There are Chinese spying stations going up in Cuba, less than 100 miles from key military installations in Florida. Now we learn that a company, clouded in mystery, is buying land at the fence of Travis Air Force Base (AFB), just northeast of San Francisco. A real estate enterprise, Flannery Associates LLC, has been purchasing parcels of land adjacent to the perimeter fence of America’s largest Air Mobility Command installation, home to the 60th Air Mobility Wing. Since 2018, Flannery Associates has bought rangeland in Solano County and invested over $800 million in dry farmland. The firm is incorporated in Delaware and located in Folsom, CA, but learning who is associated with it and who the investors are has proven elusive. The situation resembles China’s attempt to grab land around Grand Forks, ND, where sensitive communications and strategic surveillance aircraft are based. In the case of Grand Forks, the local citizens would have none of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) desire to become neighbors. The deal was shut down.
Representative John Garamendi (D-CA) discussed the land purchases around Travis AFB in his district. “Somebody buys a piece of land, OK, no big deal. Suddenly, it’s not one piece of land; it’s multiple pieces of land; suddenly it’s all around Travis Air Force Base,” Garamendi told a Fox News local affiliate. “I’m very, very concerned because we cannot find out what’s going on. This is unusual, very unusual.” Looking at where the parcels of land are, it’s understandable the congressman would be perturbed. Travis AFB covers an area of nearly 6,500 acres with $11 billion in total resources. Over 10,000 active and reserve military men and women serve on the base.
Spies at the Gates of Travis Air Force Base?
A string of land parcels surrounds the Air Force Base. If America’s adversaries are behind the real estate deal, observers could easily sit on their land and take in all the flying operations and training events, as well as military exercise preparation and execution. One could determine how long it takes during a contingency to alert and launch the 60th Wing aircraft, which includes the Air Force’s largest cargo aircraft, the C-5M Super Galaxy, as well as the KC-10 Extender aerial refueling planes, the versatile and reliable C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane, and the newest aerial refueling tanker, the KC-46A Pegasus. By surveilling the Air Force Base from outside the fence, enemies could determine how ground operations are conducted. The land surrounding Travis provides excellent vantage points.
What makes the land purchases around Travis AFB unusual is the size of the deal and the fact that no one seems to know much about the company doing the buying. The Wall Street Journal explained:
“The Air Force’s Foreign Investment Risk Review Office has been investigating Flannery’s purchases of roughly 52,000 acres, including around Travis Air Force Base, according to people familiar with the matter. But the office, which has been looking into the matter for about eight months, has yet to be able to determine who is backing the group, one of the people said.”
“An attorney representing Flannery said it is controlled by US citizens and that 97% of its invested capital comes from US investors, with the remaining 3% from British and Irish investors,” the WSJ reported. Additionally, “The Flannery attorney declined to provide more details about Flannery’s investors. Local and federal officials also say they have been unable to learn the identities of those in the Flannery group.” Open Kimono is always the best policy when working with the government. Because Flannery Associates chooses to be opaque about its investors and business intentions, the impression of nefarious activities should be expected.
It’s What China Does
China has been working overtime to gain a foothold into America’s business base, universities, culture, and research and development institutions to influence the US national security policy and economic future. In April of this year, when residents of one Michigan community discovered that China was underwriting a PRC-owned industrial plant, the plan drove outrage among the local citizens. “Former Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon weighed in on the issue during an appearance on ‘Fox & Friends First,’ arguing that the residents have been exponentially enraged because lawmakers seemingly ‘don’t understand the threat’ of the Chinese Communist Party’s new manufacturing plant,” according to Fox News. “One resident made the outrage known during a town hall meeting, telling lawmakers they may as well ‘put up the Chinese flag,’” Fox reported.
For years, Americans saw China as a collegial competitor presenting a win-win financial playing field. That was not the case then and it is not the case now. The CCP is a threat and will use any tool to corrupt the military and economic capability of the US. Spying on US military installations by buying surrounding real estate is definitely an arrow in its quiver.
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