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PUERTO RICO HERALD
U.S. SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE HOLDS A HEARING
ON FUTURE NAVAL OPERATIONS AT THE ATLANTIC FLEET WEAPONS TRAINING
FACILITY, VIEQUES ISLAND, PUERTO RICO
Political Transcripts by Federal Document Clearing
October 19, 1999
Copyright © 1999 Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. All
SPEAKERS: U.S. SENATOR JOHN
WARNER (R-VA), CHAIRMAN U.S. SENATOR STROM THURMOND (R-SC) U.S.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ) U.S. SENATOR JAMES M. INHOFE (R-OK)
U.S. SENATOR RICK SANTORUM (R-PA) U.S. SENATOR OLYMPIA J. SNOWE
(R-ME) U.S. SENATOR PAT ROBERTS (R-KS) U.S. SENATOR WAYNE ALLARD
(R-CO) U.S. SENATOR TIM HUTCHINSON (R-AR) U.S. SENATOR JEFF SESSIONS
(R-AL) U.S. SENATOR CARL LEVIN (D-MI), RANKING MEMBER U.S. SENATOR
EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D-MA) U.S. SENATOR JEFF BINGAMAN (D-NM) U.S.
SENATOR ROBERT C. BYRD (D-WV) U.S. SENATOR CHARLES S. ROBB (D-VA)
U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN (D-CT) U.S. SENATOR MAX CLELAND
(D-GA) U.S. SENATOR MARY LANDRIEU (D-LA) U.S. SENATOR JACK REED
(D-RI) U.S. SENATOR ROBERT C. SMITH (I-NH)
FRANCIS M. RUSH, JR., CHAIRMAN,
SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL PANEL ON MILITARY OPERATIONS ON VIEQUES
LEE H. HAMILTON, SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL
PANEL ON MILITARY OPERATIONS ON VIEQUES
VICE ADMIRAL DIEGO E. HERNANDEZ,
USN (RET.), SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL PANEL ON MILITARY OPERATIONS
GENERAL RICHARD I. NEAL, USMC
(RET.), SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL PANEL ON MILITARY OPERATIONS ON VIEQUES
RICHARD DANZIG, SECRETARY OF
ADMIRAL JAY L. JOHNSON, USN,
CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS
GENERAL JAMES L. JONES, JR.,
USMC, COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS
PEDRO ROSSELLO, GOVERNOR OF
CARLOS ROMERO-BARCELO, RESIDENT
COMMISSIONER FROM PUERTO RICO
ANIBAL ACEVEDO-VILA, MINORITY
LEADER, PUERTO RICAN HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Was napalm ever used? Yes, it was, and in both places. How
often? One event in Vieques; about four or five times in Fort
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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,
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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,
ALLARD: Mr. Chairman, I'm trying to get specifically what those
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
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
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
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
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
RUSH: The secretary received the report 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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,
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,
ROSSELLO: Absolutely. I'm glad you picked it up. INHOFE: All
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
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
INHOFE: Do you consider the citizens of Stafford County, Virginia,
and the citizens of Lawton, Oklahoma to also be equally disenfranchised
ROSSELLO: No, Senator, they have their full voting rights in
INHOFE: And those citizens are much closer -- you heard what
I said to the previous panel -- they're one mile from the live
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
You know what they say, Mr. Chairman? They say that's the sound
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
INHOFE: Will you stand and -- will you get on the record today
that you oppose the civil disobedience that's taking place with
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
INHOFE: Mr. Chairman...
WARNER: That's it. I'm just going to ...
WARNER: ... since that's a threat of violence against me, I
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
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
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.
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
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
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
ROSSELLO: But I cannot see any other more obvious cause than
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
So I think we've got -- my point is: Do you agree with the
governor? I mean, just...
ROMERO-BARCELO: In what...
WARNER: Beg your pardon?
ROMERO-BARCELO: In what -- do I agree with the governor on
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
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.
ROMERO-BARCELO: Mr. Chairman.
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
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
WARNER: Good. Fine.
ROMERO-BARCELO: And we thought we had worked it out. But the
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
ROMERO-BARCELO: Mr. Chairman.
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
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
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...
ROMERO-BARCELO: ... the Navy has not shown any good faith.
Before any impasse is to be broken in any way when two parties
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
I thank you, colleague...
ROMERO-BARCELO: Thank you.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
You say the Navy has no credibility. I accept your proffer.
The president does have credibility. And I presume the vice president
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
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
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
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
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.