upper waypoint

Near $1 Billion Land Purchase Around California Air Base Under Investigation

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

A jet is parked on a tarmac. Another airplane takes off in the sky in the background. It's daytime.
A KC-10 Extender is parked on the ramp as a C-5M Super Galaxy takes off at Travis Air Force Base in Solano County, March 16, 2017.  (Hum Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Federal authorities are investigating a mysterious investment firm that bought nearly $1 billion worth of land surrounding Travis Air Force base, a prominent military base in Solano County.

Since 2018, Flannery Associates purchased 50,000 acres of agricultural land adjacent to Travis Air Force Base, the Wall Street Journal reports, located about halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento in Solano County. Little is known about the investment firm. But local and federal policymakers say they are concerned about potential national security threats.

“They now surround three sides of Travis Air Force Base, which is a critical national security asset. That has raised significant concern for the Air Force,” Rep. John Garamendi (D-California), whose district includes the airbase, told KQED. “No one has been able to figure out where the $900 million has come from to purchase all the land in the area and what their intent is.”


The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Treasury Department and the Department of Defense are all now investigating the group and its investments, Garamendi said. But because Flannery is incorporated in Delaware, a state with strong legal protections to shield corporate ownership, those probes have not yet uncovered who is behind the group.

Travis Air Force base contains the largest wing of the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command with aircraft regularly departing the site to send munitions to Europe and Ukraine. It’s “the Gateway to Europe and the Pacific,” Garamendi said.

In May, Flannery filed a lawsuit against (PDF) a handful of the family farms that the group wanted to buy up, alleging they were conspiring to hike up prices and deter a sale. But, Garamendi said, Flannery has already paid an unusually high amount for the dry, agricultural grazing land that it did buy.

“Flannery’s purchases are surrounding Travis Air Force Base, one of the most significant national security sites in our country, and it’s been devastating to family farmers due to related lawsuits,” Rep. Mike Thompson, whose district includes parts of Solano County, told KQED. “I will continue to work with local and federal partners to ensure that the concerns of our community are addressed and that we protect our national and food security.”

Flannery purchased land where the majority of wind turbines in Solano County are located, along with other critical electrical transmission lines.

Fueling the lawmakers’ concerns are recent attempts by Chinese companies to build a corn mill adjacent to the Grand Forks Air Base in North Dakota, another high-security base from which military aircraft take off for missions around the world.

More on Politics

The project was initially boosted as an economic driver for the region, but has since halted after Air Force officials wrote to local government leaders with security concerns (PDF) that the mill could be used to spy on the Air Force. The company denied those accusations, The New York Times reported.

There’s no evidence so far to suggest Flannery has ties with China, but little is known about the group at all.

“The lawyer representing the company says not to worry, these are American investors and a couple Europeans,” Garamendi said. “We just don’t know. And until we know, we will remain very concerned.”

Lawmakers in nearly two dozen other states have passed or are seeking to pass legislation in recent years limiting farmland Chinese investors from purchasing U.S. farmland.

Earlier this month, Thompson introduced legislation (PDF) to strengthen protections and reporting structures around national security sites, infrastructure and farmland. The bill would authorize the U.S. Department of the Treasury Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to review certain foreign investment transactions to evaluate security risk for all land purchases — except some real estate like single housing units — by foreign adversary entities. It would also expand the list of types of sites under the CFIUS to include all military facilities, intelligence sites, laboratories and other defense-funded research sites.

The bill is co-sponsored by Mike Gallagher, Chairman of the Select Committee on Strategic Competition, between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party.

“Protecting national security and food security go hand in hand in our region — which is why it is vital to know who owns land around national security sites,” Rep. Thompson said in a press release when the legislation was announced. “The bipartisan legislation I am introducing with Chairman Gallagher will help identify foreign actors who are seeking to purchase land near military installations while maintaining food security throughout our country.”

lower waypoint
next waypoint