Rep. Christopher Cox

Subcommittee on Energy & Air Quality

Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection

House Committee on Energy & Commerce

Joint Hearing on

Current Environmental Issues Affecting the Readiness of the Department of Defense

April 21, 2004

Thank you, Chairman. I am not here in the subcommittee devoted to issues such as energy and air quality or on the Energy and Commerce Committee. I am over at the Homeland Security Committee where we are asking different questions. I am concerned that it is all too easy to beat up on the Department of Defense for doing its job.

I am distressed that not a single word has been spoken this morning about winning the war on terror or about protecting Americans from deliberate attacks that would kill millions of our fellow citizens and, incidentally, destroy our environment perhaps for centuries if, for example, a dirty bomb were to spread microscopic plutonian through our air.

The question has been asked what is the problem. Is there really a hit to readiness from the application of our environmental laws designed for the civilian economy to war fighting. It should serve as a prima facie response to that question that, of course, there is a tradeoff with readiness when billions of dollars from our defense budget are devoted to mitigation of the environmental effects of war fighting, and when military trainers are required to apply to the President of the United States or the Secretary of Defense every time for a temporary exemption when they want to conduct a specific exercise.

The Department of Defense has asked Congress only to make clarifications to environmental law in order to provide flexibility for specific training activities that are necessary to maintain the Nation’s armed forces. This proposal, the Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative, was partially enacted by Congress when it passed the 2004 DOD authorization bill and today we are considering only those outstanding provisions affecting four areas of interest to our committee: RCRA, CERCLA, also known as Superfund, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Clean Air Act.

The training and testing fundamental to our military’s readiness requires far more flexibility than is currently provided. Technology today allows some of the soldiers battle field training to be conducted in computer simulators but there is no substitute for the kind of experience that can only be gained from realistic battlefield training. There is no substitute for training with weapons and equipment under battlefield conditions. Military training and testing activities aren’t only necessary, but frequent and regular. Military trainers should not have to apply to the President or the Secretary of Defense for individual temporary exemptions for every single exercise, particularly if the inevitable result is that the President would want to grant the exemptions in the interest of national security.

Manufacturing red tape only so that we can cut it does not come cheaply. It cost lives in the field whenever our soldiers are not fully and properly trained. Today’s bureaucratic red tape is an obstacle to regularized military training and it does impede our military’s effectiveness.

There can be no doubt that today’s Department of Defense takes environmental protection seriously, Mr. Chairman. Mr. DuBois and Mr. Cohen have worked closely with the Congress and with EPA, as Horinko will testify, to comply with existing laws. Both the Department of Defense and the EPA have shown a keen interest at minimizing environmental problems and they are investing more and more money each year in cleanup and in research and development of new technologies to prevent pollution.

I will simply say in closing, Mr. Chairman, that one instance of which I am particularly aware, the Department of Defense has worked closely with a company in Orange County, California, which I represent, Liquid Metal Technologies, to develop an alternative weapon, an alternative to depleted uranium emissions that have proven toxic, if not severely toxic. Because of the possibility of environmental impact, we are actually developing different weapons, in this case a weapon made from a tungsten composite alloy to lessen the impact on the environment. These are very, very significant investments that the taxpayer is making. I hope today’s hearing will help dispel some myths both about the specific reforms that the Department of Defense is requesting and about the need for them. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Serial No. 108–119

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