1994 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@igc.org>
Date: Thu, 10 Nov 1994 11:46:07 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: Readiness
by Lenny Siegel

 Is Pentagon environmental spending a drag on its mission, or does
it support readiness? Earlier this year the Wall Street Journal (May 24.1994)
warned that military cleanup obligations were getting out of hand, and the
Pentagon's top environmental official and the vice-chair of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff retorted, in a July 8, 1994 letter to the Journal, that environmental
programs were an integral part of combat readiness.

 Both sides miss the point. In the post-Cold War era, readiness
means much more than being prepared to deliver bombs and bullets. More
likely than not, the dispatch of American forces in the foreseeable future will
require the capability to influence or adapt to the natural environment. This
summer, while the Army Corps of Engineers pumped water to Rwandan
refugees in Zaire, two battalions of Marines were helping fight fires in the
Pacific Northwest. Seamen were picking up Haitians and Cubans - many
requiring food, water, or health care - in the Caribbean and transporting
them to Guantanamo, where a crash building program included
environmental tasks such as supplying drinking water and constructing
sanitary disposal systems. Even the anti-submarine Cold Warriors of the
U.S. Navy are looking for new, environmental missions - such as
measuring global warning - for their secret underwater listening systems.

 Thus, to advance the domestic and foreign missions of the U.S.
military, in 1994, the military must develop and strengthen environmental
expertise among all its forces. Even cleanup, an unfortunate obligation left
over from decades of environmental ignorance, negligence, and
malevolence, has taken on new importance as the military attempts to
cushion the impact of base closures on the people who made the military
work until they were no longer needed. Should the U.S. ever need to re-
mobilize, it will find the task easier if it treats former employees and
neighbors well.

 It may be argued that the civic missions of the Defense Department
belong in other agencies. The non-combat goals of military spending are
necessarily undermined by its principal focus on warfare. But at this point
the Pentagon has assumed responsibility for the cleanup and protection of
the environment. Moreover, no other agency has the resources, expertise,
and discipline to meet all those missions. In the long run, maybe the federal
responsibility for environmental restoration should be changed. But for now
the world is a better place when the military comes to restore, not destroy.

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