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Political Transcripts by Federal Document Clearing House

October 19, 1999
Copyright © 1999 Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. All Rights Reserved.












WARNER: Good morning. This is a very important hearing in many perspectives, and I first want to say that this committee and indeed all members of the Senate express their bereavement to the family of the deceased and those that were injured.

Over 30 years ago when I was privileged to be secretary of the Navy, I worked on problems regarding this range and worked with then a marvelous governor, Louis Ferrer (ph) -- I think everybody knows him -- and we reached a solution. And today we are going to receive the testimony of a number of witnesses with a number of perspectives on this issue. So, I wanted to start it off, again, not only the Senate but we here in America are concerned about the hardships that have been inflicted, although I think fortunately with rare exception, on the people of this marvelous area which is so important to all of the United States -- not the range, but the entire Puerto Rican people are very, very important and a part, an integral part, of our nation.

I welcome our witnesses. And if I could summarize, in my judgment, there are two issues that face not only the Senate and the Congress, the whole Congress, but indeed the nation. And first if the decision is made to -- and I say eventually, because that's the essence of your report -- permanently cease training operations at Vieques, what are the alternatives? And no one in this room in any way says that it is not essential that there be an alternative.

How will the Navy be able to ensure adequate training without the use of this magnificent range? And secondly, if the Navy is to continue operations, what accommodations should be reached with the residents to minimize any negative impact on those training operations and to above all ensure the safety of the citizens?

Irrespective of the final outcome, we need to focus on the safety of the citizens of Vieques as we proceed with this issue.

Last month the Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee under the leadership of Senator Inhofe, who will momentarily I'll yield my -- part of my time to him -- received testimony from Admiral Fallon, commander of the Navy's Second Fleet, and General Pace, commander of the Marine forces in the Atlantic, who outlined the clear need for continuing the training performed at Vieques.

Last week the Seapower Subcommittee, under the leadership of Senator Snowe, heard from Admiral Murphy, commander of the Navy's Sixth Fleet, and the commander who receives the Naval forces that are trained at Vieques. And he unequivocally reiterated the importance of maintaining training at this facility.

Clearly at a time when our military's being asked to engage in an unprecedented number of operations around the world, the Department of Defense must ensure that the men and women who are being sent into harm's way are as well trained and ready as possible. The unfortunate accident on April 19th that resulted in a fatality on Vieques has highlighted the ongoing friction between the Department of the Navy and the civilians at Vieques, indeed, the government officials of all Puerto Rico .

The concerns of the local population make it imperative that the Navy review its operations and safety procedures to minimize any negative impacts on this community. Although I understand the concerns of the local population, and I do -- I've worked for this issue for thirty-plus years --it must be noted that theirs is not the only community; I repeat, not the only community in the United States of America to live in close proximity to a military training area. Like our constituents who live near the ranges at Ft. Sill, Elgin, Fallon, Yuma, China Lake and others within the continental United States, the people of Vieques have played an essential but not a solitary -- not a solitary role in ensuring the preparedness of America's armed forces. It's been a shared experience all across this great nation.

My own constituents who live near Quantico Marine Base often hear the explosion of artillery rounds and live bombs striking an impact area which is only one mile from civilian community. This is closer than the impact area of Vieques to the island's civilian population, and that's but a few miles from where we're all sitting right now.

WARNER: These are just a few of the hundreds of communities that accept the inconvenience -- if you so characterize it -- the inconvenience and the risks associated with living near military installations because they understand that the safety and security of this great nation, and Puerto Rico -- a part of this great nation --is dependent upon the existence of this training for our young men and women and the maintenance of these installations.

Regrettably the administration and leadership of Puerto Rico have not been able to sit down and resolve this matter. I hope that the recently released report of the Rush panel -- and we welcome you this morning -- will encourage both sides to demonstrate leadership and come together to reach such an accommodation. Should such an accommodation not be reached, I fear that both the citizens of Puerto Rico and our men and women in uniform will suffer some consequences, although different.

I'm concerned that the report of the Rush panel contains recommendations -- and I say this respectfully -- that are not, in my judgment, fully supported by hard fact, but we're going to give you that opportunity to refute my observation.

Specifically, I'm concerned that the Rush panel has recommended the cessation of naval training in five years despite the panel's own acknowledgement of the importance of such training and it's inability to identify an alternative location at which training can be conducted were this one to be shut down.

I hope that the members of that panel will be able to clarify this issue during their testimony.

Now today we'll hear from a number of very distinguished individuals. I will not go into that list. It's before all of us this morning.

Let's do our best -- and I'm deeply concerned about the politics. In today's paper, here's this article, "First Lady Urges End of Vieques Bomb Range as Panel Backs Phase-Out: Hillary Rodham Clinton called today for an immediate and permanent end to the use of a Puerto Rican island as a Navy target range. The first lady's comments came after a presidential panel recommended that the Navy resume bombing on the island of Vieques but gradually close down the facility over five years. 'I'm disappointed that this panel has recommended that the Navy resume it's bombing on Vieques. Live ordnance training should not take place on a small, inhabited island.'" Well, I wonder what the first lady would have to say about the rest of the portions of the United States of America that do accept this as their contribution towards national security. I hope witnesses will focus on that as we proceed this morning.

Senator Levin.

LEVIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I join you in welcoming the witnesses today for all our panels.

And what we do on Vieques, whether we resume training there or not, is of critical importance to the readiness of our forces around the world, both because of that particular facility and what it has meant, but also because of the impact on the status of other training ranges, some of which our chairman has mentioned and others of which are in many of our states, including my own.

So we not only have a special concern, as the Armed Service Committee, about the training and the readiness of our forces, of special import to this particular committee, but we as Americans also all feel the need to assure the safety of the people of Puerto Rico . And so it's a complex issue, and I hope that today's hearing will contribute to an understanding of just how complex this issue is.

LEVIN: And there's going to be an effort here to hear from all points of view on the issue. My hope is at today's hearing that the report of Mr. Rush's panel and that Secretary Cohen's announcement yesterday will start us down the path to a solution for Vieques that everybody can live with.

I don't know of any way to reach an acceptable solution other than for people on all sides of the issue to sit down, talk, listen to the other person's concerns and to try to reach an agreement. There's no other way that I know of, practical way, to resolve this issue other than negotiations in good faith.

There's been a bill introduced by Mr. Murkowski. Senator Murkowski's bill has been referred to the Energy Committee, which basically would return Vieques and no longer provide for its use as a training range.

I would hope that this committee, perhaps, if the Energy Committee acts on that bill, would have an opportunity to either get sequential referral or to comment on that bill, if we do not see a solution that comes through a negotiated settlement.

There are many people who wish to testify here today who are unable to testify just because of the time limits; and, for instance, there is a request that I received, Mr. Chairman, from one citizen's group that's represented in the audience today, the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques, to have their statement included in the record and I would ask that their statement be included in the record at this time.

WARNER: No objection.

LEVIN: So, this is a very important hearing on a very complex subject affects safety and well-being, but also affects the readiness of American military forces to do the tasks that we assign to them; and we have got to look at all of these aspects of the issue and try to understand better where a possible solution lie.

Mr. Chairman, I, again, commend you for calling this hearing and hope that we can see some daylight here. If not at the end of today's hearing as quickly as possible because of the importance of this training range to the readiness of our forces.

WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator.

We're going to depart a little bit from our normal procedure. A subcommittee, as I mentioned, has held the initial hearing on this. And I now wish to call upon the chairman of that subcommittee and the ranking member of that subcommittee, Senators Inhofe, the chairman, Senator Robb, the ranking; Senator Robb is a former Marine and well- experienced in issues relating to this as is our good friend from Oklahoma, Senator Inhofe.

Senator Inhofe.

INHOFE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me just say on the outset, you are being exceptionally fair, probably more fair than I would be if I were sitting in your seat there.

WARNER: Remember the famous words of a great baseball player, "Good guys finish last," so would you kind of stiffen it up a little bit.

INHOFE: I have to say this, I have taken the time, as I often do, to go there and see and I have been over every square foot of that island, including down on the range area, being very careful because there's life ordnances there after 57 years.

And when I say you've been fair, Mr. Chairman, I look and I see that we have one panel that has the resident commissioner or delegate, as we call them here, and then two people who are running against them. I mean this is not a panel, it's a campaign rally, and I would hope that you would impose some type of time constraint so it doesn't get out of hand.

WARNER: Senator, I assure you I'm not up for re-election but we're going to have a fair assessment of the facts as best I can to avoid a politics issue.

INHOFE: Well, I think that's very important on this. Because when I went over there, I left with a very clear feeling that everyone was trying to use this as an issue to put them into one office or another and everyone was saying, who can be the strongest, saying we want everyone off this thing, without any consideration as to our national security, as to the necessity of this particular training range, and how it fits into our overall defense system.

INHOFE: I think it's very important that we do that. I believe also that -- when I went over and saw the number of people that were protesting and using that as their campaign platform, those people were walking around over there, throwing around ordnances. One guy actually tried to get on a commercial airline carrying a live ordnance he picked up off that range. And someone out there's going to get killed.

And I wrote a letter to Janet Reno on the 26th of August and I said, you know, enforce our laws because if you don't, you're going to be personally responsible when someone dies, and someone's going to die out there throwing around those ordnances, blatantly breaking our laws, the laws of this land. She wouldn't even respond to me. That was two months ago.

So I'm very much concerned about that, because someone -- I believe, Mr. Chairman, if we could all go over there and look, you'd see that someone is going to die as a result of this.

I think also -- I did something that's uncharacteristic of me in signing a letter with the chairman in hopes of coming to some kind of a solution to this offering a lot of economic support. In fact, we offered, in this letter, some $27 million the first year, $29 the next year, and then some $14 million.

Now you stop and think about that. And you politicians out there really think about this, too. There are three million people on the island, but there are only 9,000 people on this little island of Vieques. If you take 9,000 people into $27 million, that comes out $3,000 a piece, which doubles their per capita income.

Now if I were on the island and looking to see what's happening on Vieques, in the partial treatment that they're getting, I'd stop and think: Wait a minute, we might end up without a range over there, we might lose Roosevelt Roads as a result of that, and I would do everything I could to see that that does happen, because there's no reason to have it there if we don't have the range.

And so -- and stop, look at this politically, as to why should these 9,000 people who are getting all these benefits be the ones that are carrying all the water on this.

Now lastly, the chairman referred to this -- and I want to --when you guys over there -- and show the panel and show the audience and show these senators here -- this is my state of Oklahoma. That is Fort Sill. Now take your pointer, go around -- there are two red lines, the circles, those are the live ranges.

Now Mr. Chairman, I fly in there and land all the time in my aircraft. I can tell you, when they say the ranges are hot, I don't fly over them, because I know there are ordnances going out in those areas.

Now point toward the popular of Fort Sill. This is a downtown area. There is one mile between each of the firing ranges and downtown Fort Sill. That's not 9,000 people; that's 100,000 people that are in there.

And what are they firing there? They're firing the 6.1-inch and MLRSs, as opposed to the five-inch that are being fired on Vieques where there is 9.7 miles in between.

We have -- the days of training, Vieques: 180, average, and 164 of those would be live. And I have all this down here in this chart. Which -- and in Fort Sill, it's 320 days per year. So now we have almost double the number of days per year.

And the ordnances that they're firing are larger, and it's nine times closer to the population area of a population 10 times greater.

Was napalm ever used? Yes, it was, and in both places. How often? One event in Vieques; about four or five times in Fort Sill.

And the training fatalities. Over a 57-year period, only one on the ground. We lost three lives in Vieques; two of them were pilots. We've lost 34 people at Fort Sill at that training range.

Now I say this because there's not one person in Fort Sill who's complaining about the noise, complaining about the proximity, because they know that our national security is first. And you're going to have to get this in perspective.

If we allow politicians to close this down, Mr. Chairman, we're going to be put in a position where there's not a training range around the world -- and some within our continental United States --that aren't demanding to be shut down. And where are we going to be?

This range in Vieques is significant. I've been there. I've talked to the Navy. We've had hearings that Senator Robb and I have presided over. And I can tell you that I've come to the conclusion that there isn't any place else.

I've read the report, the Rush report, and it says, you know, find some place else.

When you take the combination of the limitation on airspace, and the amphibious opportunities that are there, there is no place else that we can do the same thing. If someone could find it, that would be fine.

So those are my feelings and I wanted to make sure that anyone out here -- everyone out here understands that there are those of us on this panel up here that are far more if you want to say closer to firing ranges than there are on Vieques.

WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator.

Senator Robb.

ROBB: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I appreciate the chairman's giving us an opportunity. We did have a good hearing about a month ago on this particular topic. I have, as many others have, been down in this area, fired on those ranges back in the early '60s, and certainly understand the critical importance of the ranges to our readiness.

I'd like to make just two points at this point. First, I am pleased that the public health study that was called for in the Rush panel report is now moving forward. Senator Bingaman has joined me in writing to the director of the Center for Disease Control, offering any assistance that they might need. And I know how important it is to resolving this particular issue is to the citizens of Vieques. It's a legitimate issue, and it needs to be addressed.

Second, at our Readiness Subcommittee hearing on this issue last month, I stated that if there are concerns about any of the grievances or situations in Vieques, the only way to solve them is to sit down, talk, listen and negotiate. Several weeks later, no progress has been made in resolving this particular issue in a way that balances the legitimate needs of our men and women in uniform and those of the citizens of Vieques.

I'd like to express at this point my profound disappointment with the present situation and urge all of those who have an interest in this particular question to sit down, talk, listen and negotiate. In my judgment, there is no other way out of this particular compromise.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I thank you for calling this hearing of the full committee.

WARNER: Thank you.

ROBB: It certainly rates that kind of importance, and I look forward to the testimony of all of our witnesses this morning.

WARNER: Well, while this is a full committee hearing, Chairman Inhofe and Senator Robb, we'll continue to ask your subcommittee to look into various aspects. I think we'll have more hearings on this issue. I'll assure the opportunity to come forward on both sides of this issue. There will be more hearings.

Secretary Rush.

RUSH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: We note the absence of our distinguished colleague, Lee Hamilton. In my 21 years in the Senate I think both sides of the aisle have a profound respect for what he achieved in the area of foreign policy and many other ways with a marvelous wisdom and an even-handedness. Express my appreciation to him.

RUSH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We will do that. And both General Neal, Admiral Hernandez and myself have found, as you might expect, Lee Hamilton to be a distinguished and very important member of the panel. And unfortunately, he had a prior commitment today which he simply could not break, or he would be with us.

WARNER: Now, there are many people in this room and many way beyond this room who want to hear you. Unless you bring that microphone up very close, you'll be lost, in your voice.

RUSH: Thank you. Permit me to briefly summarize the conclusions and recommendations of the panel. First, we concluded that today there is a valid requirement for the Navy to conduct combined arms exercises at Vieques in order to provide combat-ready forces. In our judgment, Vieques is the only place which currently provides the capability of all elements of the East Coast-based Naval Expeditionary Force to conduct such exercises.

We also concluded that alternate training methods for the combined armed exercises most essential for readiness are not currently available. That said, we do believe that new technologies, techniques and weapons systems may rapidly change requirements and methods. With this in mind, the panel is convinced that the Navy should fully resource an active source for solutions for relatively near-term application.

Therefore, the central recommendation that we have made to the secretary of defense is that the Department of the Navy should immediately begin a priority assessment of the training requirements at Vieques with the objective of ceasing all training activities within five years. We recommend that the Navy provide an assessment of its progress toward this objective to the secretary of defense by the first of October of the year 2002.

RUSH: Under this recommendation, training would continue at Vieques during the transition period. We did conclude that the impact of training activities on the quality of life of the residents of Vieques can be reduced by limiting the training activities of Vieques to those activities that are vital to readiness and today can only be conducted at Vieques.

We also recommended that the Department of Navy take immediate steps to discontinue the use of, and to clean and restore, the Naval ammunition facility on the west end of the island; and, in coordination with the government of Puerto Rico , expeditiously return the land to Puerto Rico . This, we do believe, must absolutely be done in an orderly manner under an established land management plan to protect the environment and with protection of the lands against illegal occupation.

To help ensure that the concerns of the residents of Vieques are addressed in a cooperative and comprehensive manner, we recommended the formation of a joint committee between the Navy and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico to ensure that the concerns of the local population are included and fully considered in the conduct of the military operations, and that environmental protection and economic development are forcefully promoted. We believe that the reestablishment of a flag officer position and staff in Puerto Rico would facilitate this activity.

Also, to support the operations of the joint committee that we propose, we recommended that an executive order be drafted that would provide presidential direction and authority for executive departments and agencies to provide assistance and resources as needed in support of the operations and objectives of the joint committee.

We also found a high level of concern in Vieques about the health impacts of military training on the island, and I was pleased to hear Senator Robb's comments on moving forward to get the facts bearing on the situation. There clearly, as we visited Vieques and heard from the residents, were tremendous concerns about infant mortality, the rate of cancer and other health impacts on the island.

We recommended in our report to the secretary that the Public Health Service, with the assistance of the Department of Defense and in coordination with other agencies as appropriate, introduce a health team right away to Vieques to address the incidence of cancer and other health concerns in the population and come up with an appropriate plan to address their findings.

Finally, we recommend that the Navy undertake immediate action to further enhance range safety.

Mr. Chairman, with that summary, we stand ready to answer the questions as a committee.

WARNER: All right. What I suggest to my colleagues is that --your colleagues do not wish to make any opening comments, General Neal, I mean, as a former Marine?

NEAL: We sort of agreed at the beginning that Mr. Rush would take the lead and prepare the remarks...

WARNER: All right. That's agreeable to me.

NEAL: ... but we're ready for...

WARNER: We'll move right along.


RUSH: That's exactly our position.

WARNER: OK. Then I suggest, given the extraordinary number of witnesses and panels, that we have today that we each ask one question. If a member feels that they have to ask two, of course, you'll have that latitude. So, I'll limit myself to the one question.

I go right to your recommendation: The Department of Navy should immediately conduct a priority assessment of the training requirements at Vieques. Do you have facts to show that the Navy has not diligently, heretofore, been conducting, quote, "a priority assessment" of these needs? Because this, as drawn -- the grammar, the syntax, the words used -- infer that the Navy has sort of been sitting on its hands.

RUSH: Mr. Chairman, we -- I know that the readiness and military support subcommittee of Senator Inhofe took the presentation of Admiral Fallon and General Pace last month. We also heard from the Admiral and General Pace, and we felt that a long term, more detailed analysis that took into account alternative training methods that may be on the horizon as well as alternative sites for the training was important in order to really do a full-scale look at that issue.

WARNER: So, in other words, you have an assertive finding here that faults the Navy in the depth and seriousness of their undertaking to date to look for an alternative? I mean I want to get to the bottom of it.

RUSH: Yes, sir.

WARNER: We've got to call tough shots. If that's the way you feel, this is the way it reads.

RUSH: That's right, sir. And it was an intention to put that language in the way it was so stated.

No, we're not faulting the Navy at not taking a look, but they had to take a quick look.

RUSH: This was a real short time fuse. If you put the events of when Mr. Rodriguez was killed in April and to when the committee's report -- or I should say the report of the Navy by -- directed by SecNav to be turned in, they had to look at 18 different sites, which they did very quickly. They're still conducting that analysis and evaluation to see if in fact there are work-around or other locations to which they might be able to turn as an alternative to Vieques.

So the words are carefully crafted to say: Yes, you've got to keep going.

Let me be very blunt. This was a wake up call. This panel's report was a wake up call to the Navy. We, as a group, completely agree that Vieques is essential for the readiness training for deploying of naval and Marine forces. Right now, it's the only place. But we feel that the Navy did not live up to its obligation under the 1983 MOU, and they have lost the communications and they've lost the respect of the people of Vieques and the people of Puerto Rico . So the whole tenor and impact of this report is to wake them up to start looking for alternatives, and to try to find ways to work with the people of Vieques and Puerto Rico .

