STATEMENT OF GENERAL MICHAEL. J. WILLIAMS
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS ASSISTANT COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS BEFORE COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
UNITED STATES SENATE
ON JULY 09, 2002
Chairman Jeffords, Senator Smith, and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you concerning the Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative. Your efforts on behalf of our men and women in uniform ensure that the Nation's military remains ready and that our service members and their families enjoy the quality of life that they deserve. It is my opinion that good quality of life begins with realistic training that will result in success on the battlefield and the ultimate return of your Marines home to their families.
I welcome the opportunity to offer testimony as the Committee considers the implications of encroachment. The Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative is fundamentally important to the Nation because encroachment is on the rise and if left unchecked will detrimentally impact the mission of our bases, stations, and ranges in the near term and threaten our future military readiness in the long term. At stake for your Marine Corps is the cost of success in combat. We must do all in our power to ensure that Marines, members of our sister Services, and service member families do not pay an unnecessarily high price for that success. Marines must train as they will fight and we require access to unencumbered sea, land, and airspace to properly conduct this training.
During the last sixteen months, Service witnesses have appeared before Congress to speak to encroachment issues at five different hearings: the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support of the Senate Armed Services Committee, 20 March 2001; the House Committee on Government Reform, 09 May 2001 and 16 May 2002; and the Subcommittee on Military Readiness of the House Armed Services Committee, 22 May 2001 and 08 March 2002. Thankfully, the Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative emerged as a result of these hearings where Marine Corps witnesses, among others, were afforded the opportunity to articulate in detail the Corps' position on the issue of encroachment.
The challenge of encroachment is clear, as is the importance of this hearing and the proposed Initiative. The absolute necessity of maintaining military readiness is beyond debate, and readiness depends upon quality training that realistically simulates combat conditions. The issue, then, is how to balance the demands of national security with environmental stewardship, which at times are competing but are often complimentary.
Most of the Marine Corps' bases and stations were established in remote areas prior to or during World War 11. Since then significant urban development has occurred around many of these installations. At the same time, our war fighting doctrine, weapon platforms, and tactics have evolved to counter new threats. The Marine Corps now requires greater standoff distances and larger maneuver areas. Simultaneously, our access to training resources is becoming more constrained, primarily as a result of growing populations around our bases and stations. The dramatic urban development near many of our installations has had numerous unintended consequences. For example, wildlife (often threatened or endangered species) seeks out our installations, as they are often the last remaining open spaces in areas otherwise overtaken by human habitation and use.
Previous testimony at the hearings referenced above provided compelling statements regarding; encroachment. The Marine Corps recognized, however, that evidence of negative encroachment impacts, though persuasive, were largely anecdotal. Consequently, the Marine Corps set out to establish quantitative data regarding this issue. Selecting Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California as the subject of the study, we examined encroachment impacts on a Marine Air Ground Task Force during the conduct of an amphibious landing. We relied upon established standards to measure the proficiency of Marines based upon the Individual Training Standards of their military occupational specialties. The performance of Marine units was assessed against long established standards based upon Mission Essential Task Lists.
We used these standards as the building blocks upon which we were able to quantify encroachment impacts. The study selected separate combat arms elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force to examine. Completion rates for each task were evaluated through extensive interviews with subject matter experts. Given that safety during training is paramount, and therefore certain types of training can be limited for safety purposes, the study concentrated on non-firing tasks (defined as all tasks that did not involve the use of live ammunition or explosives). In doing so, we avoided any concern that the study would confuse safety with encroachment issues.
The initial results of the Camp Pendleton Quantitative Study were surprising. Three combat arms elements were able to accomplish only 69 percent of established standards for non-firing field training. Endangered species were the largest contributing encroachment factor in this study. Figures 1 and 2 illustrate many of the restrictions along the Camp Pendleton coastline.
The analysis of this study continues, and additional data will be forthcoming. In the interim, Figure 3 is provided as a graphic example of the study's findings. I want to note that this study is not meant to identify the combat readiness of any particular Marine unit; instead, the study is a report card on Camp Pendleton's ability to provide the training environment necessary for Marines to complete their missions to task or standard. Marines who cannot get their training at Camp Pendleton must and do go elsewhere to train. Naturally, there are associated costs here, not only in terms of money but also in quality of life.
