2002 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 18 Jul 2002 01:53:51 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] RRPI Update
I prepared the following article for the forthcoming July edition of the
Citizens' Report on the Military and the Environment. It contains my
most up-to-date information on the "encroachment" debate.




In April, 2002, following discussions and compromises with other federal
agencies, the Department of Defense submitted to Congress a legislative
package that it called the Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative
(RRPI). Reportedly developed at the request of the highest levels of
Pentagon political leadership, the package targeted several obstacles to
military training, flight operations, and other readiness activities.

By the time Congress recessed for the July 4 holiday, most of the
controversial provisions in the Department of Defense (DoD) proposal had
been dropped, at least for the year. The Senate Defense Authorization
bill contains only the two consensus provisions for funding the
protection of habitat. The House version retains those sections,
Pentagon language dealing with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the
Endangered Species Act, and a section proposed by Congressman James
Hansen (R-Utah) to allow military overflights in Utah wilderness areas.
The fate of those three proposals will be determined by a Senate-House
conference committee later this summer.

When the Defense Department proposed the RRPI, many observers
anticipated easy passage. U.S. troops are engaged in combat in distant
lands. The Department repeated its need to train as it fights. It warned
that the unconventional wars we now expect require new tactics,
capabilities, and ways of thinking. (See the Defense Department's
Talking Points at http://www.cpeo.org/pubs/Readiness%20TPs%20%20Messages%204-19.doc.)

However, the proposal triggered a rapid mobilization by environmental
organizations, many of which rarely pay any attention to Defense
legislation, their allies in Congress, and state environmental
officials. The environmental groups wrote, "The American people have
long supported these important environmental and public health laws that
already include exemptions to address national security interests.
Additional exemptions are not necessary. They would undermine the role
of states that administer pollution control laws, and local communities
that are directly impacted by DOD operations. No federal agency should
be granted special reprieve from the laws which individuals and
businesses are required to adhere."

In the months following release of the RRPI, the Defense Department was
unable to convince Congress that most of the laws it addressed required
urgent amendment. However, the proposals are far from dead. In opposing
RRPI, critics argued that such complex changes in existing legislation
requires longer, more careful deliberation, and that changes in
environmental legislation should come from the committees with primary
jurisdiction over those laws. These process issues can easily be
resolved over the next year, and both proponents and opponents may have
to address the RRPI on its merits next year.

Some observers, including experienced Defense Department staff, suggest
that the Department has expended significant effort and political
capital with little to show for it, even if the remaining House
provisions are enacted. By going after so many environmental laws at
once, it has antagonized most of the environmental community, including
many environmental leaders and organizations that are generally
sympathetic to the military.

On the other hand, the Pentagon did get everyone's attention. In the
past, Pentagon environmental issues have usually been addressed by
Congressional staff and covered only by the trade press. RRPI earned the
direct attention of top Congressional leaders, and it was covered by the
national press. To the extent that the military convinces people that
its proposals reasonably address real threats to military readiness, it
may soon win many of the reforms that it seeks.

We at CPEO have devoted a great deal of effort to researching not only
the RRPI, but the site-specific conflicts that led the Defense
Department to assemble the package. We have covered the issues and
received feedback from all sides on our Military Environmental Forum
listserver, and we have posted key documents on our web page,
http://www.cpeo.org. We have also met privately with Defense officials
and staff, environmental movement leaders, state officials, members of
Congress and their staff, reporters, and others.

We believe there is a constructive path forward, based upon the
following points:

1. Both urban sprawl and environmental regulation are placing growing
constraints on training and other domestic military operations. We
believe, as uniformed officers have told Congress, that nationwide
sprawl represents a more significant constraint than environmental regulation.

2. Some of the harshest critics of the RRPI, including environmental
regulators and environmental activists, consider sprawl a threat to our
quality of life, economy, and natural environment.

3. A cooperative, problem-solving approach has succeeded at a number of
bases, and it has helped the Defense Department better manage its
operational munitions ranges. But no one has convened a "dialogue" to
address most of the issues raised by the RRPI proposals as well as
similar questions highlighted by military officers in a series of
Congressional hearings.

We repeat, therefore, our proposal that the Defense Department work with
other concerned parties to convene a problem-solving dialogue on
"Encroachment," or as we would call it, the "Sustainable Management of
Training and Other Military Readiness Activities." We understand that
the Department is considering such an approach. Now is the time to take
action, before the next round of legislative debate begins.

A dialogue will not resolve all conflicts between training and the
environment or military readiness and urban growth, but it is likely to
accomplish much more than unilateral efforts to modify environmental
laws. Furthermore, as the various parties learn to work together, they
may come up with consensus legislative recommendations.

In the long run, the U.S. government will be able to protect both our
national security and our health, safety, and natural environment if we
are able to craft a compromise. Urban planning (or the lack thereof) and
environmental protection should not prevent the military from carrying
out the missions that our national political process calls upon it to
achieve, but the military must continue to accept that there will always
be constraints, environmental and other, on its activities.


RRPI By Section

Here is a point-by-point summary of what remains of RRPI in the House
Defense Authorization bill, as well as what was dropped by the Armed
Services Committee.

Section 2017(a). Critical Habitat for Threatened and Endangered Species.
The Committee retained but modified the Defense Department language,
designed to allow the military to use completion of an Integrated
Natural Resources Management Plan to preclude the designation of
Critical Habitat.

Section 2017(b). Migratory Birds. In the wake of the court decision
enjoining Navy bombing in the Northern Marianas, the Committee included
the Defense Department language to allow the destruction of bird habitat
by military readiness activities.

Section 2017(c). Marine Mammals. The Committee decided not to include
this language, which would have eased the definition of "harassment" of
marine mammals, in the bill.

Section 2018. Conformity with State Implementation Plans for Air
Quality. The committee dropped this provision, too. It would have
weakened the requirements for military compliance with the Clean Air

Section 2019. Range Management and Restoration. The committee did not
adopt this language, either. It was designed to clarify limits on RCRA
(Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) and CERCLA (Comprehensive
Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act) regulation of
operational military munitions ranges. Critics, however, argued that it
would also impact the regulation of munitions and explosive constituents
on former ranges, as well as contamination likely to migrate off range.

Sections 2020 and 2021. Agreements with Private Organizations to Address
Encroachment and Other Constraints on Military Training, Testing, and
Operations; and Conveyance of Surplus Real Property for Natural Resource
Conservation Purposes. These two provisions, to authorize the Defense
Department to spend money and transfer property to protect habitat or
other environmental resources, sailed through without opposition.

Hansen Amendment. This amendment, to allow overflights and other
military actions in Utah wilderness areas, passed the Committee after a
divisive debate. It was not included in the official Defense legislative proposal.


Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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