WARNER: All right. That's very clear. I understand what you say. And when we use the word "Navy," it's generic. It's Navy-Marine.

RUSH: Absolutely.

WARNER: Very much a joint ...

RUSH: It's DOD. It's Navy-Marine Corps. It's...

WARNER: Understood. Admiral?

JOHNSON: Senator, you're asking -- raising the issue of alternative sites, which is basically what the Fallon-Pace report looked at. They looked at sites that were presently being used, and by the criteria that they applied, none of them could replicate Vieques. This panel believes that a search for sites -- new sites is in order. There are a number of uninhabited islands that are part of the Bahamas, that are part of the Turks and Caicos, that are not within sealanes or airlanes that we should examine to see if those governments would be willing to let us use those uninhabited islands for certain considerations.

WARNER: All right. Let me just quickly follow up. Then assuming this is a strong message as it is to the Navy. The Navy salutes and marches off. Your five-year time period doesn't mean that the Navy has four years, 360 days within which to do it. It means get on with it and hopefully you can do it in a period somewhat shorter than the five years. Do I read that out of here?

RUSH: Yes, sir. In fact, we call for -- in October 1st, 2002 for a report from the Navy back to the secretary of defense for where they are in that process, and to see if in fact some progress has been made of some alternatives. If we have to replace the Vieques place, as you well know, there is a significant dollar value associated with that.

WARNER: I understand all that. Thank you very much.

Senator Levin?

LEVIN: My understanding, Mr. Rush, is that your panel did not assess the readiness impact of your recommendations, and you have not ascertained that there is a satisfactory alternative, but you have told the Navy -- or you would recommend that the Navy make a commitment now to leave Vieques within five years whether or not they find a suitable alternative. Is that correct?

RUSH: Senator Levin, I think that I would state that like this -- that we believe that the -- that a longer-term, more detailed assessment which takes into account new weapons systems, technologies and potential training methods and methods of training, should be conducted, not in the short-term, but over the next two years, with an interim report at that stage, giving time for programming and budget depending upon the outcome. And that the objective should be, depending upon the detailed study to be completed by the Department of the Navy, would be the potential that the operations at Vieques could be terminated within five years.

LEVIN: I understand that's the goal, but my question is this: If that goal is not achieved, are you saying the Navy should leave anyway? Or only if that goal can be achieved?

RUSH: I think that you've got two things, as Senator Warner -- Chairman Warner said: At the start you've got to balance for national readiness and the accommodations to the residents of Vieques. And I think that, at the end of the day, that's the judgment that's going to have to be made. I don't think that we can make that judgment today.

LEVIN: So you -- well, I just -- I want to ask the same question over again, because I'm not sure I got a clear answer. I'm not asking a different question.

You're saying, then, that that is the goal, that is the objective, this is the efforts that should be made to achieve that objective. But you are not saying that if that objective is not achieved, despite that best, good-faith effort, that the Navy should commit to leave Vieques.

RUSH: The balance...

LEVIN: Is that correct?

RUSH: That's correct.

LEVIN: Thank you.

WARNER: I thank the senator. That's an important clarification, Senator Levin.

Senator Thurmond.

THURMOND: The fact that the Armed Services Committee is conducting this hearing reflects the importance of this range and the critical impact it has on the residents of the Navy and Marine Corps.

I want to emphasize that, although we must be sensitive to the concerns of the citizens of Puerto Rico , our responsibility mandates that we ensure that our forces have the services to train and maintain their readiness to meet the challenges of an uncertain world.

Mr. President (sic), I ask you (INAUDIBLE)

WARNER: Without objection, Senator Thurmond. THURMOND: Mr. Rush, the commission recommends that the Navy begin looking for alternative training locations and methods as a substitute for Vieques. If no alternative locations or methods are found suitable, would the commission recommend retaining the facilities of Vieques?

RUSH: The recommendation, Senator Thurmond, is that there should be a comprehensive, detailed analysis of the training requirements and alternatives, in terms of methods and technologies and locations to the training at Vieques. At -- that recommendation is based upon the belief that there are likely to be alternative methods and alternative sites that will meet the national security requirements, and ensure that we have fully ready naval and Marine Corps forces as part of the carrier battlegroups.

The long-term outcome depends upon the assessments that are made at that time, Senator.

WARNER: Thank you very much.

Thank you very much, Senator.

Senator Lieberman.

LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Mr. Chairman.

I just want to go back to some questions that you asked. I want to just clarify that -- Secretary Rush, your panel did not review the 18 alternative sites. You reviewed the Navy's assessment of the 18 sites, is that correct?

RUSH: That's correct, Senator.

LIEBERMAN: And the second part is: If you've reached a judgment that, on balance, that the Navy ought to cease operations at Vieques, and you've given the five-year deadline, to me three years for the study of the alternate sites seems like a long time. Could you tell us more about why you arrived at that three-year and then the five-year deadline for the cessation of operations there?

RUSH: The five-year -- the two-year -- actually to October 1st, 2002 -- deadline, is to give the time for a full and detailed, comprehensive, meaningful assessment of alternative sites and alternative methods. And it's, as that study progresses, to give the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defense and the committees with oversight the time to make such program and budgetary changes as would be needed to implement the changes that would be recommended.

LIEBERMAN: So you agree that -- if I'm hearing you correctly --that the assessment of the 18 sites could be completed in less than three years?

RUSH: It's potentially it certainly could be, yes, sir, Senator.

LIEBERMAN: General Neal.

NEAL: Sir, some of the sites you write off very quickly. They've been overcome by events. These are -- these 18 sites were really identified some time ago when other problems with Vieques and before that Cleveland (ph) broke out. So many of these sites are already kind of overcome by events.

Right now, I know personally that the Navy is looking at some of those sites with a vigor and a more defined microscope to see if in fact there is some accommodations that would allow them to do all that they are doing in Vieques at those locations.

At the same time, we feel comfortable, with the movement towards precision weapons systems and some of the technology through simulations, that probably -- the Navy has already made significant reductions in the number of days of using Vieques. They are down to 180 right now. We recommend 130 days. They've reduced by 50 percent the amount of ammunition that they've dropped there from 1983 until present. So, they've made a concerted effort in those areas.

We think that by 2002, they should be able to come back to this committee and also to the secretary of defense with a very legitimate proposal as to what next. We think that gives them that time.

We don't think they had the time before this panel was convened and reached its conclusions.

WARNER: Thank you. Thank you very much, Senator.

Senator Smith.

There will not be any time, colleagues. I'm just trying to take the one question and keep her moving.

SMITH: Mr. Rush, I think I heard you correctly in your response to Senator Levin when you said that the Navy should not be forced out, if we can't -- if the Navy cannot find an alternative solution, or the military cannot find an alternative solution. Is that correct?

RUSH: If there is an impact on national security and on the readiness of our naval expeditionary forces, I don't think anyone would make the judgment that that impact should occur. SMITH: Then why recommend the Navy to commit up front to getting out in five years? Why don't you do your study first and then make the recommendation?

RUSH: I think that it was the view of the members of the panel that, to have a firm process in place with a reasonable time line for a detailed study, would make sure that it was a detailed comprehensive study of alternatives.

SMITH: Just a quick yes or no from each...

NEAL (?): Senator, Senator Smith, could I -- let me elaborate on that because it's a key point and I'm glad you raised it. You kind of asked us why did we -- did the language say with the objective of being out of there in five years? Quite frankly, when we looked at what was going on and what had occurred since the MOU of 1983, we were convinced that when they did away with the flag billet about 1994, that just about all communication ceased and desist between the Navy and the people of Puerto Rico and more specifically the people of Vieques.

This was a real concern. And this dialogue was broken down. And a lot of the precepts under the MOU of 1983 were not being lived up to.

The -- and it's not faulting the people down at Roosevelt Roads and the base commander down there. He basically had too much on his plate looking inside the wire to make sure that in fact he could meet the deploying forces' requirements when they came down there to do their training work up before they headed overseas for whatever may face them. And so, he was busy in that place.

When they did away with that billet, they did not transfer the staff of that billet. They did not transfer the resources of that billet so that in fact there could be a concerted and a continuing effort of a dialogue, cooperation to work towards economic recovery, reforestation, looking our for our archaeological sites, etc. All of this did not take place.

The reason we put that language in there, the reason we put 2002, was because we thought that this would get the Navy off its butt, quite frankly, to start looking and start communicating and start looking for solving some of the problems with the Viequens and the people of Puerto Rico . And also, perhaps looking for technological and other means of solving some of these issues of the number of days down there.

But we're committed to the readiness. We know there's a risk associated with them not being able to practice what they needed, their trade before they deploy.

SMITH: Just to follow up, yes or no. Was -- did any of you feel -- each of you please answer yes or no -- any pressure either direct or implied from anybody in the political area, the president, first lady, any other administration officials that it would be better that Vieques is closed? UNKNOWN: Not I, Senator.

UNKNOWN: Absolutely not, Senator.


SMITH: All right.

RUSH (?): But I would like to -- since you were asking questions about the training issues, I'd like to make a point that I think is very important to be on the record. The recommendations of this panel don't address all of the training that the Navy and the Marine Corps do in the Puerto Rico operating areas.

RUSH (?): And I think it's very important to understand that.

There's training that takes place in the outer ranges of the Vieques area -- sea and air ranges that are instrumented with communications, radar, telemetry and so forth, where the Navy carries out a great deal of training that isn't at all impacted by the recommendations of this panel.

Air-to-air training is not affected. Air-to-ship training is not affected. Ship-to-air training is not affected. Ship-to-ship. Submarine-to-ship training is not affected in these areas. There's a submarine range off St. Croix where submarines train. Submarine-to- submarine training isn't affected. Submarine-to-ship training isn't affected. Air-to-submarine training is not affected. I think it's very important for the record to show that we're only talking about a small portion of the total amount of training that takes place in the area. We're not really discussing no training versus all training.

WARNER: Thank you very much.

RUSH (?): Just some of the training.

WARNER: Just a five-second intervention. This emphasis on the absence of a flag. There are plenty of Navy captains and Marine Corps colonels that have taken on challenges as big as this and solved them. Let history note that Teddy Roosevelt was a lieutenant colonel when he crawled up San Juan Hill.

Senator Reed.

REED: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Gentlemen, implicit in your findings is the conclusion that the Navy cannot repair the damage they've done. I'm wondering if you might explicitly talk about that. Or, alternatively, if that's not your conclusion, this five-year sort of timeframe is simply a, as General Neal said, sort of a -- urging them to get off their butt. What is it? Is it -- do you feel that the situation is so deteriorated that there's no hope ever of rehabilitating and creating an environment where the facility can continue?

NEAL: Sir, I guess I'm cautiously optimistic that many of the bridges that have been damaged have not been destroyed; that in fact the lines of communication can be re-established; that in fact, because I think it's public record now, some of the shortcomings that have taken place vis-a-vis the relationship between the Navy and the island of Vieques and the people of Puerto Rico .

I'm cautiously optimistic that many of these can be repaired; that in fact we can put together, working with the government of Puerto Rico -- and this is critically important. This is not just a Navy problem. This came across very clearly to me and I think -- I won't speak for the rest of the members of the board -- as we went around Puerto Rico , met with the special commission that the governor had formed up, and that we went and saw the people of Vieques, held an open forum with anyone that wanted to talk to us, and they talked to us for a long time and gave us a list of grievances.

All of those grievances to them are very real, and they're very significant. They need to be addressed.

I don't think that the marriage is completely -- that it's irreconcilable. I think that in fact if the Navy gets into a real dialogue, they look at the economic opportunities working with the government of Puerto Rico , they look at the ecological problems that are being raised and address them.

Let me tell you, they've done a superb job. They have seven conservation zones down there that I think will look better than many that we have right back here in the States. They have done a good job in that area.

But at the same time, they've done a lousy job in communications when they start talking about live fire and live fire events and safety concerns. They, kind of, gave benign neglect to the issue of cancer and the health problems. Not that I think that the Navy is responsible for those, but I think inherently if we had a flag or someone -- and I agree with Senator Warner -- a good colonel and a good captain, Navy captain...

WARNER: Or an Army lieutenant colonel like Roosevelt.

NEAL: Or any Army lieutenant colonel could probably handle the issue. But I think when you have a dialogue, I think you should sort of have some level playing field so that in fact you don't have a Navy captain or a Marine colonel going to talk to the governor or his special commissioner.

But I really think there is an open opportunity here. That's the -- I think if I -- and my board members may pillar and post me -- I think really this was our opportunity to hopefully balance, a balanced report. We showed what was given to us on the Puerto Rican side. We showed what was given to us on the Navy side. We necked it down and we realized that in fact there is room for dialogue. There hopefully is room for accommodation. There hopefully is an opportunity to in fact mend these bridges.

ROSSELLO (?): May I follow with one brief question, Mr. Chairman?

WARNER: It's against the rules, but I'll allow it.

ROSSELLO (?): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Did you notice a difference in opinion with respect to these issues between the people of Vieques and other -- and people in San Juan, other parts of Puerto Rico ? Or was this...?

NEAL: I think I would say -- and I'll defer to my other board members -- I think I would say that the people of Puerto Rico , there was a personalization of the issues. They were very structured, very community-oriented-type issues, from education to health to archaeological sites, to culture development, to the stresses inherent with a range in close proximity. From the other side, I would say there was a lot more political elements involved in the discussion.

But let me tell you, this single issue for the first time -- and this was told to us by many people in Puerto Rico -- this is the first issue that all political parties on the island of Puerto Rico and Vieques all agreed upon.

WARNER: We turn to Senator Inhofe. But at some point, General Neal, weren't you assistant commandant of the Marine Corps here a few years ago when this thing was out there with a problem area?

NEAL: When it was a problem area?

WARNER: Yes. I mean, we're talking about a situation that's been before us for some time. You were assistant commandant for four years there.

NEAL: Yes, sir. Absolutely.

WARNER: It was on your watch that some of this was beginning to ferment.

NEAL: And I'll take full responsibility for...

WARNER: All right. Well, then...

NEAL: ... probably being ignorant about it.

WARNER: All right. That's a fair reply. Senator Inhofe.

INHOFE: I'll direct my question also...

NEAL: That's the issue -- that's the real issue, is that, because it wasn't a top-of-the-sheet agenda item, a lot of us did not pay attention to it, and shame on us. Not only I -- when I say Navy, I'm talking Department of the Navy, and I'll even say DOD.

WARNER: All right. Senator Inhofe.

INHOFE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you again for allowing me to have that opening time. I'll direct my one question to General Neal. I have the greatest respect for all three members of this --that are present today on this panel.

When we had our subcommittee hearings, we had other great Americans like you folks, Admiral Fallon, General Pace, Admiral Murphy, and I'm sure you all know them very well and hold them in the same high regard that I do. During that committee meeting, we talked about the fact that the Kennedy battle group deployed, and because of lack of access, one of their ships had no training at all. If the USS Eisenhower, which is scheduled to deploy in February, deploys, over half of their ships will be deploying without any of the benefit of that training.

In fact, just in this morning's paper I saw these people quoted as saying unless the battle group of the carrier USS Eisenhower can use the range by the first week in December, it will have to deploy to the Persian Gulf next year -- that's in February -- with three of its six ships unqualified to fire their guns.

And then Admiral Fallon and General Pace outlined a clear need for the Vieques in their testimony. But in the committee that I read the testimony of, of Senator Snowe's committee, the Seapower, Admiral Murphy stated before the Seapower Subcommittee that a loss of Vieques would cost American lives. My only question is, do you agree with these statements made by these officers?

NEAL: Yes, sir, I do. The last two out of the last three battle groups and amphibious ready groups that deployed were thrown into combat as soon as they reached the theater of operations. And it concerns me greatly that if in fact amphibious ready groups or CVBGs are not given the full spectrum of mission-essential tasks that they have to perform before they deploy. That concerns me greatly. And it does. And we mention in our report that if in fact they are not allowed to conduct the training that they see as essential for accomplishment of any and all missions, then they are put at greater risk.

WARNER: Senator, I think Admiral...

INHOFE: I was going to ask if Admiral Hernandez would respond also.

WARNER: Your response.

HERNANDEZ: There's no question that training is necessary for troops and Naval forces to carry out their duties properly, and nothing that this panel is recommending obviates that need. We recognize the need for the training. What we have suggested very strongly to the Department of the Navy is that they apply new technologies and new methods to old tactics, and find new places and new ways of doing what is essential.

So what you're pointing out, Senator, simply highlights the urgency for the Department of the Navy to find an alternative way of doing very essential training.

INHOFE: Well, the two key phrases were "six ships unqualified to fire their guns" and also "cost American lives." I'm concerned about the present, not what new technologies we might come upon and other ways of doing this. I'm, you know...

WARNER: I think you should restate that question so that --General Neal answered it very directly. Let's have the admiral given that opportunity. Restate that question.

WARNER: Does he or does he not agree...

INHOFE: With Admiral Fallon, General Pace and Admiral Murphy and the statements that they made that I quoted here.

HERNANDEZ: Senator, if there is an opposed amphibious landing in which these troops participate, and they've not had an opportunity to train, their lives would be at risk.

INHOFE: Thank you.

WARNER: That's clear.

The senator from Louisiana.

LANDRIEU: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate you holding this hearing this morning. And as I attended earlier the Readiness Subcommittee hearing, as I said in my testimony then that I'm very confident that as we continue these hearings, both from our committee and from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, that a proper solution can and will be found that can benefit the citizens of Puerto Rico and Vieques as well as the Navy.

So, I'd like, if I could have unanimous consent to submit the rest of my statement for the record.

WARNER: Without objection.

LANDRIEU: As far as my question, my original question was to get a little bit more on the record about the 1983 memorandum of understanding, and why it seems that situation had deteriorated the way that it had. But I think between Senator Lieberman's and Senator Reid, that subject has been well covered.

So, I'd like just to ask Mr. Secretary should Vieques close an alternative site be found in a more distant location, do you believe that Roosevelt Road would then need to be closed? Or would it effect the operation of that enterprise?

DANZIG: I think, Senator Landrieu, that the panel really isn't in a good position to make the, an assessment of the future of Roosevelt Roads. There are a number of issues there that are much --in many respects much broader than what the panel had focused its time on.

LANDRIEU: Are there any other comments on that? I'll reserve this question for the next panel then. Thank you.

WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator.

Senator Allard.

ALLARD: On the memorandum of understanding of 1983, there was some 16 points of agreement. It wasn't clear to me whether you think those points of agreement in that memorandum are still valid today, and it's just a matter that the Navy didn't follow through with their promises, or whether new goals and objectives different from 1983 need to be established.

HERNANDEZ: Senator, I'll take that. I was commander of Naval Forces Caribbean during the time that that memorandum of understanding was negotiated and signed. So, I was in Puerto Rico , responsible for the operation of the range among other things, during that time. I'm very familiar with the intent of the memorandum because I helped draft it.

All of those points that were addressed in that memorandum of understanding are still valid today. I felt, and the Navy agreed at the time, that this was a very good framework for the relationships between Puerto Rico and the Navy and for the conduct of our operations.

There was a great deal of effort made to comply with all of those provisions. And I think all of them are still very sound. Even in the face of the recommendations of the panel, I think the memorandum of understanding has a number of components that provide good guidance for the conduct of our relationships.

ALLARD: Do you think that needs -- expanding on that same question, Mr. Chairman, do you think that needs to be expanded?

HERNANDEZ: All of the issues are still pertinent. Other issues have now come up. And one of the recommendations of this panel was the creation of a joint committee precisely to provide a mechanism for the discussion of all of those issues.

