Opening Statement of United States Senator James Inhofe
“The Range Readiness and Preservation Initiative of the Department of Defense”
United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
July 9, 2002
Good afternoon. Having worked closely with Senators Smith and Warner to request via letter this hearing on the Range Readiness and Preservation Initiative of the Department of Defense, and after much delay, I am glad that we are finally all here today. I am thankful that the initial decision of the Chairman to deny our request for a hearing has been revisited and wisely overturned.
I am extremely pleased and honored to see the Vice Chiefs of Staff of our Armed Forces all here today. I feel that their presence is invaluable. I believe the presence of these fine gentlemen most definitely signals the importance the Department of Defense places on this issue. It is all the more impressive that they have taken the time to come here today during a time of war on terrorism. In addition, I understand that this hearing represents the first time that the Vice Chiefs have ever testified together other than before the Armed Services Committees. Thank you all, and good to see you.
I have a great deal of concern about the issues of range readiness and preservation which are before us today. I served as the Chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee for four years and currently serve as Ranking Member of the Readiness Subcommittee. Indeed, I served in the Army decades ago, and we just did not have the readiness problems then that we face today. These problems are caused by an ever-growing maze of environmental procedures and regulations in which we are losing the ability to prepare our patriot children, our war fighters, for war. And speaking of children, I have 4 children and 11 grandchildren. I want them to have to have clean air, fresh water, and pure soil. I want them to have abundant flora and flourishing fauna.
That brings me to the thesis for this hearing. That is: The God-given rights and liberties and free market capitalism that our military defend around the world translate directly into cleaner air, fresher water, purer soil, abundant flora, and flourishing fauna. The simple fact is that freer nations have higher standards of living, and, very significantly, that includes attaining higher environmental standards. Simply put: Enabling our military HELPS God’s green earth.
With that straightforward truth in mind, let’s examine the makeup of today’s hearing. Opposing our military today are the usual troika of 1. Government employee organizations, 2. Lawyers/trial lawyers, and 3. Eco-radicals.
First we have the government employee organizations. These bureaucrats are always concerned with the prospect of lost jobs. Innovative and improved paperwork processes can certainly achieve a better bang (pun intended) for our taxpayer dollars. More efficient government can result in smaller government with fewer employees. It is no coincidence that government employee groups routinely oppose these government innovations and improvements, and indeed support more cumbersome and paperwork-intensive regimes focused on more procedural hurdles rather than improved results and better performance. They want more government, not less; to them it means more government jobs.
How many times has ASTSWMO, or like groups such as STAPPA/ALAPCO testified before Congress, and how many times were they opposing the streamlining of procedural paperwork? Just recently this committee heard the government employee group STAPPA/ALAPCO testify as to its support for the 30+ rulemakings and procedural encumbrances and increased paperwork of the Jeffords-Lieberman regulatory air restrictions bill which Senator Voinovich so eloquently explained and so visually illustrated. Today again we have STAPPA/ALAPCO promoting big government in the testimony. These groups of government bureaucrats invariably wind up testifying for bigger government and opposing smaller government.
To add insult to injury, not only are the salaries of these individual government employees paid with our tax dollars; quite often the groups themselves receive separate, additional, appropriated dollars to pay for the groups themselves and the activities of the groups. As I say, these activities almost invariably amount to lobbying for bigger government and more expenditures of our tax dollars with an emphasis not on better results but rather on more procedures. We have thus created a self-perpetuating, government-bloating apparatus. This must stop. We have to cease the big-government funding for lobbyists for big-government funding.
Secondly we have the lawyers. The self-interested bands of government bloaters are invariably joined by the trial lawyers and their front groups who see increased opportunities to sue with every single procedural hurdle they can create. Trial lawyers too are interested in full employment. For example, these lawyers swear blind allegiance to the much maligned and tragically flawed CERCLA/Superfund Act. It is no coincidence that the CERCLA/Superfund Act is commonly called the “Lawyers’ Full Employment Act” due to the fact that so much money goes to lawyers, including government lawyers, and so little actually goes to clean our water and soil. With so many twisted and convoluted regulatory procedures, and particularly eco-regulatory procedures, we have created the world’s largest maze complete with an invasive species to run through the maze–the trial lawyer.
Thirdly we have the eco-radical groups. These groups are more interested in propagating issues for fund-raising than they are in solving problems. Congressman J.D. Hayworth of Arizona illustrates this point well. When he asked the Sierra Club for some modest financial help to save some particular bald eagles in Arizona, the Sierra Club rejected his coordinating efforts claiming a lack of funds, only to turn right around and run hundreds of thousands of dollars of TV commercials attacking him. The eco-radicals didn’t solve a situation; instead they prioritized propaganda.
I’m here to tell you that the troika of these government employee groups and trial lawyer groups and eco-radical groups and their big-spending, procedure-obsessed, self-preservation instincts are out of touch with the vast majority of Americans who want leaner and more effective government that focuses on and achieves better results. These groups have a common yearning for more federal regulations, more federal bureaucracy, in other words, more central planning. We have seen the failures of central planning in the former Soviet Union, and it is not a good idea to replicate central planning in America.
This is serious business. Our nations’s defense is on the line. You simply cannot prepare for the defense of our nation in an arcade. Within the past week I have heard complaints from real troops lamenting the impairment of live-fire training due to the inability to use ammunition. I am concerned for this generation of our patriot children and for the future generations of our patriot children. You just can’t give our war-fighting snipers the best training by making them say “Bang Bang” instead of actually firing the gun. You just can’t give our war-fighting bombers the best training by making them simply say “Bombs Away” rather than actually dropping a bomb. This situation is actually occurring, and many Americans have not been told of the truth of the matter.
Well, I say Americans deserve the truth and can most definitely handle the truth. I see it as my job both as Member of this Committee, as well as former Chair and current Ranking Member of the Readiness Subcommittee of our Armed Services Committee, to inform the American people.
Now I have come full circle back to my original point that what is good for the defense of our God-given rights and freedoms the globe-over is good for the environment that God has created for us.
Do the Communist nations have the best environments? Definitely not. Look at the environmental disasters of the Communists of the former Soviet Union created. Do the nations without free markets, without respect for human rights, and without enforcement of property rights have the best environments? Definitely not.
When our military defends against the Communists of North Korea we are defending the environment. When our military defends against the Communists of North Vietnam we are defending the environment. When our military defends Kuwait against the dictatorial regime in Iraq, we are defending the environment. Do you remember the vast oil fires that Saddam Hussein set with malice toward the environment in the oil fields of Kuwait?
The American service men and women defend our environment, both here and around the globe. Let’s ready our services. I stand firmly with our military and look forward to the testimony of the Vice Chiefs.