2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Aimee Houghton <aimeeh@cpeo.org>
Date: 12 Nov 2003 16:43:35 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Senate Passes Defense Authorization Act
Last week the House passed the FY2004 Defense Authorization Act and yesterday the Senate enacted the same language. In so doing Congress has provided the Department of Defense with exemptions that are ultimately broader than what the Department initially requested.

According to statements made by Senator Levin on the Senate floor the conference committee last longer than any in recent history--147 days. The extended duration was due, in large part, to the difference of opinion on the environmental provisions. If the Senate had refused to give in on the House position there would not have been a conference report but according to Levin they simply did not have the votes to carry our that strategy.

For the full text of the please go to pages 64-68 on the following link:

A portion of Senator Levin's comments appear below:

"In the course of the conference, we offered a long series of possible
compromises on the threshold test. We suggested that DOD at least show that
the INRMP provided a ``reasonable benefit'' for endangered species, or
``appropriate protection'' for endangered species--flexible tests that would
have given the administration broad discretion to balance military readiness
concerns against environmental protection concerns.

We were met with a complete stone wall. We were told that while the Pentagon
would of course be ``reasonable'' and take ``appropriate'' steps, these words
could not be put into statute. Any adjective, we were told, would subject the
Department of Defense to ``litigation risk.'' Of course, the only standard
that raises no litigation risk is a standard that imposes no obligation. That
appears to be the course that is administration has chosen when it comes to
environmental issues.

Similarly, on the Marine Mammal Protection Act, I believe that the Navy has
some legitimate concerns about the application of the current statute, but I
was concerned that the language in the House bill went too far in trying to
address those concerns. As I read that language, the Navy would not even be
required to seek a permit under the Marine Mammal Protection Act unless its
activities would disturb marine mammals populations to such a significant
extent that there are reproductive or survival implications for the species.
If for some reason this weren't enough, and a permit wasn't granted, the
provision would allow the complete exemption of activities that would have an
even greater adverse impact on marine mammals.

I offered to work with the Navy to try to reach agreement on more balanced
language that would still address the Navy's concerns. The Navy initially
encouraged such discussions, but the Department of Defense soon began to
reject any change to the House language. As was the case with the Endangered
Species Act, the Administration rejected every proposal that could have
garnered broad bipartisan support in favor of an approach that would impose
virtually no obligation at all on the Department of Defense to be
environmentally responsible. I am concerned that this approach could result
in real and unnecessary harm to marine mammals and a serious backlash against
the Navy--which could undermine critical readiness activities in the long

Aimee R. Houghton
Associate Director, CPEO
1101 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20036
tel: 202-452-8039; fax: 202-452-8095
Email: aimeeh@cpeo.org

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