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Pensacola News Journal

Keep Vieques Open For Live-Fire Navy Training

January 4, 2002
Copyright © 2002
Pensacola News Journal. All Rights Reserved.

President Bush made a hasty decision in declaring that the Navy should abandon, by May 2003, its training range in Vieques , Puerto Rico . The new war on terrorism gives him good reason to reverse the plan.

The American military needs room to train.

Such a reversal of policy is supported by the decision this week by a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by Puerto Rico to stop the Navy from resuming training at Vieques .

Vieques might be the best live-fire training site available to the Navy. While it could boost the local economy if the training site is moved to Eglin Air Force Base, the Panhandle site simply does not meet the Navy's needs as well as Vieques .

Eglin has a number of problems: shallow waters, heavy military training in adjacent air space, busy commercial air traffic, limited sea room and the possibility of growing exploration for oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico.

Fortunately, Congress has passed legislation requiring that the Navy must keep Vieques open until it finds a site that provides ``equivalent or superior'' training opportunities. But politics has a way of influencing such judgments, and this is too critical for that.

Vieques ' location gives the Navy the ability to bring all its conventional weapons, ships - including submarines - and tactics to bear with a minimum of restrictions. The complexity of today's weapons and tactics demands realistic - and regular - training if the Navy is to be adequately prepared for combat.

Today there is no time to come up to speed - the Navy has to be ready to fight now. If it is not, the result can be tragic for its sailors, and catastrophic for this nation's interests.

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