ALLARD: What I'm trying to get is what are those specific issues that have come up since the memorandum of understanding? That's what my question is all about.

HERNANDEZ: At the time that we agreed on the contents of that memorandum of understanding, the Navy training at Vieques was being opposed by a small group of people in Vieques. And the situation now is that the Navy's presence in Vieques is being opposed by all three political parties. So the magnitude of the concern has grown. Therefore, although the issues that were pertinent in 1983 are still pertinent they have been aggregated now, a number of other difficulties that will not be addressed by the content of the memorandum. So, another mechanism has to be added to it. And that is one of the recommendations of the panel.

RUSH: I would only add to that, Senator, that many of the issues that were raised in the MOU were very well addressed by the Navy early on. Duke Hernandez (ph) being a case in point. And they were actually by his successors until his -- until that billet was done away with.

RUSH: But as a result of that billet being done away with and a, sort of, a insensitivity or perhaps benign neglect of the MOU probably around 1994, '95 many other issues have come to the fore as a direct result of this MOU -- the lack of adherence to this MOU, and then also some things that just came about as education, health concerns.

ALLARD: Mr. Chairman, I'm trying to get specifically what those issues are.

RUSH: Well, one -- I think one case in point is health. If you look through the MOU of 1983, there really isn't much -- in fact, there is no statements that address health. That's a necessary and a serious concern of the people of Vieques, and it has to be somehow sifted out as to what is the cause of the high rate of cancer. The three problems they have in Vieques are heart attacks, diabetes and tumors. And there needs to be something done -- a study -- a very quick study -- to try to identify what is the cause of this.

Education -- the education level has suffered greatly. Some on the Puerto Rican side attribute that to perhaps the noise levels and the overflying of the schools. I think we have to take a look at that and make sure that we address that. Those are two probably issues.

Archaeological sites -- there is strong opinion that -- I think there was 213 or -- I stand corrected -- 221 archaeological sites identified, 19 of which were put on the national registry. There's people in Vieques as we speak that think that more work has to be done in that particular area.

Economics -- the economic development that was talked about and written into the document of 1983 really didn't come to fruition. I can't say the Navy didn't try. They tried a reforestation with mahogany trees. They just couldn't survive in that culture.

At the same time, a lot of good things were done by the Navy. So I just think yes, this joint committee -- I think it would be foolhardy to throw out the MOU of 1983. I think that's the baseline from which they should now build upon.

WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator. Senator Robb?

ROBB: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me just follow up on the underlying question I think, which has brought this to such a high level of interest and tension, and that's the breakdown in communications. You've alluded to certainly the MOU that was not scrupulously followed or emphasized. General Neal, you suggested that it was not on the top of the sheet in these problems. And I think that's a fair assessment, based on my own experience with this issue and the way that it came to the fore rather dramatically and rapidly. But it clearly represented a long-term underlying tension that has existed.

If you could address the question of how the communications broke down at this point, where we simply have the Department of the Navy representatives not being able to communicate meaningfully with the representatives from Puerto Rico . And we're going to hear from some of those representatives in a few minutes, and I want to hear from them.

What can we do there? And how, in terms of one other aspect that was not included in your report -- economic development -- which has been a serious issue that has been raised by representatives of Puerto Rico . Was there a particular reason that economic development initiatives as alluded to by the secretary of the Navy and others were left out? Were they considered and left out? And what can we do to improve communications in that area?

NEAL: Senator Robb, I think that, after the signing of the memorandum of understanding in 1983, we heard in some detail from Mayor Santiago of the municipality of Vieques, and from the other officials in Vieques, of the activities that were taken by the Navy in Puerto Rico to further the economic development of the island. The memorandum of understanding was signed between the governor and the secretary of the Navy because of the difficulties and lack of communication between the Navy and the residents -- U.S. citizens in Vieques.

That, as we heard from Admiral Norton (ph), who was the last commander, by the time that he was the last flag commander in Puerto Rico , that -- that wasn't -- they were still working, but it hadn't worked out very well. And after the departure of the flag officer, it's clear that the communications were much -- were really deficient in terms of working together.

And that's why we recommended a formation of a joint committee with a flag officer, with the support of the Department of Defense, and other federal agencies to work together on the economy, and the environment, and the health of the citizens of -- U.S. citizens on Vieques.

ROBB: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: All right, thank you very much. Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to congratulate the committee and thank them for their work. And I am very concerned about the relationship that we have with the people of Vieques and the people of Puerto Rico over this issue. And I think your work here has highlighted that, and highlighted the concerns that many of us have had on this issue. And I agree with you that the Navy -- we needed to get the Navy and the Marine Corps off their butts to look at this issue and look at this issue seriously. And I also agree that we had to have some mechanism to get them to do so. And so I appreciate that. But I must tell you I have some concerns about what is in the report and what I'm hearing here, that we may actually -- potentially damage that relationship further, and let me explain why.

You have a hammer of five years as an objective to when we're going to be out of Vieques. And I think it -- and I don't know what the press in Puerto Rico is saying or what the politicians in Puerto Rico are saying, but certainly when you set a five-year objective, that becomes an expectation, that five years they're going to be gone. But yet in responding to Senator Levin's question, other questions up here, it became very clear to me that that does not mean in five years we're going to be gone, if in fact no alternative is found.

And so my concern is, and I'd like you to address this, is that are we setting up a promise that we may not be able to fulfill, and in fact further damage that relationship where promises were in fact made to get out in five years? And if we cannot follow through with finding a viable alternative, having to pull back from that promise, what are the consequences?

So I really do question -- I understand the need for the hammer, but I question whether we are not setting up an expectation that we cannot meet and thereby do even more damage to this relationship.

NEAL: I think, Senator Santorum, that we're setting up -- what our proposal is is to set up a process that will really work to look at -- look out to the future and look to the training requirements that are going to be in the future. That's important.

At the same time, in relationship to whether you end up thinking you have a broken promise or a broken commitment, I think the other side of the -- of this panel's recommendations, that we set up a --really a strong cooperative working relationship between the Department of Defense, the Navy and federal agencies and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , and this takes effort from both sides --that over that five years of effort, the question of broken promises will be less -- less important than the assessment of the training requirements that's been made and the progress that is made in terms of the community development.

SANTORUM: I'm not too sure you answered my question. I mean, I guess my question is: Why did you put the five years out there if it really isn't a five-year limit? I mean, it's -- it's setting -- I think it's setting us up for problems and I'm just trying to understand what the magic is for five years if we're going to have a process which this committee and other -- and the subcommittee is going to oversee -- the Congress is going to oversee to make sure that the Navy is cooperating in good faith, and is in fact following through with what you're suggesting they do.

Why put the five years out there as an unrealistic -- what I believe to be at least at this point, an unrealistic cut off, and heightening expectations which may not be able to be fulfilled? NEAL: I think the answer to that, Senator, is we do believe it's important to have an objective and we do believe that that's a realistic objective for a review of the training activities. And we believe it needs to be out there.

WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator. Senator Snowe, again we thank you for holding a hearing on this important subject. Yesterday, I worked with your ranking member, Senator Kennedy, who was quite helpful in the formation of one of our panels of witnesses that are coming up subsequently. So I thank you again and thank the work of your subcommittee.

SNOWE: Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I thank you for your leadership on this issue. And I, like all of the other members of this panel, truly regret that we're at this point today. It certainly is a calamitous culmination of a historic partnership that existed between the government and the people of Puerto Rico for some 60 years. And certainly it is an abrogation of responsibility -- an obligation on the part of the government that failed to uphold the memorandum of understanding so that we wouldn't be at this point today.

I truly think it's a tragedy and we have to figure out a way --what we're going to do to replace the confidence by our military with the absence of this type of training that is available at Vieques.

I did hear testimony the other day in the Seapower Subcommittee from both Admiral Murphy and Admiral Fallon. It's undeniable, as it has been with many other experts, about the value and the significance of the training that is provided at Vieques.

How -- and you indisputably provide it in your own report -- I mean, you went on to say -- you list the missions that are present at Vieques and that there are no other sites on the East Coast except at Vieques in which they can be conducted.

You went on to say that you reviewed the 18 sites that the Navy assessed. And you also concluded unequivocally that none of those sites are currently feasible or available. However, you say the panel does believe that new technologies, new techniques and new weapons systems will rapidly change training requirements and methods.

So it's been 60 years that we've had this multidimensional integrated warfare training for predeployment. How is it that you've determined that five years would be sufficient to replace what has been provided for 60 years for our sailors and Marines?

NEAL: Senator Snowe, the five-year period, we believe -- over those 60 years of training, many elements of the training and of weapons systems have changed. We're now seeing very rapid progress in the development of our operational systems. We believe that the five-year period, as an objective for an assessment of the need to continue training on the inner range on Vieques Island, is a target that will provide for a detailed assessment, and that's what we recommended to the Secretary of Defense when we delivered our report yesterday. I think it's important to put on the record what Secretary Cohen said yesterday after receiving our report. He said: "Well, I have an obligation to ensure that American forces are well trained and ready to meet the operational requirements of today's international events. It's clear from the panel's report that there are serious concerns among the residents of Vieques which need and deserve the careful attention of the Navy and the Department of Defense. I remain convinced, therefore, that further discussion with representatives of Vieques, Puerto Rico and the Navy on these important issues would be productive before I make my final recommendations to the president."

Once again, what I believe that the secretary wants is to start a process; to make sure that the commonwealth and the Navy are working together, and also that there is an examination of the -- a detailed, over-time examination of training requirements.

SNOWE: May I just follow up with one question? But from what you know now, and from the kind of testimony that's presented to your panel and from what you have explored and assessed, do you think that, within five years, that there is the technology -- the availability of the technology that would sufficiently replicate what our services are getting today and the types of training that is provided is unique at Vieques?

NEAL: It's the -- I will tell you that -- Senator Snowe, that the panel discussed the period of time that we should put out there. We did think that there needed to be a process to really review the future training requirements, and that needed to be not a two- or three-month review, but a detailed review that -- and an assessment of the future. The two members of our panel who are sitting on both sides of me that have the most experience in this area -- we concluded unanimously that the five-year objective was reasonable and could produce a definitive solution to this issue that has been brewing basically since 1975.

SNOWE: Thank you.

WARNER: I thank the senator. But the...

SNOWE: I'd like to include a statement in the record, Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: Absolutely. Without objection.

SNOWE: Thank you.

WARNER: But the senator raises an important procedural question we've got to address. You recite that -- what is the status of your commission now -- the Rush...

RUSH: We have submitted our recommendations to the -- Secretary Cohen. Secretary Cohen has asked the members of the panel to engage as is reasonable and...

WARNER: I'm going to read his words here in his release, because that's the question I have. "After receiving an update on the work of the special panel, Cohen asked its members to engage in further dialogue with representatives of Vieques, Puerto Rico and the Navy." In other words, put it simple: Are you in business or out of business, as a panel?

RUSH: As a panel, we're out of business as of today. As individual members of the panel, the secretary has asked each member if they would be prepared, in the interest of...

WARNER: So, you're out of business...

RUSH: ... in the interest of solving this issue, to participate.

WARNER: And I use that word respectfully. You're out of business. You've done a good job, by the way. A tough job. You've given good, strong, candid answers in most respects to the questions that have been propounded.

But you're out of business, but the secretary asked you to informally continue to foster, in your words, the -- your words here: "We set up a cooperative relationship." You're a part of that structure that's going to be set up, or...

NEAL: I think -- we had the good opportunity to meet all of the members of the special commission... WARNER: I understand that. You're especially experienced.

NEAL: Well, I think he wants to take advantage of that relationship that we have developed both with the Puerto Rican side and also on the Navy side. And he wants to take advantage of it, and he asked us quite candidly -- he asked us if we would be available to continue the dialogue and to open the dialogue of some of the issues that we raised in our panel report.

WARNER: So, on an informal basis, you'll be working with the public servants like the secretary and others who are in office who really have the major responsibility to work this thing through. Is that it? Informal?

NEAL: We're going to aid and assist. Yes, sir.

WARNER: You're sort of informal consultants. Which is fine. I think that's...

NEAL: Unpaid, too, sir.


WARNER: I understand. I understand.

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman, could you clarify for the record the date of the submission of that report? When did you submit your report to SECDEF?

WARNER: When did you submit the report to the secretary of defense?

RUSH: The secretary received the report yesterday.

WARNER: Yesterday.

Now, you said the final recommendation of Secretary Cohen to the president. What sort of a timetable is the secretary of defense looking at for that final report?

RUSH: You know, I think the timetable in part -- and I haven't been privy to that, Senator, so perhaps I shouldn't comment. But as we discussed, the Eisenhower is scheduled to deploy in February.

WARNER: That was my next question. You've got a battle group very much in need of this training. And do you think that -- is it your opinion, based on your consultations and work with the people of Puerto Rico , the office holders and others, that this could be achieved here in the next 30 to 60 days?

RUSH: My personal opinion, Senator, is that it's important to continue to work with the representatives from Puerto Rico in order to achieve an accommodation.

WARNER: Of the needs of the Eisenhower which are very immediate -- that battle group? RUSH: Yes, sir.

WARNER: Fine. Well, we're going to hear from the governor now, and I'm sure that he will provide us with a clear answer to that question.

I thank you very much for your work, gentlemen.

Questions will be provided to all panels for the record, and hopefully the witnesses can respond to them, this panel and all others. Governor, we welcome you.

Governor, we thank you for taking the time, but this is a very important issue, which you fully recognize. And I remember working with your predecessors over the years on this issue, and we're very hopeful that you can provide, in your testimony today and in your actions in the future, a balanced solution to this very critical problem.

So, we welcome you. If you will proceed. Your full statement will be admitted as a part of the record, and you select and choose those points you wish to address.

ROSSELLO: Thank you, sir. The Honorable John Warner, chairman, the Honorable Carl Levin, ranking member, other distinguished members of the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services, my name is Pedro Rossello, and since 1993 I have been governor of Puerto Rico .

Many of us in this room, Mr. Chairman, have not forgotten that you're a former secretary of the Navy. And most of us realize that you represent a state that boasts a heavy concentration of current and former military personnel. We are aware, too, that Virginia is the site of numerous major military installations, including the headquarters of the Navy's Atlantic fleet. We welcome your expertise.

Parties to this hearing are likewise aware of the harsh rhetoric that has issued forth from certain quarters of this committee. No senator, I am sure, would ever escalate a public policy dispute by threatening to promote the deactivation of military base located in a rival senator's state. Last month, though, the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Puerto Rico was the target precisely of that type of threat.

Nor is it a secret that this proceeding is awash in a sea of partisan overtones. By virtue of this proceeding, an effort will be undertaken to apply intense pressure to an administration which its opponents perceive to be extremely vulnerable with respect to the issue before us.

Such is politics. But the plight of the people of Puerto Rico and the offshore municipality of Vieques has absolutely nothing to do with any of that.

It appears that a political opportunity has been detected, so inevitably that opportunity is being exploited to the hilt. The plight of Vieques is simply that of a community of United States citizens who are energetically engaged in nothing more sinister than the exercise of their sacred constitutional right to petition their federal government for the redress of grievances. Those grievances are many, Mr. Chairman, and they have been awaiting redress for many, many years.

The death of a young Vieques resident last April brought the situation to the point of no return. That human tragedy served as a catalyst. In response to a ubiquitous outpouring of intense consternation, I issued an executive order to create a special committee that will study the current situation in the offshore municipality of Vieques with respect to the activities of the Navy in said municipality and recommend an official position to be taken by the people of Puerto Rico .

The nine members of the special committee included representatives of the people of Vieques, the community at large and all three political parties. The special committee unanimously recommended the permanent and immediate cessation and termination of all naval activities on Vieques, together with the swift and orderly transfer of Navy-controlled lands for the use and benefit of the people of Vieques.

Upon receiving and studying the report of our special committee on Vieques, I unhesitatingly adopted its findings as the official position of both the government and the people of Puerto Rico . The contents of that report were promptly presented and discussed at length with the members of the President's Special Panel on Military Operations on Vieques.

Barely several hours ago, yesterday, that panel submitted its report to the secretary of defense, and you have already become aware of the contents of that report. Therein the panel recommends, and I quote, "the objective of ceasing all training activities on Vieques within the next five years."

However, although the panel also recommends that, and I quote, "effective immediately, the Navy reduce the expenditure of live fire, bombs, naval gunfires and artillery by 50 percent from 1998 activity levels, and reduce the availability of the impact area from 365 days per year to 130 days per year." It fails to recommend our petition for the full cessation of all bombing on Vieques.

That, Mr. Chairman, is unacceptable to our people. You see, exactly six months ago have elapsed since the so-called "friendly fire" in the form of a massive 500-pound bomb wounded four persons on Vieques and took the life of David Santes Rodriguez (ph).

Precisely half a year later, the resolve of the people of Puerto Rico is, if anything, even firmer than it was at the outset to make sure that such destructive friendly fire does not resume again.

Given what has transpired since April 19th, this spirit of unity and unshakable determination should surprise no one. It should be noted for the record that we, the people of Puerto Rico , have been obliged to endure threats, veiled or otherwise; threats that make reference to the price that we might have to pay if we persist in our commitment to upholding the inalienable right of our sisters and brothers on Vieques to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Indeed, this may have played a part in reinforcing the steadfastness of our people's resolve. Nevertheless, other factors have contributed as well. You see, throughout these past six months, the people of Puerto Rico have been learning dozens of astonishing details that most of us never knew before; details that were -- that reflect how supremely callous, condescending and ultimately inhumane is the manner in which the Navy has conducted itself in Vieques.

From earlier witnesses at this hearing, you have heard how supposedly precious, unique and indispensable Vieques is to the preparation of America's Navy and Marine Corps combat forces. That is not a universally accepted proposition. Based on his professional experience, retired Vice Admiral John J. Shanahan contends that, and I quote, "I cannot support the Navy claims that Vieques is critical for predeployment Navy and Marine Corps training, and that training obtained at Vieques cannot be duplicated elsewhere."

Admiral Shanahan is a former commander of the U.S. Second Fleet, the same post, by the way, which is currently held by Vice Admiral William Fallon. And Admiral Shanahan goes on to state that, again, quoting directly, "while training at Vieques was invaluable for Navy readiness in earlier years, that is no longer the case. The current training on Vieques is neither unique, nor in most instances necessary for modern amphibious warfare."

As a veteran professional Navy officer, whose duties include commanding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Strike Fleet Atlantic, and serving as fleet readiness officer on the staff of the commander of the U.S. Pacific fleet, Admiral Shanahan further declares the training at Vieques is not integrated. And in light of evolving amphibious doctrine, training can be and is conducted by individual units and through simulation at other locations.

He concludes his assessment with these words: "Therefore, Vieques is not critical to our national security needs."

But if, as the Navy claims, Vieques is so unique and so important, then why in Heaven's name has the Navy not bent over backwards to foster, nurture and constantly strengthen its relationship with the residents of Vieques?

For close to 60 years, Mr. Chairman, the people of Vieques have been objecting to various aspects of the Navy's conduct there. In response, the people of Vieques have received large quantities of lip service and minimal quantities of meaningful action. Nobody in Puerto Rico takes comfort any more in promises, pledges and assurances that are offered by the Navy. We have reached the limit of our patience, after nearly six decades of empty promises, unreliable pledges and broken assurances.

We're not angry at the Navy. After all, it is our Navy. Throughout the world, in the air, on the seas and under the seas Puerto Rican officers and sailors contribute daily to maintaining the pre-eminence of the United States Navy.

ROSSELLO: We are not angry but we are convinced that enough is enough.

Here's why. Here are merely a few of the injustices that we, the people of Puerto Rico , have indelibly assimilated into our collective consciousness since April 19, 1999. Some of these injustices are things we had never known and which thus came as a complete shock. Some are things we vaguely knew but had never thought much about them before. Some are things we had forgotten. Taken together, however, these revelations add up to a stinging indictment; an indictment that cries out for justice.

