Acquisition of Properties and Settling of Claims on White Sands Missile Range, NM

PLRD-83-31: Published: Jan 14, 1983. Publicly Released: Jan 14, 1983.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed Department of Defense (DOD) actions in acquiring properties and settling ranchers' claims on the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Specifically, GAO was asked to consider whether: (1) DOD is complying with the law concerning compensation for condemned property; (2) DOD is providing fair assessments of property values, including the value of any improvements; and (3) the Government or DOD is liable for any breach of contract due to the manner in which lease and suspension agreements have been terminated.

GAO found that the ranchers made claims for compensation which have, for the most part, been settled either through voluntary agreements or condemnation court cases. Until 1970, the Government paid compensation to the ranchers under lease and suspension agreements. The Army initiated negotiations in 1970 for leasing the private and State lands for another 10 years. Some ranchers then entered into voluntary leases, and the Army obtained leasehold interests in the remaining ranching units through condemnation for a term of 1 year beginning in 1970 and renewable for yearly terms until 1980. Because most of the questions raised involve legal matters which have been or are being addressed by the courts, it was not appropriate for GAO to evaluate and reach conclusions on these issues.

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