GENERAL JOHN M. KEANE
VICE CHIEF OF STAFF
UNITED STATES ARMY
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. Thank you for this opportunity to present the Army’s perspective on the Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative (RRPI).
The exceptional performance of our units in Afghanistan clearly indicates that The Army is fully prepared to meet our full-spectrum obligation to fight and win the Nation’s wars, whenever and wherever the nation calls. Our success to date, and our ultimate victory in this war and future wars, is dependant upon highly trained Soldiers and units who are proficient in the employment of their equipment. The only way to achieve the requisite level of individual and collective competency is through repetitive, challenging, and realistic live-fire and maneuver training – training that melds soldiers and equipment into a combat ready unit.
Maneuver land and live-fire ranges are an indispensable element to this process. The Army’s ranges, as well as those of our sister Services, provide opportunities to develop and improve our Soldiers’ proficiency, competence, and confidence in the use of sophisticated weapons systems. We must retain those resources that allow our forces to maintain the level of readiness that the American people have come to expect, and deserve – and without which we will not be adequately prepared to defend America. For this reason, the Army has committed significant resources to the preservation of its lands and, in the process, amassed a record of good stewardship of the environment.
Despite The Army’s commitment to preservation, externally-driven factors, such as urban sprawl, management of threatened and endangered species, and the expanding application of environmental laws to live-fire activities have the ability to constrain and introduce an unacceptable degree of artificiality to military training. In an effort to curb this trend, the Army has worked within the Administration to develop a set of proposals that clarify the application of several environmental laws to military testing and training.
The Administration would like to work together with Congress to improve the processes by which we manage environmental issues on Army and other DoD lands to ensure both realistic training for our Soldiers and protection of the land and resources. We will continue to work with the other federal agencies to ensure that as these proposals are adopted they are implemented in a manner that preserves our ability to maintain trained and ready forces and protect the environment in a manner consistent with Congressional intent.
The Army’s primary concerns are training restrictions that stem from urban sprawl, the resultant increase in Army responsibility to manage and protect threatened and endangered species, and the expanded application of environmental regulations to the use of military munitions.
When many of our installations were established, they were generally located in rural areas isolated from civilian populations. However, urban growth and development of land around our training facilities has changed that. Army installations, once far from public view, are now located in suburban and often in the midst of large urban areas.
Unchecked residential and community growth cause tension between military operations and neighboring communities over noise, dust, and other effects of Army training. Noise, for example, is a sensitive issue in communities surrounding Fort Drum, New York; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Lewis, Washington; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Stewart, Georgia; and Fort AP Hill, Virginia. Additionally, The Army faces a particular challenge in managing noise issues related to the Aviation School and its extended flight training areas over and around Fort Rucker, Alabama. As populations around these and other installations continue to grow, the Army expects other encroachment-related concerns to intensify.
RRPI contains two provisions that address the ability of the military departments to work in partnership with our neighbors to establish protective buffer zones around military installations. One provision allows military departments to enter into agreements with third parties – such as private conservation organizations – to prevent urban development that threatens testing and training. Another provision allows the Department of Defense to convey surplus property to a state or local government, or to nonprofit organizations that exist for the primary purpose of protecting open spaces and natural resources. The proposal allows the transfer of land only if it is used for conservation purposes in perpetuity. Both of these proposals would assist the Department of Defense in maintaining “buffer zones” between ranges and bases and urban areas, and preserve needed habitat for potentially imperiled species, lessening the need for legal restrictions. They serve both the interests of military readiness and environmental protection.
THREATENED AND ENDANGERED SPECIES AND HABITAT
While the Army has been very successful in conserving and protecting endangered species, two things are evident. First, as we focus our training missions and Transformation on specific installations, we find that endangered species restrictions already limit the use of a significant portion of the landscape. Second, as the habitat surrounding our installations is degraded by incompatible development, pressure on the Army to conserve habitat on post increases. These factors tend to restrict our access to needed training land, restrict the types of training activities that we can conduct on the land, and restrict the times and duration of training events conducted.
Army lands host 170 federally listed species on 94 installations. Critical habitat for listed species has been designated on 12 installations to include Fort Lewis, Washington and Fort Irwin, California – two installations that are critical to maintaining the war-fighting readiness of the Army. For example, at Fort Lewis 70 percent of the training land is designated as critical habitat for the threatened Northern Spotted Owl. Six of the 12 installations, including Fort Lewis, are as yet unoccupied by the species for which critical habitat is designated.