Is it -- it is unimaginable that Vieques should be the place where the Navy expends close to half of the total world-wide allotment of training ordinance, where it is the chosen setting for dangerous high-altitude tactical bombing runs that are permitted nowhere on this Earth, or that large caliber ship-to-shore bombardments takes place there on a scale unmatched in the vicinity of any other population elsewhere, or that the facilities of Vieques have been rented out to foreign nations so that they could also join in the bombing spree.

Yet this is what transpires on Vieques. And those are only four items on an ordinarily menu of onslaught that is repeated over and over and over for at least 200 days per year, every year. All too understandable in the light of those circumstances, is the exceptionally high incidents of psychological and social maladies on Vieques. In addition, as if their disproportionate levels of alcoholism, depression and similar disorders were not more than sufficient cause for alarm, the residents of Vieques contract cancer at a rate that is 27 percent higher than the average level in other parts of Puerto Rico .

And lest you be tempted to dismiss the cancer data as irrelevant, be advised of the following: Routinely polluting the atmosphere of the populated portion of Vieques are toxic smokes and other ordinance residues carried by the prevailing easterly breeze from a live-fire zone which is situated less than eight miles from the island's residential sector.

The Navy recently admitted having deployed napalm on Vieques. And if this were not enough, it has also been established that as recently as winter, Navy pilots struck Vieques of a barrage of at least 263 shells that were radioactive. Shells tipped with a substance euphemistically dubbed as depleted uranium.

Six months ago Puerto Ricans either did not know about these phenomena, or hadn't thought much about them, or had forgotten about many of them. Today we all know and with one voice we have proclaimed, never again. Lamentable though it may be, there is more to the saga of Vieques than man's inhumanity to man, because this grim chronicle extends to all God's creatures, great and small.

On that second front, the bottom line is that the Navy has repeatedly been a shabby steward of the delicate ecology of what was once one of the most uniformly beautiful islands in the Caribbean Sea.

Despite civilization's accelerating encroachment upon the pristine marine environments, our planet continues to be blessed with a total of seven bioluminescent lagoons. These are placid bodies of salt water in which rare and extremely vulnerable microorganisms emit a majestic glow whenever the water is agitated. Visible only at night, this phenomenon leaves a radiant trail in the wake of any boats and permits visitors to observe the trajectories carved through the waters by otherwise invisible fish. Bioluminescent lagoons are truly a wonder of nature and of the seven that remain on Earth, three are located on Vieques, Puerto Rico .

This is a sample of what I mean when I speak of the delicate ecology of an exceptionally beautiful island. And this is the island to which our Navy has been laying siege since the early 1940s. The Navy prepared an environmental impact statement on its Vieques operation in 1980. Therein, the Navy forthrightly admitted that, and I quote, "Potentially productive portions of the island had been converted into a wasteland by its aerial attacks."

The document goes on to report that, during a single 10-year period ending in 1978, Vieques sustained an appalling increase in acreage left barren and/or cratered by military activity. Specifically, there was a 20 to 30 times as much of this moonscape terrain on Vieques in 1978 than there had been in 1968.

Significant too, in this context, are two related items of information. First, that 1980 environmental impact statement is the only such study that the Navy has ever conducted on Vieques in its nearly 60 years of operations there. Second, what promoted that lone study was the threat of litigation.

Meanwhile, over the past 20 years, it's continued to be bombs away day after day. As a result, defoliation has exacerbated both erosion and sedimentation, aquifers have been polluted, some lagoons have dried up altogether, wildlife habitats are disappearing, imperiling various endangered species of bird as well as the manatee, a large, peaceful sea mammal that is threatened with extinction. Absolutely spectacular coral reefs are littered with the debris, including unexploded ordinance that is a byproduct of untold numbers of aerial strafing exercises, ship-to-shore bombardment drills and amphibious landing by the Marines.

At the beginning of November, the annual meeting of the United States Coral Reef Task Force will be held on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Planning to attend is Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. The mission of this task force is to protect and preserve the coral resources of our nation as part of a worldwide crusade aimed at halting the disappearance of coral reefs formation.

I have invited Secretary Babbitt to make the 50-mile trip to Vieques as soon as the St. Croix conference ends so that he and I can don scuba gear and personally inspect the devastation that has been inflicted upon some of the most extensive coral concentrations under the American flag. Devastation which, of course, has had a correspondingly adverse impact on the gloriously multi-colored variety of tropical fish and other sea features that invariable form part of any coral-based ecosystem.

Once upon a time, most Puerto Ricans either did not know about the environmental havoc being wrecked upon Vieques, or hadn't thought much about it, or had forgotten about it. Today, we all know. And with one voice, we the people of Puerto Rico , have proclaimed, this has got to stop.

We have already discussed the spiritual trauma inflicted upon the people of Vieques by what literally has amounted to an endless stage of siege. So let me now underscore that, in purely unemotional, economic terms, the damage has been equally severe.

Vieques was the subject of a 1983 memorandum of understanding between the government of Puerto Rico and the Department of the Navy. That wielded -- that widely heralded agreement addressed environmental concerns, issues of public safety and matters pertaining to job creation. In each and every one of those areas, the memorandum of understanding gradually evaporated into a dead letter, an exercise in futility.

With respect to the document's economic development clauses, let's look at the dismal situation which exists on Vieques today. More than one quarter of the work force there is involuntary idle. That is a figure which is more than double the jobless rate for the rest of Puerto Rico . It is a figure that would be inconceivable anywhere in the U.S. mainland.

Just north of Vieques lies Culebra, Puerto Rico 's only other offshore island municipality. Culebra was liberated from Navy bombing back in 1975 and the unemployment rate on Culebra has since fallen to less than seven percent.

Although Vieques has tremendous tourism potential, its development has been stymied to the point where it had the grotesque distinction this past Friday of being singled out, believe it or not, as one of the five worst vacation spots in the entire Earth. On October 15th, on an article in "The Wall Street Journal," exalted the beautiful beaches and picturesque settings on Vieques. But in ranking the island among the world's absolutely least desirable holiday destinations, the newspaper cited one and only one reason: the frighteningly noisy suffocatingly confusing and generally all intrusive presence of the U.S. Navy.

Vieques also has considerable agriculture and fishing industry potential, but that too has been stymied. Vieques is, in essence, hostage to the status as what the Navy asserts to be a unique and undisputable national security asset. Remember, though, that economic opportunity for the people of Vieques formed an integral part of the covenant that the Navy solemnly entered into 16 long years ago. So what has that covenant yielded? Fundamentally, nothing.

Until last spring, most Puerto Ricans either didn't know about the economic price that the people of Vieques were paying, or they hadn't thought much about it very often, or they had forgotten about it. Well, not anymore. Today, we all know about the hardships and hopelessness that our sisters and brothers on Vieques have been experiencing. And we have proclaimed in unison, basta ya, which is our favorite way of expressing the sentiment that enough is enough.

Mr. Chairman, let not my words be misconstrued. We, the people of Puerto Rico , are not anti-Navy. On the contrary, we support the Navy and all of the Armed Forces in their mission of defending our nation. Our support for the Navy, however, neither negates or in any way diminishes our unqualified support for the inalienable rights of our fellow American citizens on Vieques. Where competing values or principles are counterpoised, when neither of two diametrically opposed positions or propositions is lacking in merit, then a method must be found to choose between them. Somehow a priority must be set.

And there, Mr. Chairman, is no greater priority than the rights -- the human rights of people. The issue before us is a people issue. It is about human beings, about human rights. It is about the rights of citizens. Let it never be maliciously asserted or even suggested that we, the people of Puerto Rico , seek to shirk the common burden of defending the nation, a common burden that is an inherent responsibility of our citizenship. Both the annals of history and the events of the present uniformly refute any such slanderous declarations or implications.

We comprehend, though, how it is possible that so an unfair an accusation can be uttered. We comprehend how and why people in the 50 states are almost universally aware that the United States Army's 65th Infantry Regiment, composed almost exclusively of Puerto Rican troops, earned more decorations than any other combat unit during the conflict in Korea. Or that more than 200,000 Puerto Ricans have answered the nation's call to arms. Or that four Puerto Ricans have been awarded the Medal of Honor for acts of supreme bravery which cost them their lives.

We comprehend how and why high-ranking Pentagon officials, members of Congress and even some U.S. Senators seem not to appreciate the fact that, in an era when attracting and retaining personnel is the single greatest challenge confronting America's armed forces, only one jurisdiction surpasses Puerto Rico in per-capita military recruitment rate, including all of the states represented here in this commission.

We comprehend how it is possible that outside Puerto Rico so few Americans realize that we have aggressively supported the Defense Department's initiative to place on our soil a relocatable over-the- horizon radar system, a major component of which is being installed -- guess where? -- on Vieques. We firmly support that project because we are patriotic citizens who recognize that this facility will not violate anyone's fundamental human rights. And we support it because we recognize that this sophisticated radar complex will further enhance the vital role that Puerto Rico plays in waging this nation's all-out war against the deadly scourge of international narcotics trafficking.

And finally, Mr. Chairman, we comprehend how and why our implacable opposition to the Navy's continued bombing on Vieques can create a storm of controversy, and at the same time that our enthusiastic invitation to the United States Southern Command was largely overlooked.

ROSSELLO: We emphatically urge SOUTHCOM to relocate from Panama to Puerto Rico as we pursued that goal for a full five years. Moreover, our efforts were rewarded with the arrival in Puerto Rico this summer of two components of that command including Army South.

We comprehend how and why it is that these and other shinning examples of Puerto Rican patriotism get overlooked. It happens because disenfranchised citizens don't count too much. They don't get noticed much. Let's face it, disenfranchised citizens exercise very little clout in a place like Washington, D.C. where political power is the name of the game.

Having absorbed that lesson, we are able to comprehend how and why so many federal officials are capable of ignoring and discounting the significance of what Puerto Ricans have contributed and are contributing to the preservation of American peoples precious freedoms. We comprehend how and why non-violent civil disobedience, which is applauded as noble when practiced on the mainland, can incredibly be equated with treason if it is even so much as contemplated in Puerto Rico .

We, the people of Puerto Rico , are by no means the first group of American citizens who have passed through democracy's school of hard knocks and learned that painful lesson.

Mr. Chairman, we wish our Navy the best. We admire its expertise. We welcome it as our neighbor. We are immensely proud of the thousands upon thousands of Puerto Ricans who have answered its call to help protect the cause of liberty around the world. And I am sure that my sentiments are shared by a massively overwhelming majority of Puerto Ricans everywhere, including Vieques. I am no less certain, however, that we, the people of Puerto Rico , have graduated from colonial passivity. Never again shall we tolerate abuse of the magnitude and scope the likes of which no community in any of the 50 states would ever be asked to tolerate.

Never again shall we tolerate such abuse. Not for 60 years, and not for 60 months, or 60 days, 60 hours, or 60 minutes. This might be a classic case of might versus right. And we the people of Puerto Rico have empowered ourselves to uphold a cause that is right.

In God we trust, and trusting in God, we shall see to it that our neighbors on Vieques are blessed at last with the American promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. WARNER: On behalf of the committee, Governor, we thank you. You delivered very eloquently a powerful message. And now, I'd just like to, as we say in the Senate, enter into a little colloquy with you. To stop to think that the people of Puerto Rico , the people of Virginia -- and I thank you for your kind remarks about this humble senator -- elected us to lead. And you have very dramatically, and I think with a degree of accuracy, related the past.

And indeed, I'm glad you made reference to the 65th Infantry Division in Korea. I served in Korea. I had a modest contribution in that conflict. Not in any way earning the decorations that distinguished Puerto Ricans earned. And indeed, you are right: Throughout the military history, contemporary military history of this nation men and women from Puerto Rico have served valiantly in the armed services.

The most encouraging words that you used, were two: our Navy. Our Navy in February about to deploy into harm's way where aviators will be in a combat situation, not only delivering ordinance but receiving ordinance inflicted against them in less than two weeks time when they depart. And my question to you: Are you willing to work with the president's representative, the secretary of defense, the military chiefs of the Army and the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force, all who are involved, such that when the Eisenhower deploys it will have deployed with the necessary training, perhaps somewhat limited, that it needs to have at Vieques? Will you work towards that end?

ROSSELLO: Mr. Chairman, I think Admiral Hernandez was quite clear and eloquent saying that what we're putting here as unnegotiable point on the table.

WARNER: I missed a word, unnegotiable -- U-N, in other words, U-N, unnegotiable.

ROSSELLO: You don't negotiate with human rights. And the only unnegotiable aspect is the human rights of the citizens of Vieques. Admiral Hernandez very aptly pointed out that there are many other activities, training activities that can be performed in the theater at large without utilizing the island of Vieques, and certainly we would not oppose that -- we would not oppose that. But certainly we cannot accept any more of the abuse that is being put upon the U.S. citizens in Vieques.

Again, sometimes hard choices have to be made. But I think that there can be no greater priority than the human rights of people. And so, yes, I think we have to charge the Navy with looking for alternatives for that small specific area that they utilize Vieques for. Because when you weigh -- when you balance what is at stake, you have a potential against a reality of damage. Would you be willing to continue the damage upon the people of Vieques, which is very well documented, just on the off chance that this might improve the preparation of the troops?

WARNER: Let me try and rephrase the question. Will you work towards an interim resolution of this problem, such that a single airplane from the Eisenhower battle group, or a single ship firing ship to shore can fire one round or drop one bomb between now and February 2000?

ROSSELLO: Any bombing of Vieques is unacceptable to us.

WARNER: So absolutely no operations can be conducted with live rounds from the battle group of the Eisenhower, before it deploys in February...

ROSSELLO: As long as...

WARNER: Is that your position?

ROSSELLO: As long as it includes Vieques. Again, I'm saying...

WARNER: I understand that, no, no, no.

ROSSELLO: The theater is much wider than that and we're not opposing that.

WARNER: Governor, Governor, the question is precise. Once again: not one aerial dropped bomb, not one ship-to-shore shell on Vieques between now and February deployment date; is that your position?

ROSSELLO: Not one.

WARNER: Over here, against the wall, are charts showing ranges on various military installations across the 50 states. Maybe during the course of this hearing -- but time is getting short -- we can put them up. I'll just ask my assistant to select one.

Should the governor of this state be in that seat in the next week making a similar petition as you're petitioning this Senate on behalf of those -- identify the chart please.

UNKNOWN: (OFF-MIKE) shows the live impact area in Quantico, which is about a mile from the civilian population in Stafford County, Virginia.

WARNER: Should my governor be here next week in that seat making a similar petition?

ROSSELLO: Mr. Chairman, I'm sure that if that community had to bear the consequences of 60 years of bombing, the consequences that --that have been documented to cause -- to that community, I'm sure your governor would not be here next week. He would have been here much before that. And I'm sure that the same way that the senator from Hawaii objected to precisely the same bombing in one Hawaiian island, that was not objected by any other senator in this august body, you would be also assuming that position.

WARNER: I trained as a young marine on that range.

General, how long has that range been active? Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Jones, stand and speak with a loud voice, please, sir.

JONES: Since 1940, sir, 1941 to be exact.

WARNER: 1941, so it's been over -- a long time.

ROSSELLO: And the community doesn't want that -- those exercises to go on.

WARNER: I'll address that community.

ROSSELLO: Well, you know, it's a different -- if the community, which we are, for example, Senator, we are supporting all other base installations in Puerto Rico . Again, don't misconstrue the essence of this. This is specifically about the burden -- disproportionate burden that has to be borne. And I'm not sure this community bears it. If they support it, well, I'm all for it. If the people of Vieques were supporting it, if they said this is causing us no harm, you know, I wouldn't be here.

What I'm saying is that you would also be here if that community were saying that this is causing irreparable damage to their own.

WARNER: Well, all I can say is the people from that community marched in 1776 so we could sit here today and have this public hearing.

Dr. Lieberman.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Governor, good morning and thanks for a very eloquent statement. I want to ask -- although you've said your position on the question of bombing is unnegotiable -- on Vieques is unnegotiable, how do you respond to the various suggestions that have been made here today that you and others sit with the Pentagon and begin a negotiating process, presumably with the objective, at least as I hear it, as articulated by the Rush commission, leave aside the question of time, to cease operations on Vieques? Are you open to entering those kinds of discussions?

ROSSELLO: Certainly, Senator, we're open, but that precludes any bombing while we're discussing this.

LIEBERMAN: Understood. Just a very quick follow-up question. I thought you presented, you know, very provocative testimony regarding the concerns about public health effects and environmental effects. The -- and archaeological have been mentioned as well.

The Rush commission does call, as Senator Robb has indicated --and he's been actively interested in this -- for a report on the questions of the incidence of cancer and other health concerns. What's the state of the data up until now on that question? Who has been studying that and what's the basis of the testimony that you gave this morning?

ROSSELLO: The data that we have is demographic data based on the incidence of cancer throughout Puerto Rico . We have a cancer registry and we have study groups from the University of Puerto Rico that have documented that there is an increased incidence. This is in no way, I admit, a causal relationship type of study; it's just a demographic study. It says that, indeed, it is true that there is an increased incidence of cancer in Vieques. It doesn't say what the cause is. And that would be the subject of further study.

LIEBERMAN: It raises the question.

Thanks, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, Governor.

WARNER: But I think you raised a very important point, Senator Lieberman. In other words, if some negotiations take place which can resolve this, then live use of ordinance on Vieques could resume after those negotiations are completed.


WARNER: Senator Hutchinson -- who's next?

THURMOND: Governor, communities throughout the United States and its territories share both the burden and benefits associated with nearby bases and ranges that support our national military capabilities. I should add that many of our ally's countries share the same burden.

THURMOND: What precedent would it set to our communities if the Congress bowed -- I repeat, bowed to this pressure by the community of Vieques?

ROSSELLO: Senator, I think this is precisely your job. Your job is to listen for the petitions of redressing grievances. That is a constitutional right that is given to the citizens of this nation. And it is precisely this Congress, this Senate that has to respond to those petitions for redress of grievances. I have enumerated numerous grievances. And we come here precisely, asking you to conduct in a manner that the Constitution foresaw.

The rights and responsibilities of the citizens of this nation should be equal. And I must say here, that the responsibilities are disproportionately placed on the small island of Vieques. And on the other hand, their rights as citizens are not recognized.

This Senate had an opportunity, in 1998, last year, of trying to balance out the rights and responsibilities of the American citizens of Puerto Rico . It refused to do so. And so I would agree with you that we should use this opportunity to make sure that we define, for the American citizens of Puerto Rico , both their responsibilities and their rights on equal terms.

I hope that in the future the Senate is up to the task.

THURMOND: I agree with the comments. And we must provide for the security of our nation.

WARNER: Senator Reed.

REED: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Governor, how do you respond to the examples that have been mentioned, most recently by my colleague from Oklahoma, that there are, in fact, bases within the continental United States which have significant amounts of training, that have considerable ordnance expended each year, that in effect -- although in degree, this situation might be one of significant expenditure -- that there are other places in the United States where this type of military training goes, and so that the burden is not exclusive to Puerto Rico and to Vieques?

ROSSELLO: Well, what we're saying is that it's disproportionate. And I would then ask the senator from Oklahoma to tell this committee if there are air-to-ground live bombing that takes place within one mile of civilians in Oklahoma. Because, I understand that only artillery is being used, and that's a very different part of this problem.

REED: Well, I'm not an expert on Fort Sill, but I know there are places in the United States where there are combined arms exercises, where aircraft, helicopters, artillery, small arms, and a whole range of other weapons are used. It -- again, I think there is quite a difference, perhaps in scale. But there are many places throughout the continental United States and elsewhere where these exercised take place.

