilian federal workforce and about 20 percent of the military during the Clinton administration has been especially mild in the area around Groom Lake. Slightly more than 7 percent of this civilian federal workforce in southern Nevada declined from 1992 to 1997.


By THOMAS HARGROVE, Scripps Howard News Service



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