2002 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 7 Feb 2002 21:47:28 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: Re: [CPEO-MEF] HASC Readiness Subcommittee to Hold Encroachment Hearings
I want to underscore the significance of the announcement, posted
earlier today, that the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed
Services Committee plans March 14 hearings on "Encroachment." The
Defense Department appears to be moving to take advantage of its current
popularity to propose a series of revisions of environmental laws,
weakening established protections where they appear to conflict with
training and other domestic military operations. The long list of
environmental laws to be discussed suggest a full-court press either to
seriously revise the nation's environmental protection system and/or to
elevate the military above the laws with which all other Americans must comply.

Following last years' hearings on Encroachment, the Department initiated
one or more internal studies of the problem. One of the goals of those
studies was to develop legislative solutions. Reportedly, Deputy Defense
Secretary Paul Wolfowitz elevated and fast-tracked that effort. It's
quite possible that the Department has already developed, internally, a
legislative package addressing each of the statutes mentioned in the announcement.

The Department is supposed to coordinate such legislative proposals with
other federal agencies, some of which are likely to oppose or at least
criticize them. That is, the Administration as a whole, not individual
departments and agencies, is supposed to submit legislation to Congress.
The other agencies are likely to be concerned both about the
environmental and public health impacts of the proposals and about the
reduction of their regulatory authority, so one expects that a unified
administration position would differ significantly from the Defense package.

This hearing appears to be a mechanism through which the Congressional
critics of environmental laws can pry loose the Defense Department
recommendations before they have been modified within the executive
branch. Then members of Congress who genuinely believe that military
training is suffering from serious encroachment, as well as those who
simply see the military's needs as a way to weaken environmental
regulation in general, can write legislation that has not been approved
by other agencies and departments.

This one-sided approach is going to create an adversarial climate, in
which environmental organizations and other supporters of existing
environmental protections fight pitched battles with the military.
Organizations likely to raise questions about the military's proposals,
such as states, local governments, tribes, and environmental groups,
have not been invited to testify. There's a better way to take on these issues.

We haven't seen the legislative package yet, but the Defense Department
appears to be pursuing a legislative solution without first trying a
more cooperative approach. Other than at a few installations, it is not
promoting cooperative problem-solving as a way to protect simultaneously
the environment and enhance training opportunities. Yet other agencies,
other levels of government, and environmental organizations have
indicated their willingness to develop solutions. But the military
hasn't invited them to the table.

This is particularly unfortunate because the greatest threat to training
is not environmental protection but urban sprawl. The groups likely to
rally around the environmental laws could be the allies of the military
in devising ways to limit sprawl in ways that protect the environment
and allow the military to do its job. If the military and its
"supporters" in Congress really want to address encroachment, they'll
take the more cooperative path.


Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 222B View St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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