ROSSELLO: Well, Senator, I would agree with you, if those communities had a 27-percent increase in cancer rate, if they had an inordinately amount of mental health problems, if they had their community's economic potentials quashed to where it would be five times the national average. If they had their environment completely destroyed, I would agree with you, that I would be there, asking for the same thing. And I suspect that probably you are any other senator would be in the same boat advocating for the human rights, and the citizens' rights of your constituents.

REED: Thank you, Governor.

WARNER: Senator Smith.

SMITH: Mr. Chairman, I yield my time to the senator from Oklahoma, Senator Inhofe.

INHOFE: I thank you.

Mr. Chairman, I'm going to -- I guess we're operating on the single-question rule here. And since...

WARNER: If Senator Smith has yielded his time to you, you may have two questions, Senator.

INHOFE: Well, I might need more than that, Mr. Chairman, because this Governor has directly impugned my character, my integrity, and he is probably one of the best politicians I've ever witnessed, because I'm sure that plays very well back home, and your numbers are going to go up as a result of this.

So, let's just clarify this to be sure that I'm correct, when you said: "Parties to this hearing are likewise aware of the harsh rhetoric that has been issued forth from certain quarters of this committee. No, Senator, I am concerned. I would never escalate a public policy dispute by threatening to promote the deactivation of a military base, located in a rival senator's state. Last month, though, the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Puerto Rico was the target of precisely that kind of a threat."

Next sentence -- "Nor is it a secret that his proceeding is awash in a sea of partisan overtones." Now, I don't want a long answer. I just want a yes or no. You're referring to me, aren't you?

ROSSELLO: Absolutely. I'm glad you picked it up. INHOFE: All right.


INHOFE: All right. And I'm sure that plays very, very well.


INHOFE: And I am hoping that, with all of the media that is here, I suspect that every media -- printed or electronic -- from Puerto Rico is here. And they're all applauding you in the statements that you have made.

I want to make sure they understand what I said when I was on the Island of Vieques, and when I was in Puerto Rico , just a short while ago. I said that Roosevelt Roads, in its functions that it performs, according to our Department of Defense, between 75 and 80 percent of those functions are supporting the range.

Now, we do have SOUTHCOM. If something should happen that they came out of Puerto Rico , SOUTHCOM could go to excess capacity in either Stennis (ph) or Fort Bragg. They also have the P-3 operation, which could go where we have excess capacity in Key West. That leaves nothing but supporting the range.

Is there any -- now, I want to ask this question. I want to make this as a statement. I want to make sure all of the media -- be responsible when you go back and state that without this range there is no longer a reason to keep Roosevelt Roads active.

We've gone through four BRAC rounds, where we have had to close various installations in the United States. I can dare say that our chairman had several in his state of Virginia that were closed. And he didn't like it. But he stood up, and he said: We have to do it, because we have to get rid of excess capacity.

Now very it's likely, that is what's going to happen. I do chair the subcommittee that has the jurisdiction over BRAC. So I want you to know. And I want all of the media, hopefully, to responsibly report what I'm saying is, there is a link between Roosevelt Roads and the range. There's no reason for Roosevelt Roads if the range disappears.

Now, you have accused me of being of the -- let's see, "nor is it secret that the proceeding is awash with -- a sea of partisan overtones." Partisan overtones. I dare say that in my state of Oklahoma, not very many of them know, could tell me where Vieques is. But they do know that there is a range there that we have to have for our readiness situation in the United States, in the military. It is absolutely necessary.

And I am so proud -- so proud of the military active officers today -- the flag officers on up, and down -- who have all said, without one exception, that we have to have that range in order to save American lives. That's the only place, when you deploy to the Mediterranean or the Persian Gulf, that they can get that training. We could not have done what we did in Kosovo if it had not been for that.

Now, if I am so awash with politics -- and I still can't figure out what that could possibly be -- what about you, Governor? What about you? You're having a heyday here. And your numbers are going to skyrocket, because you came here, and you intimidated, and you threatened members of this body, and you had a smile on your face, and you're enjoying every minute of it.

But it is a true fact -- and I have the documentation, so I wouldn't want you to deny it -- that "in August, Vice President Al Gore was allowing him" -- and I'm quoting now, which is you, the governor -- "to convey that Vice President Gore supports the closing of the range." Again, in this morning's hot line, we have that repeated again -- just in today's newspapers.

So here you have Vice President Gore playing with you in concert, to try to do this. And currently you are the vice president for --Gore for President fund-raising chairman for Puerto Rico . Now, how could you get more political and partisan than that?

ROSSELLO: I think the Senator doth protest too much. He has repeatedly proven my point. Nowhere else have I seen anybody bring up the political angle here. In your opening statements you did. And I think that maybe I can enlighten you a little bit...

INHOFE: No, no, I've got to correct you, Mr. Governor...

ROSSELLO: Senator, let me -- let me.

INHOFE: Hold on here. If you could get a little order here, I'd appreciate it.

ROSSELLO: Let me continue. I...

INFHOFE: Because it's your statement -- the printed statement that said this, not me.

ROSSELLO: Let me -- let me continue answering your question.

I am not running for office. Maybe you didn't know that, Senator. I suspect you probably are.

INHOFE: What are you saying?

ROSSELLO: I am not running for office. That's what I'm saying. So this over-preoccupation with numbers -- which you have mentioned several times -- probably reflects your own projection. I have, yes, asked the vice president -- as I have asked the president, and I have asked members of both parties, including Senator Murkowski, who has a bill before the Senate supporting our position; including Congressman Burton, who also supported what Puerto Rico is bringing here to the table.

So yes, this is an issue that I believe in passionately. It has nothing to do with politics from our perspective. And you've failed to see -- even at this point -- you've failed to see... INHOFE: Mr. Chairman, I think we can control time in terms if...

ROSSELLO: ... the basic issue here, which is human rights.

INHOFE: He's not answering my question.

WARNER: Well, Senator, I want...

ROSSELLO: I simply said...

WARNER: ... to accommodate the Senator from Oklahoma as best I can.

INHOFE: Let me just say, Governor...

WARNER: If you will just give that one question precisely...

INHOFE: I'm going to give you the question in just a minute. But you have made the statement that I was the one who was being partisan, when this written statement that you prepared, and we have read yesterday...


INHOFE: ... long before I made any statements. So you're the one who made that statement.

Now, I have two questions, using one of Senator Smith's, and one of my own. You used the term that these are disadvantaged --disenfranchised citizens.


INHOFE: Do you consider the citizens of Stafford County, Virginia, and the citizens of Lawton, Oklahoma to also be equally disenfranchised citizens?

ROSSELLO: No, Senator, they have their full voting rights in a democracy.

INHOFE: And those citizens are much closer -- you heard what I said to the previous panel -- they're one mile from the live range.

ROSSELLO: Do they have...

INHOFE: There have been 34, as opposed to one on the ground, in 57 years, who has died. And yet -- you know what there statement is? I'm very proud when I go down there. I said, "Doesn't it bother you, all the noise and everything, within a mile of 100,000 citizens?"

You know what they say, Mr. Chairman? They say that's the sound of freedom.

My question to you is, you're the chief law enforcement officer, along with being the chief executive officer. I assume that that goes with your job description. In an article that was -- the 28th of September, 1999, in "The New York Daily," you are quoted as saying --and I have all the documentation here -- that you will oppose any moves against the protesters.

As chief executive officer of your commonwealth, as chief law enforcement officer of your commonwealth, the fact that we have civil disobedience -- do you encourage that civil disobedience? And why are you not arresting these individuals who are trespassing, and clearly breaking the law?

ROSSELLO: If you look at my statements, Senator, you will see that I have never encouraged civil disobedience. Never. And you cannot...

INHOFE: Will you stand and -- will you get on the record today that you oppose the civil disobedience that's taking place with that trespassing?

ROSSELLO: What I'm giving you, and the armed forces, is wise advice. If you want to have a situation that will belittle the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy, non-U.S. citizens, by the voluntary bombing of U.S. citizens in Vieques -- if you're willing to take that route, then you're advised well ahead of time. What I'm saying ...

INHOFE: That's not the question I asked him...

ROSSELLO: You have to be wise...

INHOFE: ... Mr. Chairman.

ROSSELLO: ... in this era. It is not our state responsibility. It is a federal responsibility, if you want to remove people from there. But I'm telling you...

INHOFE: Do you oppose, as governor of the state, the civil disobedience, and the breaking of the law, and the trespassing on Vieques? Do you oppose that, or do you support it? Yes or no?

ROSSELLO: Senator, I have never -- I have never endorsed civil disobedience in any of my statements. I have said that we will use all lawful methods -- law and order -- to obtain what we feel are the basic human rights of our fellow citizens.

INHOFE: Are they trespassing lawfully?

ROSSELLO: They're not trespassing lawfully.

WARNER: Well, what steps have you taken then, to enforce the law? That's the senator's question.

ROSSELLO: It's a federal law. It's the federal government that has to act if it wants to act. Sometimes it is not wise to act. And all I'm saying is, I'm giving you what I think is good advice. Don't push it.

INHOFE: Let me give, also, some good advice, since he's giving me advice, Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: I have to...


UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: That's a threat of violence against the government.


INHOFE: Mr. Chairman...

WARNER: That's it. I'm just going to ...

WARNER: ... since that's a threat of violence against me, I must respond.

WARNER: Senator, I understand that. I understand that. But this colloquy, I think, has run its full course. If you feel absolutely necessary to make a statement, please do so.

INHOFE: Well, I will, but not relating to that.

WARNER: Because he's not going to answer the question.

INHOFE: Because the answer he gave me -- he didn't answer my question.

INHOFE: I know that.

Since he has given me advice, let me give you advice, Governor. You have people down there, because I've seen them, I've seen them walking around playing with live ordinances that have been there for some 57 years some of them. Someone's going to die doing that. Very likely that could happen. And my advice to you is to say something, something discouraging to this type of trespassing or that blood will be on your hands. That's my advice.

ROSSELLO: Somebody has already died, Mr. Senator.

WARNER: All right, we understand.

ROSSELLO: If the bombings continue then the blood will be on your hands.


WARNER: Thank you very much. We opened this hearing. There are other members of the panel, Governor, who wish to ask questions. I understand this is a -- and I'm going to once again ask those present at this public hearing to facilitate the exchange of very important testimony without any contribution, applause or otherwise, from those who, by their own rights, are here observing this hearing. Senator Robb.

ROBB: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Governor Rossello, let me change the question just a little bit. But I must say that there is an element that is of some concern. All of us understand the NIMBY principle, "not in my back yard." All of us have dealt with it, all of us understand your passionate advocacy for the position, as you suggested, the people on Vieques hold at this point. And I think you said, if they did not object, you would not have any objection, you wouldn't be here, you wouldn't have any objection.

Let's assume for just a moment that all of the concerns that have been addressed in the Rush report were met -- just an assumption --and that public opinion did turn around, for whatever reason, coupled with economic development initiatives. Would your response to the question about the delivery of live ordinance, whether from aircraft or naval surface ships, be different, if all of the conditions were somehow met -- and I think that there is a quote from the secretary of the Navy from whom we're going to hear next, acceptable to all involved parties? I realize that the situation now is not acceptable to all involved parties. But should that circumstance change, under those circumstances could you support or withdraw your objection to some resumption of live ordinance testing on Vieques?

ROSSELLO: Senator, I cannot foresee that, because we already have evidence of what the bombing does to Vieques. It is not that there's going to be different bombs that don't cause harm. It is not that we have found some magical bullet that will allow us to bomb Vieques and not have continued damage, as has been already established.

So I think there is a common ground, and I think Admiral Hernandez maybe pointed out to it, and that is that for the rest of the activities, for a much wider theater of training, those can go on. We're not objecting to that. But specifically for those where bombing is shown to have a deleterious effect on the citizens of Vieques, I cannot foresee any scenario that will allow us to say this will not be damaging to Vieques or its people.

ROBB: Governor, let me just make a request for the record. With respect to economic development initiatives, the secretary of the Navy is going to be among the last panel with the chief of Naval Operations and the commandant of the Marine Corps, but he has prepared written testimony. About the last two thirds of that testimony discussed economic development initiatives in which the Navy or the U.S. Department of Defense has offered or partnered.

I wonder if you, for the record, could indicate the degree of cooperation and/or partnering and/or other activities taken by Puerto Rico or those citizens of Vieques to respond to the initiatives. Because the order in which you are going to testify, if you could respond to those particular points that are raised by the Secretary Danzig.

ROSSELLO: Well, I think any proposals, any points that can be put on the table are valid for discussion, for dialogue. And the only bottomline point, Senator, is that the bombing should not be resumed.

ROBB: I think you've made that point quite forcefully. And I'm just looking for some way to continue the dialogue that we may have just incrementally initiated here this morning.

Mr. Chairman, I thank you.

WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator Robb. Senator Allard.

ALLARD: Do you have a property tax in Puerto Rico ?

ROSSELLO: Yes, sir.

ALLARD: And does the government -- the federal government pay what we call a PILT payment, payment in lieu of taxes. I mean, the federal government owns property and real estate, so they also pay taxes.

ROSSELLO: No, sir. ALLARD: So they do pay you money. This area does get PILT payments?

ROSSELLO: I imagine so.

ALLARD: Are you saying -- are those PILT payments sufficient to meet the needs of that community? Or are they about what it requires? Are they very much underfunded is my question?

I mean, seems like all of us that have these facilities -- I have these facilities in my state, we do get payments from the federal government because they don't pay property taxes but yet they put a drain on sewer, they put a drain on maybe our health facilities, our schools, and so money is provided to take care of those needs. And you do get some of that money from the federal government.

ROSSELLO: That's correct.

ALLARD: And what is your view on that contribution?

ROSSELLO: My view is that this is irrelevant. It has nothing to do with monies, it has nothing to do with offerings of $27 million now as a intent of defusing the issue. This is not about dollars, this is about people. And I'm not sure what community will be satisfied with increasing their payments in lieu of taxes in exchange for more cancer, more infant mortality, destruction of their environment, limitation of their economic potential. I'm not sure.

ALLARD: So you've just made in that statement -- you've just said that the bombing of the island is what is causing the cancer problem. Is that what you said?

ROSSELLO: No, I said before, Senator, that there is an increase in cancer incidents, that's a fact, that the causality has not been established.


ROSSELLO: But I cannot see any other more obvious cause than that.

ALLARD: Well, there are other causes, and it might be in the utilities of your cities. I mean, there are things like -- that can get into the pipes -- some construction. There can be construction in the buildings, maybe asbestos or something that can contribute. There's smoking that can contribute to cancer.


ALLARD: And so I -- it's not a simple epidemiological problem. And I would hope that you wouldn't simplify that and just blame this one activity on that.

ROSSELLO: No, you're correct, Senator.

ALLARD: Yes. WARNER: Thank you very much. Senator Snowe.

UNKNOWN: Too much quibbling, let's move on.

SNOWE: Governor Rossello, it really is deeply regrettable that we have reached this point. And I am still yet to understand how this relationship between Puerto Rico and the Navy and our government disintegrated and went awry. Because, I know in my own state of Maine we had an Air Force base that closed, regrettably. We have an air station, we have a shipyard -- Naval air station and a shipyard. And the people of Maine, in my state, really love and revere the relationship they have with the military. Not to say that it isn't questioned, not to say that there are times when, you know, there are disagreements.

And in fact, I couldn't help but recall, sitting here today, some 10 years ago when the Navy decided to test Tomahawk cruise missiles in Maine. We had a lot of problems; running interference with aircraft, small planes, pilots and, you know, people were demanding that we stop the test missiles -- the testing of Tomahawk cruise missiles. But we worked it out. And what I cannot understand here today is how this could not have been worked out. And I'd like to hear your perspective here. How long have you been governor?


SNOWE: Did you at any point detail the grievances that you have presented to this committee here today to the Navy, to the government, to congressional representatives? Because, I note you say you're not angry, but obviously there is a depth of antipathy and I can understand that. Obviously something went terribly wrong here. But did you detail those grievances to the Navy? To get it to somebody's attention so that these issues could be worked out?

I understand what happened with the Navy in the sense -- I don't understand it, but I understand what went wrong there. They didn't obviously fulfill their end. But did you at any time -- or members of your government bring it to the attention so that we could have understood what was happening?

And perhaps we failed, too. But I cannot understand how you had a 60-year relationship and all of a sudden we're today are being faced with the question jeopardize our national security by the cessation of, you know, of bombings, and I gather training exercises. And I wanted to clarify that with you. But putting us in a position of making, sort of, an untenable, intransigent, you know, decision on an issue of great import to you, to the people of Puerto Rico , and to all of America, and to the free world for that matter.

When you're talking about an Eisenhower battle group may have to be deployed with significant deficiencies in its readiness, that is a huge question. Because the Navy and the Marine Corps in tandem are being asked -- they're being tasked once in five weeks compared to what they were, one in 11. We're facing multiple contingency operations. So I say that because I am very concerned. We're faced with this polarized situation. It's an either/or. Is there anything in the middle here? Is there anything that we can work out in the meantime so that we're not faced -- we're not -- just not we on the committee, not just we in Congress. It shouldn't be us versus you. We're together in this. We're all in this together. This isn't somewhere we can build up a fence. We cannot.

But what can we do to resolve this in an amicable way, a rational resolution in the meantime? And we're not saying in perpetuity. If we have to try to work this out in another way, an alternative.

But what we're hearing today, irrespective of your panel, we are hearing here from the operational commanders, from the experts, even from the Rush panel that essentially is in your favor. I know you don't believe it, but essentially it's working in your favor. Saying that there's no alternative right now. There may or may not be in five years.

So, we don't want to jeopardize our security. Everybody contributes to our national security. And there's no question the people of Puerto Rico certainly have contributed theirs. Something went wrong. But in the meantime, do we jeopardize our nation's security, the free world's security on that?

Because it does rest on that. We're hearing from everybody that there is no alternative. So you're saying the cessation -- you may even enact -- threaten legal action. Well I hope it doesn't come to that. There's got to be some rational way of working this out. Is there?

ROSSELLO: Senator, you ask why now and not before? Or maybe the question is why not several years from now. In the course of events, there are certain dramatic points that catch our attention. You do it all the time. There's many issues that are not being addressed by this Senate or this Congress which are ongoing now. But at some point, some dramatic event catches your attention.

That dramatic event was a lamentable incident in which one person lost their life and four others were injured. But it allowed us to go back to a long-standing situation, which we had not addressed. And maybe if this hadn't happened, we wouldn't be addressing it today. But that allowed us to come back and look and see what was going on. And many things we didn't know. And many things, as I said before, we had forgotten. But now this has allowed us to focus on what this is causing to the people in Vieques.

Can we find a solution to this? Yes, I think so. But it has to do with putting things in perspective. As has been very clear here, there's no unanimous agreement that this particular bombing of Vieques is essential to national security. We contend that. We don't think that's correct.

ROSSELLO: I think it has been raveled up to suggest that all exercises have to be discontinued. That is not correct.

And therefore I think the projection -- and we have some people that will argue to the contrary, and if we have to go to the courts, they will do so -- saying that this is not as has been projected --the only place where our troops and our ships can be made battle ready. We don't think that's correct.

So on that basis, yes we can look for alternatives. We're not asking for much. We're asking just that the bombing on Vieques be not resumed. That's one element in the whole slew of other exercises in the preparation of our armed forces. And I think that that's not too high a price to pay when you're looking at the human rights of people. That for me it's not a dollars issue. For me this is a people issue.

Human rights, this is what we're talking about.

HERNANDEZ: Thank you very much.

WARNER: Thank you, sir.

I want to -- you've, in a very clear way, provided us with your views and we respect the people of Puerto Rico . We hope that your views reflect the majority view. But I just want to, in a very respectful way, make this observation.

When that battle group departs in February, our Navy -- do you know who the commander is?

