Bombing Ranges vs. Masked Boobies: Can Besieged Pentagon Win War On Regs?

View Sean Paige's Article On Environmentalist Threats To Military Readiness


Washington, DC, May 8, 2002 — The House of Representatives votes May 9 on a fiscal 2003 Defense Authorization Bill that poses a stark question about what Americans value more—fairy shrimp and masked boobies, or adequately preparing our U.S. military men and women to go to war. The vote comes at a time when the Department of Defense, in addition to waging a war on terrorism, also finds itself locked in battle at home, besieged by environmental groups and not-in-my-backyard activists that want to close or curtail the use of training sites that are vital to military readiness and national security. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />


If approved by the House, two provisions in the bill will grant the Pentagon narrow exemptions from the Endangered Species Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, two environmental laws that threaten to close some of the military’s most important training ranges.  Last week, a federal judge, responding to a lawsuit brought by some environmental groups, ordered a halt to Navy training on the tiny Pacific Ocean atoll of Farrallon de Medinella because it allegedly violates the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 by harming masked boobies and other birds. The decision has the potential of closing every military facility visited by migratory birds.


Similar fights are being waged almost everywhere the military trains, according to one Washington analyst, creating the potential for a wider military training crisis. The exemptions being sought by the Pentagon are both sensible and necessary to preserving military readiness, according to Sean Paige, an adjunct fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who has published numerous articles on the issue. Paige is also a former CEI Warren Brookes Fellow in Environmental Journalism.


“At many of our military training bases, soldiers who should be practicing to go on the offensive are instead hunkered down and on the defensive,” said Paige. “They’re besieged by government regulators, national environmental organizations, and civilian citizen groups that want to stop or severely restrict use of many U.S. military facilities.”

Paige says approval of the two exemptions will only marginally improve the Pentagon’s situation, but will at least signal a willingness by Congress “to put the interests of American soldiers above those of the slimy slug and fairy shrimp.”

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