Washington, DC - Vowing to reverse a rare defeat in the previous session, Pentagon officials are launching a new wide-ranging initiative to systematically extinguish a variety of perceived environmental restrictions on all domestic munitions, weapon development and other "readiness" activities, according to an internal, high-level strategy memo obtained by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Even while conceding that it has not produced evidence to justify special exemptions, the Pentagon will seek legislative changes, an executive order from President Bush and an array of administrative and regulatory concessions from federal environmental agencies.
Last year, the Pentagon failed to obtain congressional approval for many of the same bills they are proposing again in 2003.This time, however, in addition to reintroducing the failed legislation, this year the Pentagon is also seeking -
Regulatory changes that would limit application of the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act to Department of Defense operations;
An executive order from President Bush that would establish DoD as the first among equals in any disagreement with other agencies (or, in the words of the memo, "improves dispute resolution related to agency actions affecting national security"); and
A new DoD policy for making extensive use of the current emergency exemption in the Endangered Species Act by declaring that certain protections for wildlife threaten national security.
"If the Pentagon devoted the same brainpower towards complying with our anti-pollution laws as it does evading and undermining those laws, everyone would be a lot better off," commented PEER General Counsel Dan Meyer, a former naval gunnery officer who served during the Persian Gulf War."Last year, the Pentagon showed that it could bully EPA and Interior into acceptance of even broader changes, so it is quite likely that it can again get these agencies to agree to subvert the very laws they are sworn to uphold."
According to the memo, the Pentagon expects to win congressional approval during 2003 of exemptions to the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Last year, the Pentagon did win a temporary MBTA exemption leading to a new permit system for shelling of migratory bird nesting sites. Despite this compromise, the DoD will again seek a complete MBTA exemption.
The memo predicts congressional approval in 2004 of changes to the Clean Air Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (the latter two deal with the toxic waste implications of spent military munitions).
Looking even further ahead, the memo outlines plans for four other statutory rewrites, including the military's own basic conservation charter (the Sikes Act).The memo cautions that these proposals should be delayed until next session because they "would engender significant opposition, as all four would entail significant changes to major environmental statutes."
"At the same time the Pentagon says it can be trusted to be a good steward, it has stepped up removal of its own civilian natural and cultural resource specialists and replacing them with compliant contract consultants," added Meyer whose organization is currently litigating against the Pentagon's outsourcing of its own resource specialists.
In order to overcome opposition, the memo outlines an extensive Pentagon lobbying campaign. Among the targets of what the memo terms an "outreach" effort are state attorney generals, who opposed similar changes last year. The memo also sketches programs to sway the media, industry and "Non-governmental Organizations."
### Download a copy of the "Sustainable Ranges 2003 Decision Briefing to the Deputy Security of Defense".
Download a copy of the "Sustainable Ranges 2003 Decision Briefing to the Deputy Security of Defense".