HERNANDEZ: I have no idea.

WARNER: Look to the Constitution of the United States. The commander in chief of that battle group is President William Clinton.

HERNANDEZ: Well, in that sense, yes, I know.

WARNER: You're asking that president, and his vice president, to accept the responsibility for the lives of the men and women in that battle group. We've got to solve this problem.

We thank you.

HERNANDEZ: Thank you.

WARNER: I'm going to depart for a moment to clarify one thing in the record. Admiral Hernandez, will you take the stand once again?

Now, you were a member of this Rush commission, designated by the secretary of defense, at the direction of the president, working with the secretary of defense. And in the course of your work did you have the opportunity to meet with the governor?

HERNANDEZ: Yes, Senator. The governor was among the many people who testified before the panel in Washington. And then when the panel visited Puerto Rico ...

WARNER: Can you speak up a little bit, little more? You're on deck, give them those orders. Let's go.

HERNANDEZ: The governor brought his statement to the panel in Washington.

WARNER: Right.

HERNANDEZ: And we also met with him in San Juan.

WARNER: And we carefully this morning, this committee, spent over an hour evaluating your report. But I did not hear you mention anything with regard to the governor's firm opinion that not only would there not be any further training prior to the deployment of the Eisenhower group, but even if some agreement is reached, there'll not be one single live piece of ordnance ever again dropped on Vieques. Did he tell you that?

HERNANDEZ: Yes. The governor made that very clear when he testified before the panel.

WARNER: Well, then, you did not include it in this report this morning.

HERNANDEZ: That's correct, Senator.

WARNER: Was there a reason why we sat here for an hour and plus and not -- haven't got your valuable testimony on that point?

HERNANDEZ: There are a number of other statements made before the panel that are also not included, including the decision of the Navy in its entirety. So, the panel report attempted to present an overview of the two positions taken by the parties involved.

WARNER: Well, I understand what happened. I just, sitting here, thinking that you would have been a benefit had you shared with us --he explicitly said that in writing, orally, or both?

HERNANDEZ: In the testimony that's part of the record of the panel's deliberations, the governor stated that he did not support any more bombing of Vieques.

WARNER: Well, then, did you have a chance to review what the secretary of defense did yesterday in his brief press release?

HERNANDEZ: I have read it, I read it this morning, Senator. WARNER: But there's no mention in here -- I mean there's just some statement, "After receiving an update of the work of the special panel, Cohen asked his members to engage in further dialogue with representatives of Vieques, Puerto Rico and the Navy."

HERNANDEZ: As I read that statement this morning, what I got from it was that Senator -- Secretary Cohen wanted dialogue to find ways of implementing the recommendations of the panel, as I read the words.

WARNER: That's the way you interpreted it?

HERNANDEZ: Well, that's what it says.

WARNER: But the panel report, to this Senator indicates, that we go back in some way during the course of the five-year period, resume some amended use of Vieques for training, and work towards a substitute altogether at some point in time for Vieques within the five years. Would not the inference of that -- is that a fair inference to be drawn from that panel work?

HERNANDEZ: Yes, Senator. But I also...

WARNER: Is it a fair inference to be drawn?

HERNANDEZ: May I say that...


HERNANDEZ: ... we, on the panel, did not believe that either the Department of the Navy or the government of Puerto Rico would totally accept our recommendations.

WARNER: Mr. Chairman, may I just make a point here? I don't think it's just the governor of Puerto Rico , with all due respect, Admiral. The president of the United States in his own handwriting, three months before you submitted your report, indicated that we should stop the bombing on the island of Vieques. So -- and then linked it to -- apparently, with a second notation on the same memo to the National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, to the FALN prisoners.

So, you know, there's no question that there have been politics in this thing. It's perfectly obvious in the president's own handwriting memo. I mean how do you feel about being a part of a commission that submits a result that your military people disagree with, as far as the ending -- shutting this down in five years, at least at this point, until some alternative is found?

And yet, the president of the United States and the vice president of the United States saying publicly -- well, the vice president publicly, the president privately in memos to his national security advisor, that we ought to shut it down anyway. So what's going on here?

How do you feel? Do you feel used here?

HERNANDEZ: Senator, I can say that personally, I was not influenced at all by the...

WARNER: I don't care whether you were influenced. Do you feel used? Do you feel like somebody superior to you -- I wouldn't accuse you of being influenced. I will accept your -- no question about that. You're a military officer and I don't challenge you.

But I -- what I'm asking you is do you feel used? Do you feel used that somehow this commission was put together to come up with a report which substantiates -- or they wanted you to substantiate the feelings of the chief executive?

HERNANDEZ: I wouldn't want to categorize it that way. I was named to a commission to study a very, very difficult situation. I used my own military experience and my knowledge of the situation in Puerto Rico to base my findings. And my operational experience is considerable.

I was commander of a fleet, I was a carrier group commander, a carrier commander, commander of an air wing, a commander of squadron. I've got two combat tours in Vietnam. So I have some sense of the military imperatives that are at play here.

WARNER: We thank you very much. I must say, when I was secretary of the Navy, one of the great, great admirals of that time was Admiral Rivitts Rivero (ph). Do you remember him?

HERNANDEZ: Yes, sir. Absolutely.

WARNER: Four-star admiral.


WARNER: What was his homeland?

HERNANDEZ: He lives in Coronado.

WARNER: I understand that. But, what was his?

HERNANDEZ: I didn't understand your question.

WARNER: That's all right. I'll put it in the record.

Thank you very much.

Now the Chair has determined at this point, given the governor's testimony, we'll proceed to receive the testimony from our distinguished colleague from the other body, and then we'll proceed to receive the testimony of the secretary of the Navy together with the chief of naval operations and the commandant of the Marine Corps, and then return to the other panels.

Colleague, we thank you for your patience. I offered you the opportunity to go earlier, but out of respect for the governor, you said that you would prefer to follow the governor. You have a prepared statement.

ROMERO-BARCELO: Yes, Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: I think we've reached a critical and crucial juncture in this hearing. I would therefore urge you to, as best as you can, let us put your full statement in the record and you address your views in relation to the views expressed by the governor.

ROSSELLO: Thank you, thank you, Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: And also we're very interested to know about, should we say, the majority will of the people of Puerto Rico on this committee. Not just Vieques, but the entire, magnificent complex that comprise Puerto Rico . Those people.

Thank you.

ROMERO-BARCELO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

And Chairman and members of the Senate Subcommittee on Armed Services. And for the record, my name is Carlos Romero-Barcelo. And I am the sole representative of the United States Congress over the 3.8 million disenfranchised American citizens in Puerto Rico . And I underscore that disenfranchised, because it is that undemocratic relationship, of being governed without the consent of the government, which is at the core of the issue before us.

It is precisely our lack of political leverage and political power, that exacerbates the frustration and our sense of helplessness. Right now, we don't have a senator sitting in this panel. Obviously, if we had representation, we would have two senators sitting in this panel, even though they were not -- would not be members of the Armed Services, because it would be so crucial to Puerto Rico .

The issue is not merely whether the Navy should continue bombing and shelling in Vieques, but rather, why should one group of disenfranchised American citizens bear a burden for the national defense and for military readiness that creates anxiety because of the constant fear of an accident that will put their lives at risk, when the same burden is not asked of any other group of citizens in the nations in times of peace?

Why should 9,300 disenfranchised U.S. citizens be asked to bear the burden with substantial higher incidence of cancer and other health risks, if a scientific study were to confirm that the health --the higher incidence, is due to toxic substances from the shelling and bombing? This is ultimately the critical issue that requires your attention, and that will ultimately test the entire Congress' commitment to the rights and the freedoms and the safety of all its citizens in the United States, as well as its commitment to the democratic ideals of this nation.

I would like to share with you some of the words spoken by President Abraham Lincoln in his speech in Illinois, which I found to be especially pertinent. And I quote:

"What constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements or bristling sea coast, the guns of our war steamers or the strength of our gallant army. These are not our reliance against the resumption of tyranny in our land. All of them may be turned against our liberties without making us stronger or weaker for the struggle. Our reliance is in the love of liberty, which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit, which price is liberty, as a heritage of all men and all lands everywhere."

My objective here today is to appeal to the sense of justice, equality and the fair play, that is such an integral part of the American heritage. And let us turn this preceding not into an attestation of faith in the military, but to an attestation of the faith we have in America.

The underlying foundation for a strong defense is the desire to preserve the freedoms and the liberties inherent in our democracy. We, as patriotic, law-abiding American citizens, have never shared our responsibilities for the national defense and for military readiness. However, it is now time to bring this issue to the only conclusion that is possible in a democracy. A conclusion which takes foremost into consideration the best interest of the people and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Yes, the Puerto Rican Americans in Vieques want to validate their right to life, liberty and the pursuit to happiness, as do all American citizens, without feeling threatened by our own armed forces. Today is exactly six months since the tragic death that took the life of 35-year-old David Sanes Rodriguez, and wounded four others on April 19, 1999, when two 500-pound bombs were dropped nearly two miles off target within the live impact range in Vieques. The incident was the result of pilot inexperience and a failure of communications between range control officers and the pilots of the F-18 fighter jets.

If such an accident can occur, how can anyone guarantee that a bomb will not miss, instead of by two, by eight or 10 miles and fall in a school in the middle of a neighborhood?

You have been asked whether the president could send men into harm's way without proper preparation and would he not be responsible if anything happened, but what if the bombing is continued and a bomb falls on the school? Will this panel and everyone else be held responsible for that death ? Would you like to have that on your conscience?

As we demand our rights as American citizens...

WARNER: We're prepared to accept those risks. This panel, throughout history of this panel, has worked with the men and women of the Armed Forces, provide the necessary funds, the direction for their training in many wars, as you well know.

WARNER: We would not shirk that responsibility. And I say to you, there in my state, of Stafford County, that same shell, I suppose, could hit a schoolhouse. So we're in a sharing business to carry the magnificent freedom that has been earned by over 1.3 million men and women of this country who've gone forth and given their lives in the cause of freedom.

ROMERO-BARCELO: Mr. Chairman, so are our people U.S. citizens also, (INAUDIBLE) died in defense.

WARNER: And they -- your people have been a part of that.


WARNER: Absolutely.

ROMERO-BARCELO: But one thing is, that and the other thing is to put at risk the life of civilians when an accident can happen. And as we demand our rights as U.S. citizens and petition the president and the Congress of the United States, we're confronting -- have confronted a deliberate campaign that besmirched the patriotism and question our loyalty as American citizens just because we're asking for justice and equality. I reject those aspersions and consider them grossly irresponsible.

Never, ever -- nobody ever questioned the patriotism of Hawaii congressional delegation and the patriotism of Senator Daniel Inouye when he prompted the Navy to stop bombing the uninhabited island of Kaho'olawe.

And for the record, I wish to state that there can be no question as to Puerto Rico 's commitment to the American democratic values and to our national defense. Puerto Rican Americans have served shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans from the 50 states, and throughout this country. During times of war alone, 197,000 have fought alongside their fellows from Virginia, Michigan, Oklahoma and all other states in every armed conflict that this nation has been involved wherever and whenever it has been necessary in the world.

In Korea and in Vietnam, for instance, we were in the top five states in per capita casualties when compared to the rest of the 50 states. And we are equals in war and death , but unequal in peace and prosperity.

The bravery of the Army's 65th Infantry unit, composed almost entirely of American Puerto Ricans, is legendary. It was the most decorated unit in Korea. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, when I wrote to him to complain about the aspersions -- the rumors against the people of Puerto Rico , saying that they were not loyal, that were being spread around the Congress -- he wrote back to me and he said: "The patriotism of Americans of Puerto Rico ancestry is unquestioned. There is a brave and historic tradition of service to our nation in times of both war and peace. And in Korea, Puerto Rican Americans served with distinction and sacrifice."

And the legendary 65th Infantry regiment alone had 743 soldiers killed in action. Its members received 134 silver stars and eight distinguished services crosses. In Vietnam, Army PFC Carlos Losala from Caguas, Specialist Fourth Class Hector Santiago Colon (ph) from Salinas, and Captain Enrique Desrubia (ph) from Ponce were posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Not only have we fought...

WARNER: Dear friend, we respect that and that's important for you to say. But we're trying as a committee to get to, hopefully, an area of conciliatory testimony which portends that in the future, somehow this problem can be resolved. There is absolutely no doubt about the heroism and the contribution of the people of Puerto Rico towards this great nation of ours, in which they are a vital part.

So I think we've got -- my point is: Do you agree with the governor? I mean, just...


WARNER: Beg your pardon?

ROMERO-BARCELO: In what -- do I agree with the governor on what?

WARNER: With his very clear statement that there will be no use by the Eisenhower battle group of Vieques for training between now and its deployment date. That's question number one. Do you agree with that?

ROMERO-BARCELO: Mr. Chairman, in Puerto Rico , after the event --the tragic death of David Sanes, the people of Vieques and the people of Puerto Rico are almost unanimous in their concern about the bombing and the shelling of Vieques.

WARNER: That I understand.

ROMERO-BARCELO: And they are adamant -- the people of Puerto Rico are adamant about not having any more bombing. It is a unanimous -- almost unanimous...

WARNER: OK. So a short answer to my question is "yes, I support the governor in that conclusion."

ROMERO-BARCELO: I support the people of Puerto Rico , your honor.

WARNER: And the people of Puerto Rico .

ROMERO-BARCELO: Mr. Chairman -- Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: And the second part of it is, irrespective of what takes place by way of, as the secretary of defense asked, negotiation, cooperation and the like over a period of time before he issues a final report -- he, Bill Cohen -- that under no conditions can that final report indicate that the armed forces of our Navy will have the use of Vieques for any amount, even no matter how limited, of live-fire training. Is that correct?

ROMERO-BARCELO: Mr. Chairman, that is the position of the people of Puerto Rico .

WARNER: And is that your position? You're a part of the body of the Congress of the United States.

ROMERO-BARCELO: I am part of it -- yes. But I want to reinforce on this in saying that it is not my position just because I want to have a position, or is it not my position because I want to get votes for my position, it is my position because the people of Puerto Rico are deeply involved in this. They feel helpless because, as I pointed out at the beginning, the main problem with the helplessness is also our disenfranchisement and our lack of feeling that we can sit down at the table with the Navy and discuss it in an equal basis.

Let me explain. When I was governor, I tried to reason with the Navy. And I brought -- I couldn't reason with the Navy, so I brought lawsuits against the Navy. And I won on three issues against the Navy in the federal courts. But as a result of that, then we sat down and Admiral Diego Hernandez was then the admiral in Puerto Rico . And we sat down and we discussed it. And we reached a memorandum of understanding -- I signed that memorandum of understanding which is in record -- September, 1983.

And the -- while I was governor and while the admiral was Diego Hernandez, the Navy abided by that memorandum of understanding. And they followed. I was defeated in the elections 1984. In 1985, a new governor came in. Diego Hernandez was -- left the -- was transferred sometime five or six months afterwards. That agreement fell through the cracks. There is evidence in the record that by Secretary then --at that time Secretary Hidalgo that the prior governor right up to the time I came in in 1977, Hernandez Colon (ph), had committed to having the Navy transfer their bombing from Culebra to Vieques, because as you may remember...

WARNER: I remember, and Hidalgo also, a Spanish-speaking ancestor. Very fine man -- I knew him very well.

ROMERO-BARCELO: They used to bomb in Culebra. And the Navy said exactly the same thing it is saying now, that the conditions for the range in Culebra were -- could not be substituted; not even Vieques could substitute because those conditions were the only ones in the world.

WARNER: My distinguished colleague, you're reciting the past, as you feel it. I'm looking to the future.


WARNER: Talk about our Navy and deploying these young men and women in the future. Use the phrase "sat down," and if I may draw on a conversation we had before the hearing, talk about that wonderful predecessor governor of yours who sat down with me...

ROMERO-BARCELO: Lisare (ph).

WARNER: ... who sat down with me 30 years ago; who sat down with former Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird. They were good friends. And we worked out the problems of Culebra and Vieques. Do you remember that chapter in history?


WARNER: Well, what I'm asking now: Is there a chance that we can sit down again?

ROMERO-BARCELO: I sat down with the Navy. That's what I'm telling you.

WARNER: Good. Fine.

ROMERO-BARCELO: And we thought we had worked it out. But the Navy...

WARNER: The question...

ROMERO-BARCELO: ... but the Navy just did not pay any attention.

WARNER: But now it's above the Navy. It's at the secretary of defense level -- where it was with Melvin Laird. It's at the president's level -- the commander in chief of the armed forces. So around the table will be those parties. Let's talk about the chances of setting down and resuming some military training on Vieques.


WARNER: Is that possible?

ROMERO-BARCELO: Before anything can be changed as far as the position of Puerto Rico , the people of Puerto Rico have to be made --they have to want to do that. You cannot impose it on a people from the top. The people have to want to enter into that discussion and those conversations.

WARNER: Well, what steps do we take then to get this sit-down that's necessary to resolve this question? Help us, colleague. What steps do we take?

ROMERO-BARCELO: I don't know exactly what -- I don't think anybody right now knows, Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: Fine. I think every now and then a member of Congress has to say: I don't know. And it's an honest answer and I accept it.

Now I think we've covered pretty much your points, have we not? Or do you wish to make another...

ROMERO-BARCELO: I would like to reinforce the fact, Mr. Chairman -- what happened in the memorandum after it was signed, because this is the straw the broke the camel's back. This is not just a whimsical position of the people of Puerto Rico . They have been -- they feel that they have been stepped on. They feel that they have been abused. They feel they have been ignored. The panel recognizes that the Navy has ignored the people of Puerto Rico , and the Navy violated the terms of the memorandum of understanding.

Let me give you an example of what the Navy did that is something that, you know, like laughing in our faces. One of the parts of the memorandum is to establish a forestry industry, OK? Do you know what they did? When I found out about it, I said: Oh, my God. They went ahead and they started talking to the resources department in Puerto Rico . And they decided they were going to plant trees, and they did. And they planted trees. They planted mahogany trees.

Now when we asked: Well, why has nothing happened with this forestry industry? Oh, we have to wait 40 years until the trees grow. I mean, that's like taking somebody and fooling them, and that's what the people of Puerto Rico felt -- that they are being all the time run around, misled.

They're -- when the Navy says that the Vieques is -- cannot be substituted, I ask you Mr. Chairman, if the Vieques was not there, that means the armed forces of the United States could not be ready for -- to engage? Because Vieques was not there? Is that the only one?

We cannot accept that answer. That's the same reason they gave in Culebra. And now they're giving us the same reason in Vieques. There's no other place.

WARNER: We get your message. You've absolutely eloquently represented your people. We are anxious to proceed to listen to the Navy reply to your testimony.

Is there anything further that you wish to add?

ROMERO-BARCELO: Well, the only thing...

WARNER: Pardon?

ROMERO-BARCELO: ... the Navy has not shown any good faith. Before any impasse is to be broken in any way when two parties are impasse...

WARNER: Could I say one thing before the governor departs? Governor, could I just say one thing? I went back and looked at the record, and you did make a statement to this commission. I want to read it. It's on page 12.

"Panel members, ladies and gentlemen, this brings me to the first and absolute foremost of the 13 recommendations issued by our special committee, namely to recommend the permanent and immediate cessation and termination of all naval activity on Vieques, together with the swift and orderly transfer of Navy-controlled lands for the use and benefit of the people."

So what you said to the commission I find is consistent with what you said today. My astonishment is that the commission did not bring this up in the well over an hour testimony this committee afforded it.

I thank you, colleague...


WARNER: ... very much. I thank you, governor.

We'll now proceed to hear from the secretary of the Navy, the commandant, and the chief of naval operations.

Mr. Secretary?