The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker in the Southeast United States affects four major installations (Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Benning, Georgia; and Fort Polk, Louisiana) and two major service school training installations (Fort Jackson, South Carolina; and Fort Gordon, Georgia). The training restrictions associated with the 200-foot buffers around each cavity tree include: no bivouacking or occupation for more than two hours; no use of camouflage; no weapons firing other than 7.62mm and .50 cal blank (e.g., no artillery, rockets, etc.); no use of generators, no use of riot agents; no use of incendiary devices; no use of smoke grenades; and no digging of tank ditches or fighting positions. During maneuver, vehicles cannot come closer than 50 feet to cavity trees.
The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker has benefited from the quality habitat provided by our installations’ lands that have been actively managed and insulated from urbanization, development, and commercial forestry practices in the region. The Army has committed significant resources to support conservation and recovery of the species. However, while The Army spent more than $45 million over the past 12 years on conservation management programs for Red Cockaded Woodpecker recovery, private developers adjacent to our installation have not made similar commitments.
At Fort Hood, Texas, the biological opinion issued under the Endangered Species Act for both the Golden Cheeked Warbler and the Black Capped Vireo, restricts training on over 66,000 acres (33 percent) of training land. These restrictions include no digging, no tree or brush cutting, and no “habitat destruction” throughout the year on the entire core and non-core area. From March through August, vehicle and dismounted maneuver is restricted to established trails, and halts in restricted areas are limited to two hours in designated endangered species “core areas” (46,620 acres of the 66,000 acres are designated “core areas”). Artillery firing, smoke generation, and riot control grenades are prohibited within 100 meters of the boundaries of the designated “core areas.” Use of camouflage netting and bivouac are prohibited across the entire “core area” during these months.
Protection of threatened and endangered species restricts training at many other Army installations. At Fort Huachuca, Arizona, for example, management of endangered bats and two other species restricts the types, timing, and locations of military activities. Listing of the Arroyo Southwestern Toad and designation of critical habitat may have serious effects on both land and air-based training. The southern corridor at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California, is designated critical habitat for the Desert Tortoise and 22,000 acres cannot be used for maneuver. This designation reduces the amount of training that can be conducted on the installation and limits maneuver training to the central corridor. Wendell Ford, Kentucky; Camp Grayling, Michigan; Camp Ripley, Minnesota; Camp Shelby, Mississippi; Camp Perry, Ohio; Camp Leesburg, South Carolina; and Orchard/Gowen Field, Indiana – all National Guard training facilities – experience training restrictions based on endangered species management. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently proposing to designate critical habitat for 146 plant species in Hawaii. These proposed designations will affect seven different training areas and are expected to have further adverse impacts in the form of additional training activity restrictions, administrative burden, and restricted access. This list is not exhaustive, but does illustrate that the Army feels the effects of this issue at many locations across the country.
Designation of critical habitat on Army installations adds management costs and reduces the availability of land on which to train. New designations require installations to enter into consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service and limit or cease training activities while consultation is conducted. Training restrictions can even apply when critical habitat is designated on military installations where species do not occur.
In addition to the RRPI’s real property acquisition and conveyance authorities, which allow for preservation of species habitat around Army installations, the RRPI contains a provision that specifically addresses the overlapping natural resource management requirements of the Endangered Species Act and the Sikes Act. The proposal provides that the existence of an approved Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan (INRMP), required under the Sikes Act and coordinated with the Fish and Wildlife Service, precludes the need to designate critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act. This has been the practice at a number of Army installations, but the Fish and Wildlife Service is being challenged in court for the practice.
INRMPs take a more holistic approach to managing natural resources. They strike a balance and integrate military training needs with natural resources management practices to ensure that both imperatives are met. Management under an INRMP, in lieu of critical habitat designation, allows Army commanders increased flexibility to use the land on the installation to meet changing mission needs.
EXTENSION OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS TO UNEXPLODED ORDNANCE AND MUNITIONS CONSTITUENTS
The development of our current environmental statutes and regulations addressing waste management, pollution elimination, and clean up of contamination did not take into account, nor foresee, application to military training lands and military weapon systems. The use of environmental statutes, such as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA), and the Safe Drinking Water Act to require investigation and cleanup of munitions and their constituents on operational military ranges will likely impact the Army’s ability to fulfill its national security mission by causing the shut down or disruption of live-fire training. A number of these statutes contain broad, discretionary enforcement thresholds that are based on the assessment of the environmental regulatory authority as to whether a given condition or activity presents a “potential” risk or “imminent” hazard to human health or natural resources. These assessments have resulted in added restrictions on the Army. While some of the environmental statutes provide for short-term national security exemptions (often at the Presidential level), these statutes contain few practical methods for consideration of the unique military readiness impacts of enforcement on military ranges. Clarification of the regulatory framework applicable to military training operations would be an appropriate manner in which to address the issue.
