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The Florida Times-Union

Defense Booby-Trapped

July 24, 2002
Copyright © 2002 The Florida Times-Union. All rights reserved.

America's military personnel are facing the most serious test of their abilities since the Vietnam War and, in the war on terrorism, restrictions that are placed on training may be counterproductive.

Combat inherently is risky. Inadequate equipment or training make it riskier than necessary.

Fortunately, U.S. forces have the best equipment in the world. They need to put that equipment to use in training before the hell of combat.

Combined air, naval and ground force training in Vieques became a political football in Puerto Rican politics after a single civilian death in 60 years, causing training there to be curtailed.

On the island of Farallon de Medinilla, far out in the Pacific, similar training has been terminated -- not because of danger to humans but out of concern for the red-headed booby and common noddy tern.

These, and other, "endangered species" live on the speck of an island. So, a federal judge appointed by the previous administration ordered the Navy-Marine bombing range there to be closed.

Marines have been prevented from practicing amphibious landings on California beaches because of concern over the trauma it might cause grunion, or whatever.

Adm. Robert J. Natter, commander of the Navy's Combined Fleet Forces and the Atlantic Fleet, says, "The quality and realism of our training is currently being degraded by vague definitions contained in existing law and unrealistic interpretations of those definitions."

Last year, three ships deployed to the Arabian Gulf with reduced readiness because the Navy's lack of a permit caused the cancellation of an exercise designed to teach the crew how to defend the ship against a missile attack, he said.

Permits are expensive and time-consuming and required in circumstances unable to predict. Natter says environmental laws need to be clarified.

Anyone hoping to save American lives would have to say amen.

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