DANZIG: Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: You have listened very carefully right here in this hearing room to the testimony of these witnesses. And it is now your opportunity. I think it's important that you, together with the chief of Navy and the chief of the Marine Corps, address such points as you feel necessary with regarding to the past. And all of your statements will be made a part of the record.

But I return again to the future, and what is a framework of --that we can sit down somehow and resolve this problem.

Mr. Secretary, you may proceed.

DANZIG: Mr. Chairman, I thank you for your comments, and also for the both energy and patience with which this committee has focused on this issue, not only this morning, but through the subcommittee hearings and I know continuously as this issue has come up.

Let me, as you suggest, simply submit my prepared statement for the record, and if I can see if I can respond to your request a few minutes ago, which I think was very well taken, for some conciliatory testimony and some suggestion of a way forward here.

WARNER: Can you pull that microphone up close?

DANZIG: Sure. I was saying, let me see if I can suggest a way forward, as you were looking for, in a, as you put it, a more conciliatory mode.

It seems to me there are three propositions, when one goes through this, that are central to our potential progress here. The first is the national security need for Vieques. I think this is very strongly and clearly established. The governor commented before the Rush panel arrived at its conclusions that he was confident that it would provide an objective and independent judgment. It has provided that judgment, and it has unequivocally re-emphasized the need for, from a national security standpoint, the training on Vieques that is the point of discussion here this morning.

And you can hear, I'm sure, further testimony from the CNO and the commandant on this point, and other experts. I think there's a wide unanimity of opinion with regard to this.

I think it's a factor that is appreciated by people on Puerto Rico . I think it's quite correct for the governor and the resident commissioner to emphasize the patriotism of the Puerto Rican people. I would add that, from my own conversations with the governor and with the resident commissioner and others, I believe that they're sensitive to the fact that there are 6,000 Puerto Ricans in the Navy and Marine Corps who depend on that training. This is barely fewer people than there are actually on Vieques.

And I believe that, in the end, a resolution to this matter needs to take account of those practical realities, and this fact will be appreciated by the people of Puerto Rico . They are no less patriotic than anybody else in this great republic.

The second question is one with respect to the health and the well-being -- economic, environmental well-being of the people of Vieques. And here also I think there is a fundamental truth that has emerged. And you put it I think quite rightly, Mr. Chairman, at the beginning of these hearings, when you said that there is -- I think your word at that point was "friction" between the Navy and Viequans.

I think the Navy bears a significant heavy responsibility. I will readily accept prime responsibility, as the secretary of the Navy, for that relationship. It is a very important one. The Navy cannot operate either on Vieques or in Virginia or in Oklahoma without substantial relationship and goodwill between itself and the people of the neighborhood. And as you and other members of the panel -- of the committee have noted, there are frequently substantial issues.

I think it's very important for us not to demonize one another. I think the contentions that are being advanced by the Puerto Ricans are legitimate kinds of concerns for neighbors of the Navy to have. And the contentions being advanced about the national security issues here are also very important.

In the heat of debate, these things tend to get, it seems to me, distorted some and blown out of proportion. Let me give one example, which has been an intense subject of conversation this morning, and that is the cancer issue.

There is one study. It is the study to which all of have referred. It is a good study. It is done by a Puerto Rican doctor --Dr. Zovalo (ph). It analyzed a 30-year period, broke it up into six five-year periods, and asked: What is the incidence of cancer on Vieques as compared with on the main island of Puerto Rico ? In three of those periods, it concluded that there was no statistically significant difference between the cancer rates on Vieques and the cancer rates on the main island. In two of those periods it concluded that the cancer rate on Vieques was lower -- lower than the cancer rate on the main island in Puerto Rico . And in one of those periods, it concluded that it was statistically significantly higher. That period -- 1985 to 1989 -- warrants attention. We support a study of it.

But Dr. Zovalo (ph) also went on to look at the cancer rates from 1990 to 1992, and he concluded that there was no evidence that the cancer was higher in that period on Vieques. The Navy would not undertake the activities that would induce higher cancer rates in a population. Similarly, all the other examples we've talked about --the economic examples, the health examples, the environmental examples -- there are very substantial items for discussion here. The Navy record is not perfect. It has substantial burdens. But it also is much stronger and much more positive than has been given credit for. And insofar as members of the committee are interested, I'd be happy to talk about a lot of specifics.

This brings me to the third point, which is one that committee members have consistently made this morning. We need seriously to go over the evidence here and talk about the practical realities with leading officials of Puerto Rico , such as the governor and the resident commissioner -- Sela Calderon (ph) who served on the mayor's special panel with respect to this issue and is the mayor of San Juan; and with the mayor of Vieques. We need to do so in an atmosphere in which people in Vieques and in Puerto Rico feel enfranchised with respect to this issue.

When the governor speaks about this as a human rights issue, I don't think he's really speaking narrowly about the safety of the citizens of Vieques. It's clear that they are safe. For 58 years we have done the kind of training we're talking about here, and no citizen off the range has suffered injury from it at all. A record of 58 years is an astonishingly strong thing. Our record similarly with respect to things like health -- I've instanced the cancer studies --is very strong and very positive. Our record with respect to our efforts at economic contribution is also very strong, though very unsuccessful in a number of areas. We have supported upwards of almost 50 projects over the period of the last years.

This evidence needs to be discussed, and the people of Vieques need to feel that they are enfranchised with respect to this issue. The Navy needs to take their points to heart and needs, in fact, to do things differently in the time ahead. And conversely, the leadership of Puerto Rico needs to accept the national security needs that are being expressed here as legitimate concerns -- legitimate concerns amongst others things for those 6,000 Puerto Ricans in the Navy and Marine Corps, as well as for the larger nation.

In this context, I would like to accept the governor's offer, as I understood him to be making it to Senator Reed, that he talk with the Navy, and insofar as the governor would so choose, with other defense officials, including Secretary Cohen's representative, Rudy deLeon, and I am happy to agree to the proposition that the Navy will not resume any training on Vieques, any dropping of ordnance on Vieques over the period of the next month and a half while we try and work this out before the battle group is scheduled to return on the first of December.

And I think, in that atmosphere of discussion, hopefully if we get beyond the imperatives of peoples' feelings about larger rhetorical propositions and come to grips with the particulars, we can indeed find exactly what you asked for, which is a reconciliation which has to be obtained of the legitimate concerns of the people of Vieques and the concerns, also legitimate, that we all have for the national security and the national well-being.

I think I've said enough for the moment, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.

WARNER: So despite the strong testimony -- not only the governor, but the distinguished colleague who represents Puerto Rico in the House of Representatives -- I mean, I listened very carefully. I took a series of notes; looked at the record of the governor before the Rush commission. I cannot find that window -- that ray of light which says we can sit down and solve this. Did you hear it? Maybe you did and I didn't, and I'm respectful.

DANZIG: Well, I appreciate it, Mr. Chairman. I think your listening skills are -- exceed mine. My sense is, though, that as secretary of the Navy I think I have two obligations here.

DANZIG: One is the obligation to protect the well-being and the readiness and the safety of the sailors and marines who are under my charge. And you as a former secretary of the Navy, I know, are very appreciative of that. And you as the chairman of this committee are.

My second is, when a community comes in with the kinds of concerns that the Puerto Ricans are now so intensely expressing, catalyzed by the death of David Sanes on the range, it is to listen to them and to find a way to accommodate...

WARNER: I understand the listening, and I understand the process. But I'm just -- you studied the Rush report did you not?

DANZIG: Yes, sir.

WARNER: Did you know of the governor's absolute -- I just don't think there's any equivocation in this statement and he repeated it here. Were you aware of that?

DANZIG: I am aware that there have been a number of statements of that kind. I wasn't aware of this particular one that you quote. But I have talked with the governor and I have some sense of his intensity of feeling about this.

WARNER: I read from the meeting of the Special Panel on Military Operations on Vieques, Room 400, Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia, Friday July 9th. And yet it wasn't mentioned by the commission. Did you -- do you have an opportunity to talk with the commission about this?

DANZIG: I have not talked with the commission about this, Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: But you find somewhere -- and that's your job, and I respect you. I think you're a very able secretary -- you find some hope that this can be done in the next month-and-a-half?

DANZIG: Mr. Chairman, my feeling is that I owe -- the strongest try -- and yes, I have some hope because, like you, I've seen situations where people have been extremely hostile and adversarial and where a resolution is possible.

WARNER: Fine. And therefore we come to the critical question, which your two distinguished chiefs will address, and that is the deployment of the Eisenhower group by the president as commander in chief, with or without that training -- into harm's way. So, we defer to our distinguished chief of naval operations, Admiral Johnson, you're an aviator. You're in the cockpit. You're in the Eisenhower group. Speak as you were a young lieutenant flying those planes as you did in harm's way many times.

JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the committee. If I could sir, would you indulge me a brief oral statement that gets to the heart of what you've...

WARNER: Admiral, the chair has indulged a lot today. You just take such time as you need.

JOHNSON: Thank you, sir.

I would like to address to you, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, briefly what Vieques means to us in terms of combat readiness. The vehicle I would like to use to express that succinctly is a passage -- a quote, from the comprehensive report submitted by Vice Admiral Fallon and Lieutenant General Peter Pace, United States Marine Corps.

I quote: "Vieques is an irreplaceable training asset, and is the centerpiece of the only integrated training facility available to the Navy and Marine Corps on the East Coast. It is the only ship-to-shore firing range and the only facility with open ocean access capable of supporting simultaneous live naval surface fire support, close air support and an amphibious landing of Marines.

"It is the only range on the East Coast permitting air-to-ground training using high-altitude profiles required for aircraft and crew survivability in today's air defense environment.

"Less obvious but critical is the role of the Vieques inner range in providing fleet commanders the opportunity to evaluate the war-fighting skills of battle groups preparing for combat overseas.

"Vieques provides the only venue where senior leadership can verify that our operational forces are truly prepared. This evaluation provides a last measure of insurance against weaknesses and vulnerabilities that might otherwise result in unnecessary combat casualties.

"It is through Vieques alone that the final link in the training chain is closed" -- end quote.

I can't say it any better than that, Mr. Chairman.

And further, that report comes from the two men most directly responsible for the training and certification of our Atlantic fleet combat forces. In readiness terms, their statements are the most important and essential to the record.

A second brief point if I may: The Navy can indeed improve the relationship we have with the citizens of Puerto Rico and the people of Vieques. When we disestablish the flag billet at Commander Fleet Air Caribbean in 1994 -- October I believe -- we lost a key linkage with the leadership and citizenry of Puerto Rico and by so doing, have not spent sufficient time and effort being attentive to their concerns, as you would expect from a good neighbor.

We can, should and will do better. That is precisely why, in March of this year, before the tragic accident of 19 April, we committed to put a flag officer back in Roosevelt Roads by years end, as our on-site representative to the island leadership and people, and to serve as the Navy component to commander Southern Command.

We look forward to working with the Puerto Ricans to rebuild what should be a strong mutually supportive relationship.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: Very clear. General.

JONES: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to just make a few opening comments, and would ask that my statement be submitted for the record.

WARNER: Without objection. All statements will be admitted.

JONES: Thank you, sir.

I should -- I would like to begin by offering ion behalf of the Marines, our condolences to the family of Mr. David Sanes Rodriguez and those who were wounded in this unfortunate accident -- tragic accident in April.

WARNER: Those statements are appreciated. This hearing started on that. This hearing will conclude on that note.

JONES: I would like to emphasize three points by way of summary.

The first one would be that amphibious operations are, by their nature, the most complex and challenging of virtually all military operations. A solution to this particular problem must be found if we are to address very serious readiness implications. And failure to resolve the current impasse from the Marine Corps' standpoint, and I think from the Navy as well, will result in degraded cohesion, on the part of our battalions and our squadrons and our crews; decreased confidence in their ability to do their very dangerous jobs, and missions; decreased level of competence enabled in the ability to fight and win on the battlefield -- that requirement has been documented by four combatant SINCS -- and frankly, a probable impact on the morale of our Marines and sailors who will not -- who will have a difficult time understanding why they cannot train to the levels that they know they must be trained to at home.

The impact domestically is as has been discussed this morning, an issue, among other things, of fundamental fairness with regard to all other sites where live fire is conducted in this nation. And internationally, the failure to resolve this satisfactorily will also show that our own citizens do not support the training of our armed forces at home, and that will be cause certainly for reevaluation. Neither the CNO, nor myself, nor any other member of the joint chiefs would appear before you and ask for something which was not essential.

This is essential.

It is also essential, as the secretary summarized, that we do recognize that there are imperatives for a new relationship. Those imperatives on real on both sides. And I think the secretary summed up eloquently our feelings with regard to our determination to seek and find an acceptable solution.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: I thank you. Admiral Johnson...


WARNER: ... as a member of the joint chiefs of staff, and as chief of naval operation, you have to be the person, together with the secretary, responsible for the training...

JOHNSON: Yes, sir.

WARNER: ... of all those under your command and the associated Marines that make up the Navy-Marine Corps Team.

In the course of your work on the joint chief there will come a time when you have to report to the chairman of the joint chiefs that the Eisenhower battle group is ready, or it is not ready to deploy and perform its mission.

Is there any training that can be substituted for Vieques live-fire training between now and February that will constitute, in your professional judgment, a sufficient level of training to enable you to say to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the Eisenhower battle group is ready to go, sir?

JOHNSON: The short answer, no sir. Not without -- not without greatly increasing the risk to those men and women who we ask to go in harm's way. No sir.

WARNER: Your answer is clear.

General Jones, the same question to you.

JONES: The same answer, Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: I have no further questions. Senator Smith.

SMITH: Mr. Chairman, I don't really have a question. But I --Mr. Secretary, you really have a unenviable task ahead of you. In summation, you have heard the testimony of your experts that the battle group -- the Eisenhower battle group would probably not be ready without that training available at the island. There are no alternatives, at least on the table, that we know of at this point. Is that correct?

DANZIG: I think there are no alternatives that are nearly the equal of Vieques.

SMITH: And the third issue in summary is that, based on the statement to the governor, apparently the protesters are not moving, which means that you are not going to be able to fire there even if you want to.

And I guess -- you know, I guess that's why you make the big money. I hope they pay you well.


Lead on and I'll follow you.

I would just ask you this question. Are you prepared to pursue this with the Justice Department if it gets to the point where around December 1st, and we have these -- we have this territory being occupied in the interest of national security, and I think that at times has to be elevated to the top?

DANZIG: Right.

SMITH: And if it is -- and if that recommendation comes, that I can't send -- I can't tell you these folks will be safe and be ready to do what they need to do on the Eisenhower -- in the Eisenhower battle group if I can't get live fire by December 1st, or on or about December 1st on that range. Are you prepared to go to the Justice Department and say: Let's remove these people?

DANZIG: Let me, if I can, take both sides of your comments, Senator. First, the common theme on both sides is the Navy cannot do this alone. On the side of the discussions with the Puerto Ricans and the effort to try and achieve a resolution, one of the things that will be enormously helpful I think is the interest and concern and support of this committee.


DANZIG: There has already been reference made to potential support for the kinds of things we do or might work out. There's also the potential, obviously persuasive ability of the weight of this committee. So, I very much appreciate that side of it.

On the other side with respect to what would happen if we get to the 1st of December and the battle group cannot be in a position to be ready, my feeling is there also -- there are other actors who are involved. That's a national decision about what to do and would be made by the president and the secretary of defense.

Issues about the protesters, for example, also involve the Justice Department, and the Treasury and the Coast Guard.

So, we would be an ingredient with respect to that issue. But my feeling is from the standpoint as secretary of the Navy, I need to make recommendations and do what I need to do in order to protect the well-being of sailors and Marines.

SMITH: I analyze a lot of football games on Monday morning as we all do, but it just seems to me in retrospect -- and it's not meant as a criticism, it's just meant that maybe there might be an opening here -- I know the governor was pretty direct in what he said. And pretty -- no question -- he didn't leave any question in anybody's mind about how he felt about it.

But it seems to me that the April 19th decision, after that tragic incident, where you stopped live fire period, as a result of that, it seems to me that might have been the time to negotiate something a little more gradual in the sense that you say: Look, we -- it was a terrible incident. There was a loss of life and that's very, very tragic and unfortunate. However, in the interest of national security we have got to continue some form of live fire. However, in the meantime, you know, we'll look into other alternatives, or we will look into whatever else -- what other options might be, i.e., the commission and so forth.

But I think to just boom stop that at that point, perhaps in retrospect -- I know there was a lot of pressure to do it -- but it might have been a mistake in the sense it could have been handled in a way that might have been a little more gradual in giving you the opportunity to work things, work things through.

Just for what it's worth, that's my view.

DANZIG: I think that's a plausible view. I'd note that the first decision to stop was generated by precisely the thing that has been of greatest concern to some of the witnesses who have spoken earlier today, which is the safety of the range.

In 58 years we haven't had an accident off the range. From my standpoint, given an accident, the square one question for me was: Do I have an assurance sufficient that the safety of the sailors and Marines who are operating on the range, and the citizens off of it, is great enough that we can resume operation? And that required an evaluation and analysis of the accident.

When we had that analysis in hand it did reassure us about the safety. But we were then in a position in which protesters were on the range, and there was this other kind of activity and I don't think -- well, I think in the circumstances, as you say it's a complex decision. And I'd be happy to talk about it further with you.

WARNER: Senator Inhofe.

INHOFE: Well, I don't have any, any questions. I would just make two very brief comments.

First of all, you saw my charts over here about Fort Sill and how close they were. And I've been down there. I've been actually in the chamber of commerce in downtown Lawton, Oklahoma when the range was hot.

And the other thing that's interesting is that 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalion of the 162nd National Guard on Puerto Rico trained there are Fort Sill. And you know we have lost 34 American lives during the time that -- the time frame that they have lost one on the ground at Vieques. And it just occurred to me that I can't tell you whether those lives were of soldiers that were from Oklahoma, or from Puerto Rico . That doesn't make any difference to me.

A life is a life. And we will do all we can. But when you're operating a range there is some inherent danger, and it's -- I think it just shows that someone has done a very good job in the wonderful record for 58 years that they've established at Vieques.

And lastly, I want to tell you how immensely proud I am of the three of you because it's a very difficult thing to do, to deal with this issue, to put the lives and the well-being of your soldiers first, over and above all other political obstacles that are out there.

So, Mr. Chairman, I just want to go down in the record in saying how proud I am of all three of these...

WARNER: And I associate myself with your remarks.

DANZIG: Thank you. I very much appreciate them. If I could just make one comment following them...

WARNER: You may do as you please. Go ahead, Mr. Secretary.

DANZIG: Thank you. Just following on what you said, Senator Inhofe.

There is a risk in training. The greatest risk, as you well appreciate, is borne by our sailors and Marines. There have been three deaths on this range over these 58 years. Two of them were to sailors and Marines, and one of them was to a civilian employee of the Department of the Navy.

We are manifesting our genuine commitment to the value of this training by putting ourselves at risk.

We are not putting, in any significant way, the civilian populations at adjacent to us at risk. There hasn't been an accident off the range in the 58 years. We are putting ourselves at risk, and that I think is a real demonstration that when the CNO and commandant say this is important, they're not just saying it. They are in fact putting the most precious asset we have on the line with respect to that. And I think it proves the sincerity of what we're talking about.

WARNER: I thank you, Mr. Secretary. And good luck.

I'm delighted that you provide us with the testimony of hope. Thank you very much gentlemen. You've done your duty.

DANZIG: Thank you very much.

WARNER: The committee will next hear from the distinguished minority leader of the Puerto Rican House of Representatives, Mr. Jose Alfredo Herdandez (ph), Esq. And we'll take a two-minute recess prior to receiving your testimony.


WARNER: I thank you, gentlemen, for your patience.

WARNER: This has been an extremely important hearing and your contributions are equally important. And I will put into the record your entire statement. But I hope that you would focus on what I perceive as the critical question. We know the past. We know full well that things could have been done differently. Had they been done, we might not be here today.

