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The Washington Times

Admiral Never Requested To Train USS John F. Kennedy Group At Vieques

January 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Washington Times. All Rights Reserved.

Your readers have been subjected to back-to-back inaccurate accounts of Navy efforts to ensure that the USS John F. Kennedy carrier battle group gets the training it needs to deploy in support of the global war on terrorism ("Carrier barred from Vieques training," Jan 8; " Puerto Rico leader praises decision on Navy's live firing," Jan. 10). Both stories suggest that Secretary of the Navy Gordon England denied a request to train the Kennedy battle group at the Vieques , Puerto Rico , training range. This is simply not the case.

The decision to train the Kennedy battle group off the East Coast rather than near Puerto Rico was appropriately made by the operational commander responsible for training Atlantic naval forces, Adm. Robert G. Natter. America's war on terrorism has already required that the Navy accelerate the deployment of several ships, including the carriers USS John C. Stennis and USS Kitty Hawk, as well as the USS Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group. It was clear to Adm. Natter that the need for deployed carriers in the war on terrorism would likely require an early departure for Kennedy. Given the superb training already conducted by the crews of the ships and aircraft of the John F. Kennedy battle group, including use of the inner range at Vieques in the fall, Adm. Natter decided to save transit time at sea by conducting the final training close to home port and using the saved days to focus on other pressing pre- deployment issues facing Kennedy. Not surprisingly, Adm. Natter did not ask Mr. England or the chief of naval operations for authority to conduct training of Kennedy personnel at Vieques since Adm. Natter had already decided to do the training closer to home.

It may seem we're pointing out the obvious, but apparently you need that from time to time. Reported claims by others to have influenced a "decision" that Mr. England never made are equally spurious.

Your readers deserve a better understanding of national security issues than they received from these two articles.

Rear Adm., U.S. Navy
Department of the Navy

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