Legislation with bipartisan support is being considered to simplify the investigation process for land acquisitions near military bases. This proposed law emerges as a company named Flannery Associates, LLC, whose ownership remains undisclosed, has procured over 50,000 acres of land neighboring Travis Air Force Base, situated between San Francisco and Sacramento.
The identity of Flannery’s backers and their motives for purchasing the land remain a mystery. Some representatives, like John Garamendi, have publicly speculated that China might be involved.
As the land purchases came to light, representatives from California began to identify gaps in existing laws that hindered investigations into such activities.
According to Democratic representative Mike Thompson, “Currently, there’s a process by which any investment can be scrutinized for any type of foreign participation. We learned that the process and the laws that govern that have limitations.”
A bill, co-introduced by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin), “would empower the federal Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to block companies controlled by the governments of China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela from acquiring U.S. land,” reports ABC.
The bill’s aim is to address land sales near Air Force bases involving parties linked to China or undisclosed ownership.
Very little is known about Flannery. Registered in Delaware, its backers remain unidentified, although Flannery’s communications claim it to be “97% American.” The remaining 3% raises concerns, but what’s equally troubling is the uncertainty surrounding the identity of the 97% backers. Minimal information about Flannery is available online.
It’s the enigmatic nature of Flannery that has spurred the legislative efforts. Lawmakers are concerned due to the lack of information about Flannery’s intentions for the vast land holdings surrounding three sides of the military base.
Simultaneously, government officials are investigating potential Chinese malware targeting the U.S. military, intensifying worries about foreign adversaries and their potential connection to Flannery.
Thompson remarks, “This mysterious entity is unwilling to disclose to anyone, local, state, or federal what it is they’re doing and why they’re doing it. … I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Adding complexity, at least one Chinese firm has purchased land near Travis Air Force Base. Auburn Citizen reports, “Several other investment firms have purchased land near Travis Air Force Base – one of which has ties to China and experience with advanced coding.”
As of now, Flannery has not applied for any permits indicating the purpose of the acquired land. According to ABC7, the absence of permits implies no imminent development or change of land use. The land remains undeveloped, and its future remains uncertain.
To address these concerns, Thompson and Gallagher have introduced federal legislation to bolster investigations into land acquisitions near military bases, national security sites, and critical infrastructure.
Presently, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, overseen by the Department of Treasury, has the authority to review investments involving foreign participation. This legislation aims to expand their jurisdiction.
The proposed bill would grant significant authority to multiple governing bodies. It would give “the committee final authority over purchases by companies controlled by foreign adversaries and would for the first time give the secretary of agriculture a vote in those deliberations,” according to The Hill.
The bill would also establish a presumption of denial for deals involving parcels near military bases, recognized intelligence sites, national laboratories, and critical telecommunications nodes.