But we've got to look to the present and the future. Our Navy, as your distinguished governor said, is -- and I use the word desperately in need of some calm, understanding brought to this serious questions by all sides on the issue before they undertake a mission, which mission is clearly in harm's way. This Eisenhower group goes into the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean, regions of the world which are known for unexpected -- unexpected incidents of combat, which pose a risk to those that must respond.

Help the committee as best you can to determine wherein is there a basis for providing those cool minds, sound judgment. And I'm not suggesting that anyone appearing here cannot bring -- be it the governor, our distinguished representative from Congress, or the secretary of the Navy, the chief of naval operations, commandant of the Marine Corps, all of them could collectively provide the cool judgment if we can get the forum and a time and a place to do just that, bring sound judgment to this issue. And reconcile as best we can, the problems of the past and look to the future and see what we can do.

So I leave it to you. We'll start off with our distinguished minority leader.

ACEVEDO-VILA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name is Anibal Acevedo-Vila. I am the minority leader and the vice president of the Popular Democratic Party in Puerto Rico . I am here also as the only member of the Special Commission on the Situation of Vieques appointed by the governor of the commonwealth of Puerto Rico . I thank you, the chairman, and Senator Levin for the opportunity to share with you my position. I will address your concern, although I don't think I have the response maybe you're expecting.

I will summarize my testimony...

WARNER: No, I'm not suggesting I have any response in mind. I simply look to you, hopefully, as one of those that can provide the cool judgment, and the leadership, and the courage -- it's going to take courage on the part of everybody. ACEVEDO-VILA: I will explain to you, summarizing my testimony. Four important things. First, the unity of the people of Puerto Rico on this issue. Secondly, the credibility, or lack of credibility of the Navy on the Vieques issue. How the Navy has overstated its case. And finally, some comments on the Rush panel report quickly.

It's not often that I'm in agreement with the governor and the resident commission, who just testified. But you must be clear, on this issue, we -- all Puerto Ricans, speak with one voice. Furthermore, the people of Puerto Rico are clear that we must continue our unity of purpose on this issue. And that no one should try to use this issue to play political games, be it electoral politics or a status politics.

One of the major problems we all are confronting is the lack of credibility of the Navy on the issue of Vieques. The question, Mr. Chairman, is not whether Vieques base training is effective. Plainly, it is effective. The real question before Congress and the administration is whether all alternative training programs, without access to the Vieques facilities, are ineffective. Plainly, they are not.

The authors of the Navy study, Vice Admiral Fallon and General Pace, on September 22nd, in testimony before the Military Readiness Subcommittee, conceded that the Naval Ammunition Facility on the western end of Vieques, comprising some 8,000 acres, has no significant military value and could easily be abandoned by the Navy and returned to the people of Puerto Rico . This was in September 22nd. This testimony will be unremarkable except for one thing: The Navy had taken exactly the opposite position in testimony before Congress just five short years ago.

On October 4, 1994, the Subcommittee on Insular and International Affairs of the House held a hearing on H.R. 3831 which would have conveyed the same 8,000 acres on the western end of Vieques to the municipality. Rear Admiral Ernest Christiansen (ph), representing the secretary of the Navy, asserted that the ammunition storage depot --I'm quoting, "is an integral component of the training conducted on Vieques. Replenishing units and ships with both live and inert ordinance while they conduct refresher or combat training exercises." Admiral Christiansen (ph) contended that the estimated cost of moving the depot to Roosevelt Roads will be an incredible $600 million. That was five years ago.

Now, the Navy comes here and last month testify that the relocation of the ammunition facility will entail only, quote, "some relatively minor construction on the main facility on Roosevelt Roads." And that the, quote, "impact on readiness will be minimal," if the 8,000 acres were returned to the Viequenses (ph).

As you can see, the Navy has no credibility in Vieques, and this committee should be very careful when the Navy makes it's case now of the eastern part of the island.

The Navy's bottom-line argument is -- which was repeated today, and which formed the basis of the recommendations in the Rush report -- is that Vieques is important primarily because the facility permits air-to-ground weapon delivery in a tactically realistic environment at the altitudes required to survive in combat today. And the facility permits an entire battle group to train as an integrated unit under realistic conditions.

Mr. Chairman, the altitudes required for air-to-ground weapons delivery are available at Vieques only because civil air routes bypass Vieques.

ACEVEDO-VILA: The Navy's reasoning, of course, in this respect is circular. If another venue were designated for high-altitude weapons delivery, that venue -- like Vieques today -- would be avoided by civil aviation.

As you well know, the Navy acquired its property on Vieques back in 1941. When the range was first used, the Navy relied upon flag hoist signals, flashing lights and line-of-sight voice radio communications to coordinate amphibious movement with shore bombardments. There was a rationale, back in 1941, for close-in, integrated operations, where amphibious landings were conducted on beaches contiguous to the live-firing area.

Modern command and control technology, however, permits commanders to coordinate amphibious landing exercises with live firing in remote areas. As was the case the case when Admiral Christensen (ph) testified in 1994, the Navy has exaggerated it's requirement for Vieques, and we're confident, readily exaggerated the cost of developing an alternative training facility, or facilities.

The Rush panel report, which we saw for the first time yesterday, contains conclusions and recommendations which are deeply disappointing to the people of Puerto Rico . Our response to the Rush panel's report is one of profound sadness and deep frustration, rather than one of outrage or bitterness.

After completing its investigation, the Rush panel concluded the Viequenses' (ph) complaints against the Navy were fully justified in almost every respect. We have read the report. At the end of the day, however, after considering such damning evidence against the Navy, the Rush panel recommended that the Navy be given one more chance.

While the Rush panel feels our pain, it lacks the strength of conviction to recommend decisive measures to end that pain, to terminate the military activities which have devastated the economy and debilitated the people of Puerto Rico .

The Rush panel report is little more than a repackaging of the Navy's case for resumed live-firing, and other military activities on Vieques. The Rush panel accepts uncritically the Navy's claim that so-called supporting arms coordination exercises are essential to combat readiness, and that such exercises can be conducted only at Vieques in the Atlantic theater.

The Rush panel report is so weak that it fails even to include the Navy's own admissions on the military necessity arguments in testimony before the House and the Senate panels on September 22nd. For example, Admiral Fallon, at that time, admitted that amphibious landings at San Clemente -- on the coast of California -- are severely restricted to company-sized exercises. This is due to the small size of the beach and environmental restrictions. Admiral Fallon also told this committee, on September 22nd, that San Clemente, quote, "is now the only training range in the Pacific for live ordnance."

Therefore, Mr. Chairman, the Pacific fleet has no single facility where full-scale battle group training can be conducted, or where all facets of the combined arms capabilities are integrated. If that's the case, Mr. Chairman, where is -- and I'm quoting the Rush report -- "exposure to live ordnance, live fire conditions, and the associated stress" that the Rush panel claims is essential to combat readiness? Certainly not in the Pacific theater.

Mr. Chairman, the people of Puerto Rico honor our men and women in uniform. Along with all other Americans, we have pride in their professionalism and dedication to duty under challenging and difficult circumstances. Our quarrel is not with our front-line units, but with the Navy bureaucracy.

The Navy has failed to protect its investment in the facilities in Vieques. The point of no return has been reached and passed. And so we are here today addressing a difficult problem for the Viequenses (ph) and the Navy.

The Navy cannot restart its military operations on Vieques, and must immediately return to the people, the lands occupied today. After 60 years of tolerating the Navy's activities in Vieques, the people of Puerto Rico , with the support -- of Vieques -- with the support of all Puerto Ricans, have already decided that the bomb which killed David Sanes must be the last bomb to fall on Vieques.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: I'm going to ask a question, too, at this juncture. And then I'll, of course, come to you for your testimony. Let's pick up on that -- the last bomb.

If that bomb had not been improperly dropped, and the tragic death and injuries ensued, would we be here today?

ACEVEDO-VILA: Probably not. Because I learned things about Vieques, and the Navy presence in Vieques, during my participation as a member of that commission, that I never thought were happening in my Puerto Rico . That accident has started moving a process, and the people started getting information we didn't have before.

WARNER: Well, that would say to me that persons of responsibility -- your governor has been in office since '93 -- he was an impressive man. I mean, he stood his ground, as we say in Virginia. He stood his ground today.

But he's been there since '93. I cannot imagine any circumstances by which the United States Navy and/or Marine Corps, or both, would not have freely given him the opportunity to go aboard ships, and indeed fly in an airplane in the rear seat, if necessary, to take a look at this situation.

There were a number of citizens of Vieques who were employees at the range -- several hundred. I can't believe that -- in other words, this thing wasn't done in secrecy. It was out in the open. As a matter of fact, you know, people, I dealt with situation myself 30 years ago.

So, I mean, I cannot accept that it was done in secrecy. It was there for all to see. Indeed you, as a distinguished public servant, could have had access, the same as the governor, to go on and looked at it yourself.

ACEVEDO-VILA: I don't want to respond on behalf of the governor, of course. But the people of Vieques were speaking, screaming for many years. And we weren't listening. I have to recognize that. But I've got to tell you what happened the day the commission took a helicopter trip and flew all over the range.

The mayor of Vieques was there with us. She has been mayor, I think, since 1984 -- something like that.

WARNER: By the way, I think we offered her the opportunity, did we not, to be a witness -- the mayor of Vieques?

UNKNOWN: No, we didn't.

WARNER: We didn't.

UNKNOWN: She didn't request it.

WARNER: She certainly can submit a statement on behalf...

ACEVEDO-VILA: And she's not from my party. So, Manuella -- and we took the helicopter trip together. And she was crying. And she said: I didn't know that this was happening on my island. It was the first time ever she saw the damage to the beaches, to the lagoons, to all that area. And I'm talking -- the person that is the mayor of the town, that lives there. She's been reelected for many, many times.

So, what I saw, what she saw at that time, is what the people of Puerto Rico have seen within the last six months. And to ask us, OK, let's work this out, but we need to restart bombing. There was a contract between the people of Puerto Rico and the people of Vieques with the Navy. It was not a legal contract. It was a moral contract. It was a political contract. It was broken. It was broken by the Navy.

WARNER: Well, let's also look at another contract. The Navy did own this land. They owned it, did they not?


WARNER: All right. That's important...

ACEVEDO-VILA: They bought it in 1941...

WARNER: ... no, but that's an important fact for those who may not have the opportunity, as I and others, to have been familiar with this situation. This land was owned by the United States Navy.

ACEVEDO-VILA: Yes, but...

WARNER: And so far as I know, the legislator of -- legislatures, sequentially, of Puerto Rico , ever since the Navy acquired it, right at the end of World War II, have not passed laws in any way restricting what the Navy could or could not do with property that it owned. Am I correct in that?

ACEVEDO-VILA: Yes, I guess so. At one time, a former governor presented a lawsuit trying to deal with the environmental issues.

WARNER: But the legislature never acted.

ACEVEDO-VILA: Well, back in 1993 or '94, a resolution was approved requesting that all the lands were transferred to the people of Puerto Rico . It was not a big issue, but it was approved by all three political parties back in 1993.

WARNER: But what I'm saying is, so much has been used...

ACEVEDO-VILA: Could I address the issue about the title of the land? You know, that's property rights. But on the other side, you have human rights.

WARNER: Hey, I understand that.

ACEVEDO-VILA: What you're asking the people of Puerto Rico is --and I'm going to use an example. It's like if the American people would have told Rosa Parks: Yes, you're right, but you have to sit on the back seat for five more years, and then we'll allow you to sit on the front seat.

WARNER: Well, I'm not hear to try and resolve all of the statehood issues and the politics. I'm just trying to work on behalf of our Navy -- what a magnificent and courageous term your governor used. In my own state, the people accept the associated risks connected with the use of military facilities for live-fire ammunition.

In every of the 50 states, to some degree, down to just the National Guard units on the firing ranges, this is done. It's done for the common defense of the United States of America...

ACEVEDO-VILA: You said it...

WARNER: ... and this hemisphere.

ACEVEDO-VILA: But you said it: "To some degree."

WARNER: I understand that. ACEVEDO-VILA: The way Vieques is described, they precisely say it's unique, because the type of maneuvers that are done there are precisely the type of maneuvers that are not done in those other places. And that's one fact.

And the second fact is that you have economic stagnation, social problems, health problems in Vieques. You don't have that in other...

WARNER: Do you have some of those problems elsewhere in Puerto Rico ?


WARNER: Well, all right. But let's look at...

ACEVEDO-VILA: Yes, but we compared it -- in that commission, we compared the numbers.

WARNER: I understand.

ACEVEDO-VILA: The numbers -- Vieques and the whole island. And you can see the numbers...

WARNER: I understand that.

ACEVEDO-VILA: ... are very disturbing, in terms of what's happening in Vieques.

WARNER: But what we've got to pursue here is cool heads, fair minds, to try and work out the problem. And there are facts on the other side, namely that the Navy owns land, that they've been doing it, that your legislature has not passed any acts of law -- maybe a resolution -- to curtail the use of the land as the Navy's been doing it for 40-plus years. So, I mean there are facts on the other side.

Now let's come to another point. In your testimony, I listen very carefully, and take notes. The Navy has no credibility. All right. I accept your proffer. I may disagree, respectfully, but I accept it. Then I ask you, who in the United States, in public office today, has credibility that could enter this dispute, and hopefully resolve it? Let's put the Navy to the side.

Remember, the Navy is only one of three military departments. The Navy is an integral part of our overall -- what we call total force structure, to engage and deter aggression in this hemisphere, or elsewhere in the world. They're only one part.

And over the Navy is a series of individuals with authority to direct that department to do other than it has done today, tomorrow, the past, whatever it is -- the secretary of defense, the president of the United States. Now if, for purposes of our discussion, we say your proposition, the Navy has no credibility -- I ask you most respectfully, who in the United States does have the credibility to deal with this problem?

ACEVEDO-VILA: I guess that the person now, that has to make the most difficult decision, is the president.

WARNER: All right. And he has credibility in your judgment? And I say that respectfully of the president.

ACEVEDO-VILA: He has, so far...

WARNER: Who among the people of Puerto Rico ...

ACEVEDO-VILA: He has so far expressed some concerns, that basically the people of Puerto Rico , right now have hope that he will respond the way we're expecting.

WARNER: And I say that respectfully. People around here know me. I'm not one of the fierce partisans. I'm saying I'm trying to seek a solution for both the people of Puerto Rico and our country.

You say the Navy has no credibility. I accept your proffer. The president does have credibility. And I presume the vice president likewise.

ACEVEDO-VILA: Yes, we at this stage, we are -- I won't use the word confident, but we have the expectation -- the legitimate expectation that the president will respond to the claims of the people of Puerto Rico .

WARNER; Well, let's take that on a hopeful note. Because I conclude this hearing. And I'll say a few remarks at the end.

As I've listened and assessed this testimony today, this issue now does rest with the people of Puerto Rico , the people of Puerto Rico , to give their elected leaders -- yourself, your governor, and others -- the support, if they in turn manifest the courage to try and apply cool minds and fair judgment to resolve this situation.

Now we want to listen very carefully to your colleague here.

ACEVEDO-VILA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: Thank you very much, Mr. Leader.

JOSE JIMENEZ (ph) MAERON (ph): Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, my name is Jose Jimenez Maeron. I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak before this committee today.

MAERON (ph): I will provide you with a perspective that has been absent in all previous testimonies. I come here as a Puerto Rican who has concluded that civil disobedience is now justified to ensure the Navy's withdrawal from Vieques. And to inform you that thousands of Puerto Ricans are ready to participate in this effort.

Labor and religious organizations are already coordinating civil disobedience protests. The pro-independence party began it's protest more than 100 days ago. And the pro-commonwealth party has set up a commission to determine not necessarily whether, but when, it will join these civil disobedience groups. I have no doubt that the pro- statehood party and that other groups here in the United States will do the same.

For decades the Navy has acknowledged that the people of Vieques are poor and that the Navy's operations are much to blame. The Navy is aware that 73.3 percent of the Vieques population lives below the poverty line. It is so aware of the shameful condition of the Vieques people and of it's responsibility as the cause of that condition that, in 1983, the Navy agreed with the commonwealth government to improve the welfare of the people of Vieques and to assist in an effort to obtain full employment for the island. Yet almost two decades later, the Navy appears to have done nothing.

For decades, Puerto Ricans have suspected a link between high cancer rate in Vieques and the military maneuvers carried out on the island. In the '60s, the Vieques cancer rate was the lowest in Puerto Rico , but by the 1980s it was 26 percent higher. Just recently a federal agency, the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registration, announced that it would investigate that possible link. Yet the Navy appears unfazed by all of this.

For decades the Navy operations have caused severe environmental damage to Vieques. The Environmental Protection Agency is even about to deny the Navy the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, yet the Navy appears unconcerned about this.

The death of David Sanes in April has brought worldwide attention to this matter. It has prompted the president of the United States to request from the secretary of defense to establish a panel to review the need for operations in Vieques and explore alternative sites or methods that would meet the department's needs.

I have read the report to the secretary of defense on the Special Panel on Military Operations on Vieques with an open mind and a great degree of hope. I appreciate it's recognition that on economic, environmental and health areas, the Navy has not done a satisfactory job in Vieques. But I cannot accept its recommendations, for they allow the wrong-doing -- the worsening of those conditions.

I appreciate the panel's awareness that 73.3 percent of the people of Vieques live below the poverty line and that the Navy's presence there is a contributing factor to that condition. But I cannot accept that the solution is to postpone the Vieques peoples' right to a better life.

I appreciate the panel's awareness that Vieques has suffered heavy environmental damage as a result of naval operations. But I cannot accept that the solution is to continue polluting and damaging Vieques.

I appreciate the panel's awareness of the high cancer rate in Vieques and of the fact that the Navy, while knowing this, has had a carefree attitude towards the possibility that its operations are the cause of this cancer incidence.

I also appreciate its recommendation that the Public Health Service, with the assistance of the Department of Defense, and in coordination with other appropriate federal and local agencies, introduce a health team to Vieques to address the incidence of cancer and other health concerns.

There is at least a suspicion of a list -- of a link between the Navy's maneuvers and health problems in Vieques. In light of this possible link, it is unconscionable to resume live ammunition bombings in Vieques. It suggests that the Navy's willing to kill what it investigates.

In essence, I appreciate the panel's awareness of all the major problems my fellow Puerto Ricans face in Vieques. I cannot, however, accept distant and long-term solutions to a problem that needs to be resolved now.

Faced with serious economic, health and environmental problems, all of us in Puerto Rico owe it to the people of Vieques to join in a peaceful resistance and put an end to this situation. We owe it to the fishermen of Vieques, who are not being heard today, and to the group, the Committee for the Defense of Vieques.

In opting for civil disobedience, your own history is our guide. This country has achieved some of its grandest conquests through civil disobedience. The Boston Tea Party was in essence an act of civil disobedience. In 1916, women had to storm into the White House and get arrested to force the issue of their right to vote. The labor movements in the '30s achieved major reforms through civil disobedience and there's no need to mention the civil rights movements of the '50s and '60s. And just over a decade ago, thousands of Americans got arrested in an effort to end apartheid in South Africa.

We will be in Vieques until the Navy leaves. And it will leave.

I understand -- to finish, sir, Mr. Chairman, I understand very much this nation's needs for national defense and combat readiness. And I can also see how some must bear discomforts for the sake of the republic and as a responsibility of citizenship. But the government is wrong if it believes that some of it's citizens must remain poor and sick in the name of liberty.

Thank you, very much.

WARNER: We thank you very much. We conclude this hearing once again expressing our deepest sympathy to the family of David Sanes Rodriguez and hopefully the healing of those that were wounded. Thank you.

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