2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 7 Nov 2003 21:18:01 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Blumenauer's statement on Defense Act
Statement of Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon)
H.R. 1588: Department of Defense Authorization Conference Report
November 7, 2003

I spoke against this bill when it was on the House Floor and,
unbelievably, it's gotten worse in Conference.  I am frustrated that on
the week before Veterans Day, the conference report keeps moving further
away from what the military, veterans, and Americans need. The most
fundamental function of our national government is the defense of our
nation.  Today, this function is more important, and we are spending
more on national defense than ever before.  The conference report that
we are debating this morning carries a $401.3 billion price tag, which
means that the United States will be spending over a billion dollars a
day, and more on our military than do the next 25 nations combined. 
This bill certainly spends enough to do the job, however it is full of
provisions that not only waste tax dollars, but even threaten Americans'
health and safety.  

I am pleased that the Defense Authorization bill starts to reduce the
tax on disabled Veterans, which is long overdue.  However, I am
disappointed that the bill would only partially end the tax - leaving
out two-thirds of military retirees affected by the tax and forcing
those covered to wait 10 years for full benefits.  

I am also extremely disappointed that the conferees chose to eliminate
the 1993 ban on low-yield nuclear weapons.  The House bill allowed
research but maintained the ban on development activities that could
lead to the production of a destabilizing and unnecessary new low-yield
nuclear weapon.  However, conferees accepted the Senate language that
also allowed research but eliminated the ban.  Fortunately,
Congressional approval is required before these dangerous weapons can be
produced, and I hope that this never occurs.  Producing a new generation
of low-yield nuclear weapons increases the likelihood they will be used
in conflict, breaking a taboo that has been in place since World War II.
 Developing new types of nuclear weapons sends the wrong message to
other nations.  America must lead by example if the threat of nuclear
weapons is going to be eliminated.  

This bill is a missed opportunity to focus on real priorities.  The
anti-environmental provisions in this bill are especially frustrating. 
Instead of addressing real threats to readiness, the administration and
the Republicans in Congress are taking on an easier target, dolphins.
Using defense as cover, they are proposing changes to environmental laws
that have nothing to do with defense readiness. 

As the largest owner of infrastructure in the world and also the biggest
polluter, the Department of Defense should be setting the best example,
not getting permission from Congress to cut corners on the protection of
the environment and the health of our communities.

The Conference Report includes modified House language that would
prohibit designation of critical habitat under the Endangered Species
Act if the Secretary of the Interior determines that the Integrated
Natural Resources Management Plan prepared by the Secretary of Defense
will provide "a benefit" for endangered and threatened species on
military lands. However, there is no definition of "benefit."

We have seen that critical habitat designation is not the problem on
military lands.  This conference report misses the real threat to
military readiness: encroachment of development around bases. This is
the same sprawl and unplanned growth that threatens our farms and
forestlands, pollutes our air and water, and congests our roadways, and
this is the real threat to our ability to train and maintain the world's
mightiest fighting force. 

Across the country, from Ft. Stewart, Georgia, to Camp Pendleton,
California, development is threatening the armed forces' ability to fly
planes, maneuver and conduct other readiness activities. This has led
the State of California to pass their Senate bill 1468 which recognizes
the long-term operations of military installations must involve a
partnership between the State, local agencies and the Federal
Government.  It provides the military, environmental organizations and
local planning agencies the tools to work together to fight common
enemies of military readiness like suburban sprawl. But this proposal is
completely absent from the legislation coming before us. 

The Conference Report also retains controversial House language that
would reduce protections for marine mammals.  New language, added in
conference, would also apply the weakened standards to any research
activities by the Federal government (or contractors), creating a double
standard as current law would continue to apply to citizens and the
private sector.   

In addition, key conservation terms of the Marine Mammal Protection Act
are altered in order to overturn a recent Federal court of appeals
decision regarding the impacts of Navy sonar technology.  The bill
allows the Department to exempt itself from what's left of the Marine
Mammal Protection Act for anything necessary for national defense. It
excludes any meaningful involvement of the wildlife agencies, the
States, Congress and the public in review of these exemptions. This
contradicts language passed unanimously this week by the Resources
Committee -- the House committee with exclusive jurisdiction over the
MMPA -- which does not contain any special standards or exemptions for
DOD.  This has raised the ire of both Democratic and Republican
Resources Committee Members participating in the Conference. 

Not only are these provisions harmful, they are also unnecessary. Under
current law the Department can already waive environmental laws when
it's necessary for national security. There has never been a case where
a waiver has not been granted for military necessity.

The defense authorization bill is also wrong on a very fundamental
level. It is missing an opportunity to use the Department of Defense to
set the highest standards. Given adequate resources and the right
orders, our Department of Defense can achieve any mission. We are
missing that opportunity. As the wealthiest and most powerful country in
the world, we ought to be able to figure out how to better address this
problem without compromising the environmental survival of what we are
fighting to protect. 

It is arrogant and hypocritical to let the Federal Government off the
hook for environmental regulations.  We will impose them on small
business or local governments but not on us ourselves. 

I oppose this conference report because we are spending too much on the
wrong things and not enough on strategies that will make our Department
of Defense more sustainable over time.  The spending is too heavy on
weapons research and too light on relieving the stress on our fighting
forces.  We can and must do a better job shaping our Nation's defense

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