Statement of Senator Baucus
Senate Committee Environment and Public Works
Hearing on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003
July 9, 2002
Mr. Chairman, I applaud you for holding this hearing today on the Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative provisions that have arisen in the context of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2003. This is an important debate that raises issues under the jurisdiction of this Committee and I am pleased, Mr. Chairman, that we will have this hearing record to share with the conferees of the House and Senate on the Defense Authorization bill.
Mr. Chairman, I think we can all agree that it is imperative to maintain our military’s superior readiness capabilities, particularly as we call upon our armed forces to defend us in the war against terrorism. I believe we are united in our desire to ensure that all of our troops have the training and experience they need to enhance their effectiveness in combat and to minimize the likelihood of casualties.
The testimony of the Vice Chiefs of Staffs for our armed forces, and the Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative that they advocate, raises the concern that certain of our environmental laws may impede the military’s ability to maximize the readiness of its troops for combat. This is not a concern that we can take lightly, and we should consider the matter seriously. I know that’s precisely the reason you called this hearing today, Mr. Chairman.
That said, we must also recognize that our bedrock environmental laws play a vital role in protecting the health and well being of our citizens, and our precious natural resources. I firmly believe that we can have the greatest, most well prepared military in the world and maintain our high environmental standards. And, Mr. Chairman, I’m not sure that we need to make changes to current law to achieve this balance.
From what I have found in the testimony submitted to this Committee today, the Department of Defense has developed a remarkable record of environmental stewardship, coming to the table with other federal agencies to develop innovative solutions to enhance military readiness while protecting the environment and public health. It has done this despite its previous legacy of large-scale environmental contamination, much of which continues to haunt the Department today and cost the taxpayers billions of dollars.
Part of this newfound success is due to the environmental laws developed in this country over several decades and the public’s emerging environmental consciousness. Most of our environmental laws provide some measure of flexibility to our armed forces to respond to national security concerns on a case-by-case basis. Some of those flexibility mechanisms have never been invoked by the Department.
So, Mr. Chairman, I hope this hearing will help us better understand exactly what the Department of Defense’s concerns really are, and whether the environmental exemptions, or “clarifications,” requested by the Department actually address those concerns.
Thank you again Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing today, and I look forward to hearing the testimony of the witnesses.