The Army at Fort Richardson, Alaska, is currently facing a lawsuit alleging violations of the Clean Water Act, RCRA, and CERCLA associated with firing munitions at Eagle River Flats range. The RCRA allegation is that munitions fired into or onto Eagle River Flats are RCRA statutory solid wastes that present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment. The CERCLA allegations are that the act of firing munitions onto an operational range and the continued presence of those munitions on the range constitute a release of hazardous substances potentially requiring reporting, characterization, and remediation.
If munitions used for their intended purpose are considered to be statutory solid waste, the Army could be forced to perform corrective action or remediation of Eagle River Flats. Live-fire training during the remediation would be impossible, and the only mortar and artillery impact area at Fort Richardson would be lost to training. The 172nd Infantry Brigade would be unable to conduct a large portion of its mission essential live-fire training operations.
If courts agree with the plaintiff, then live-fire training and testing operations at every Army range (more than 400) could be subject to CERCLA response requirements. Further lawsuits could compel the Environmental Protection Agency and state regulators in all U.S. regions to enforce the same standards on other military ranges. These findings would not only dramatically impact the readiness of the 172nd Infantry Brigade in Alaska, but the entire Department of Defense.
The RRPI contains provisions affecting both RCRA and CERCLA clarifying that live-fire training does not constitute disposal of hazardous waste or releases of hazardous substances, as these terms are used in RCRA and CERCLA. These proposals seek to codify the existing practice by the Environmental Protection Agency and state environmental regulatory agencies and remove ambiguity currently in the law. These proposals confirm that the clean up of military munitions is not required so long as munitions remain on operational ranges where they were fired. The policies governing clean up of munitions located off an operational range and munitions causing imminent danger on-range would remain unchanged – as would policies governing clean-up of former ranges and other defense sites. These provisions do not seek to avoid the Army’s responsibilities to clean-up formerly used defense sites or to protect the environment from potentially harmful impacts. These provisions seek to clarify and affirm existing policies and ensure that military ranges, set aside to allow live training and contain potential impacts, continue to be available to the soldiers that need to train for combat.
BALANCING MILITARY MISSION AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
The Army’s effort to preserve and protect effective training and testing has three components
1. Seek needed changes to laws and regulations: The Army advocates an environmental regulatory framework for military facilities that recognizes their uniqueness and allows for successful and protective environmental management. The lack of clarity in regulatory authorities and standards in existing laws limits the Army’s ability to plan, program, and budget for compliance requirements. We also advocate the empowerment of the Services to work off-post with private landowners, local governments, public agencies, and non-profit organizations to solve land use conflicts that threaten training.
2. Obtain resources to implement the Army’s Sustainable Range Program (SRP). SRP is the foundation for sustaining live fire and maneuver training and the environment on our ranges. The objective of SRP is to maximize the capability, availability, accessibility of ranges and land to support doctrinal training and testing requirements. SRP is based on three tenets. First, develop and maintain information excellence to have complete data on all aspects of our ranges, their operational characteristics as training facilities, their physical characteristics as real property, and their characteristics as part of the natural and cultural environment. Second, apply integrated management across the four disciplines that directly affect ranges: range operations and modernization; facilities and installation management; explosives safety; and environmental management. Third, establish an outreach campaign to inform decision-makers and the community and ensure that their concerns are identified and addressed. In this way we will improve public understanding of why the Army must conduct training and testing and how we are moving to a more sophisticated management approach. As we have in the past, The Army will continue to improve range operations, range modernization, state-of-the-art land and resource management, research on munitions effects and management of unexploded ordnance, and public outreach.
3. Support and foster cooperation among regulators and the military, emphasizing the need to balance military readiness concerns and environmental regulation. The Army believes that Congress should continue to recognize that the training required for Army readiness is a positive societal good and a legal mandate.
The Army is committed to its responsibility as an environmental steward for the 16.5 million acres America entrusts to us. However, we are equally committed to another precious resource that America entrusts to us – her sons and daughters. We are obligated to provide our soldiers with the most realistic training scenarios possible to fully prepare them for the rigors of war. Although The Army will never abandon its environmental responsibilities, we must have land to train.
Unless we can resolve several issues at our key training areas, we face the very real possibility that we will lose some of our critical training areas or, at a minimum, we will be forced to deny our soldiers the opportunity to participate in the number and kind of exercises required to retain perishable skills.
For 227 years, the Army has kept its covenant with the American people to fight and win our Nation’s wars. In all that time, we have never failed them, and we never will. Building and maintaining an Army is a shared responsibility between the Congress, the Administration, those in uniform, and the American people. Working with Congress, we will keep The Army ready to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Committee for allowing me to appear before you today. I look forward to discussing these issues with you.