Naturally, evidence of negative encroachment impacts is not limited to the Camp Pendleton Quantitative Study. Perhaps the most sweeping example within the Marine Corps is the recent effort to designate critical habitat on 57% of the 125,000-acre Camp Pendleton and 65% of the 12,000-acre Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. The Marine Corps worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a scientifically and legally based policy that precluded the need to designate critical habitat on Miramar, and precluded the designation of critical habitat on the vast majority of Camp Pendleton. This matter is still subject to legal challenge by special interests groups. The Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative has within it a provision that would codify current Fish and Wildlife Service policy. Absent the passage of this specific provision, environmental litigation may still cause over 65% of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and over 50% of Camp Pendleton to be designated critical habitat.
As our legislative response to the Pendleton/Miramar critical habitat proposals demonstrate, clarification of existing law in accordance with Administration policy is the purpose of the Initiative. A roll back of the environmental stewardship responsibilities of the armed forces is not the intent of the Initiative. Rather, by clarifying relevant environmental statutes, the Initiative will enhance the ability of the armed forces to train properly for combat.
A military installation can be viewed as a "tale of two cities." On the one hand, our installations are comparable to many medium-sized cities, complete with populations of 50,000 residents, schools, wastewater treatment facilities, power plants, and a hospital. There are environmental responsibilities associated with each of these amenities, and we seek no relief from any of these responsibilities. A military installation, however, is also a military combat test and training center. The primary purpose of the military installation is to promote military readiness. No civilian city has a similar purpose. It is within the venue of military readiness, that we seek to address the impact of encroachment on combat readiness activities. Our goal is to establish the appropriate balance between our Title X responsibility to be combat ready at all times, and our additional environmental compliance and stewardship responsibilities. The Initiative's provisions are focused solely on readiness activities. Marine Corps activities unrelated to combat remain unchanged.
Encroachment has grown over time, and while each individual issue may not seem detrimental to our training mission, it is the cumulative effect of these, and the foreseeable increase in these encroachment pressures that has lead the Department of Defense to seek the clarifications of existing statutes.
Many of the measures included within the Department of Defense legislative proposal, and all of the provisions included within the House version of the 2002 Department of Defense Authorization Bill, are designed to maintain the status quo so that our training can continue at its current pace. For example, the migratory bird provision is designed to address a recent court opinion that would, if left unchecked, introduce a new requirement into the Migratory Bird Treaty Act regulatory framework not present in over 80 years of the Act's history. Similarly, the critical habitat provision codifies the current Fish and Wildlife Service policy. This policy holds that Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans prepared pursuant to the Sikes Act provide the special management considerations necessary under the Endangered Species Act. Critical habitat designation on military installations is, therefore, unnecessary. The ecosystem management initiatives at Camp Pendleton in California that resulted in an increase in the number of nesting pairs of California least terns (an endangered shorebird) from 209 pairs in 1985 to 1,064 pairs in 2001 is an illustration of the success of our natural resource management plans.
The Marine Corps is a good steward of the resources entrusted to it. We are particularly proud of our success in the recovery of endangered species at Camp Pendleton and the proactive timber management at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. We have also worked tirelessly to preserve archeological resources at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and to provide public access to recreation areas at the Marine Corps Logistic Base, Albany. Our programs provide for multi-function use of the real estate we manage - as long as it does not compromise the installation's particular national defense mission.
As I noted above, environmental protection and Marine Corps training are compatible. Our responsibility to the American people is to maintain a high state of readiness while preserving and protecting the environment of the Nation. Unlike commercial developers, the military needs a natural environment for realistic field training. In fact, our environmental management efforts have resulted in military lands supporting proportionally a much higher number of endangered species than Departments of Interior or Agriculture lands.
Passage of the Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative is imperative because encroachment threatens to extend existing laws and regulations beyond the contexts for which they were intended, frustrating the use of military lands and test and training ranges for their designated purposes. The Initiative is key to future readiness. It is an appropriate response to the encroachment threat, and I encourage your full support for this balanced approach towards both the requirement to maintain military readiness and the requirement to protect the environmental resources of the Nation.