San Diego Union-Tribune

May 17, 2002

House panel is told environmental curbs hurt military

By Otto Kreisher 

WASHINGTON When a Camp Pendleton-based Marine unit
established Camp Rhino in Afghanistan in November, it was the
first time those Marines had been able to dig realistic defensive
positions because of a ban on digging at their home base, the
unit commander said yesterday.

And when the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit made a 60-mile
strike at night to take over Kandahar airport, it was the first time most of the Marines had been able to conduct such a long-range raid over open terrain because of environmental restrictions on their training, Col. Thomas D. Waldhauser told the House Government Reform Committee.

Waldhauser noted the severe restrictions on use of the beaches,
training ranges and open space at Camp Pendleton because of
endangered species or other environmental concerns.

"The need to work within restrictions increasingly determines
the training environment," he said. "As a result, our training
becomes fragmented and segmented, conforming not to sound
and time-tested military training doctrine, but to
accommodating various encroachments."

Similar concerns were expressed by Cmdr. Kerry M. Metz, a
SEAL officer from Naval Special Warfare Group One at Coronado;
an East Coast Navy carrier air wing commander, and the leader
of an Army Special Forces team, all of whom had recently
returned from Afghanistan.

The four combat veterans and other defense officials testified in
support of an effort to provide the military partial relief from
some of the environmental and conservation rules.

The House-passed defense authorization bill contains two of the
eight relief measures the Pentagon had requested: to allow some
exceptions to the Endangered Species Act and to the Migratory
Bird Treaty Act, which a federal judge recently used to stop
Navy training on an uninhabited Pacific island.

"The encroachment issue is a serious readiness problem. If
readiness is a problem, we will get people killed needlessly in
combat," said Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., who chaired the hearing.