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[H.A.S.C. No. 106–19]









SEPTEMBER 22, 1999

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HERBERT H. BATEMAN, Virginia, Chairman
WALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
BOB RILEY, Alabama
CURT WELDON, Pennsylvania
DON SHERWOOD, Pennsylvania

JOHN M. SPRATT, Jr., South Carolina
ADAM SMITH, Washington
JAMES H. MALONEY, Connecticut
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MIKE McINTYRE, North Carolina

Peter M. Steffes, Professional Staff Member
Diane W. Bowman, Staff Assistant




    Wednesday, September 22, 1999, Readiness Implications Concerning the Atlantic Fleet Training Center Vieques, Puerto Rico

    Wednesday, September 22, 1999



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    Bateman, Hon. Herbert H., a Representative from Virginia, Chairman, Military Readiness Subcommittee

    Ortiz, Hon. Solomon P., a Representative from Texas, Ranking Member, Military Readiness Subcommittee

    Barceló, Hon. Carlos Romero
    Dawson, Rear Adm. Cutler, Former Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group 12, U.S. Navy
    Fallon, Vice Adm. William, Commander, U.S. Second Fleet and Lt. Gen. Peter Pace, Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Atlantic
    Gardner, Brig. Gen. Emo, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Aviation, U.S. Marine Corps
    Johnson, Rear Adm. John M., Commander, Carrier Group Six, U.S. Navy


[The Prepared Statements can be viewed in the hard copy.]
Barceló, Hon. Carlos Romero
Fallon, Vice Adm. William
Menendez, Hon. Robert
Pace, Lt. Gen. Peter
Serrano, Hon. José E.
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[This information is pending.]

[This information is pending.]


House of Representatives,
Committee on Armed Services,
Military Readiness Subcommittee,
Washington, DC, Wednesday, September 22, 1999.

    The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 1:00 p.m., in room 2117, Rayburn House Office Building, Herbert H. Bateman (Chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.


    Mr. BATEMAN. We are at the appointed hour, and we also are alerted that there may be votes in the next 10 minutes. So, we will proceed with the opening statement that I will make, and then I will recognize Mr. Ortiz for any opening statement he cares to make. Perhaps by then, the bells will have rung, we will go vote, and come back as quickly as possible, and hopefully not have to interrupt the continuity of the presentations.
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    This afternoon, the Subcommittee on Military Readiness is meeting to better understand the readiness concerns of the Navy and the Marine Corps as they relate to the continued use of the Atlantic Fleet Training Facility, Vieques, Puerto Rico.

    What has brought our attention to this issue was the unfortunate training accident in April of this year that resulted in the death of a Navy contract employee at the training center. Following the fatality at the Vieques range, Navy Secretary Danzig directed a cessation of the use of all live fire and inert ordnance at Vieques until an investigation could be conducted.

    In addition, following the April incident, protesters have permanently occupied the live impact area. Although the initial Navy investigation and study of the continued use of Vieques was completed several months ago, the President directed the Secretary of Defense to also look at this issue and provide a report. We are still waiting for the release of this latest study.

    In the meantime, the use of Vieques by the Navy and Marine Corps Atlantic Fleet units remains prohibited. The purpose of today's hearing is focused on the readiness impact of the unavailability of the Vieques Training ranges to the Atlantic Fleet Naval and Marine Corps units.

    I am keenly aware that there are many other policy questions involved in this issue, but I would like to stay focused today on the military readiness aspect of this issue. My primary concern is the readiness of our fighting forces. I am aware that one of the last carrier battlegroups that utilized the facilities at Vieques deployed to support the Kosovo operations, and were flying combat missions within hours of arriving on station.
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    Adequate training is the cornerstone to military readiness. If the final decision is to close Vieques, I am very concerned about where the Atlantic Fleet will be able to conduct live fire, coordinated training, and at what cost. I would hope that there can be some agreement between the Navy and the residents of Vieques that would address both of their concerns.

    For our first panel today, we will hear from Vice Admiral William J. Fallon, Commander of 2nd Fleet, United States Navy; Lieutenant General Peter Pace, Commander, United States Marine Forces, Atlantic, United States Marine Corps; Rear Admiral John Johnson, Commander, Carrier Group Six, United States Navy; Rear Admiral Cutler Dawson, Former Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group 12, United States Navy; and Brigadier General Emo Gardner, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Aviation, United States Marine Corps.

    On our second panel, we will hear from the Honorable Carlos A. Romero-Barceló, the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico. We invited the Governor of Puerto Rico, the Honorable Pedro Rossello, but unfortunately his schedule precluded his appearance here today.

    I would like to also make reference to the fact that while we have not invited any of the Members of Congress, other than the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, this is simply in the interest of if we had, had one, we would have had to have had all, and we certainly would not have found that manageable.

    We have invited any and all Members of Congress, of course, to sit in as witnesses or to hear the testimony today and to offer any written statement they may choose for the record.
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    Before we begin, let me yield to the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, the Honorable Solomon Ortiz, the gentleman from Texas, for any comments he may wish to make.


    Mr. ORTIZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I join you in welcoming our distinguished witnesses for this hearing today. We have the opportunity to continue to gain additional insight and understanding into a matter that would not fade away. Since the tragic range fire incident in April of this year, a number of us have received requests for assistance in getting the United States Navy to stop using the island for live fire training exercises.

    We have also heard some compelling briefings from the United States Navy and other senior military officials regarding the need to continue to use the island for live fire training. As a former service member, I still remember the personal satisfaction and positive team building experience that I received from participating in realistic training situations using real ammunition.

    As the representative of a district with a sizable federal presence, I understand the concerns of local governments about the loss of revenue that could be generated from developing the property, and about environmental impacts, and about potential safety issues.
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    I also understand the adverse impact on the lives of federal employees when federal facilities close, especially when there are few other employment opportunities available. To some of my colleagues on the committee, this debate will probably sound rather familiar.

    It appears that we are, again, addressing the unfinished agenda from the hearings conducted by the committee during the 1996 Congress in 1979 and 1980. While the activities that drove the Congress to establish a panel and hold the hearings pre-date my presence on the Hill, the scenario reads very similar.

    The Vieques residents are still expressing concerns about their personal future and the economic development of the island. I have been informed that the residents live in constant fear that the next tragic mistake could cause them or their family members their lives.

    They tell me about the high cancer rate, and that Vieques has the highest mortality, infant mortality, and cancer mortality rates in Puerto Rico. They are unhappy about the fact that in spite of their expectations, and earlier agreements with the Navy, economic development of the island has not been a reality.

    Mr. Chairman, once again, this committee is being asked to pass judgment on how best to meet the needs of the United States Navy for a live fire training area, and at the same time, address a most sensitive political issue that has been festering for years.

    My greatest disappointment in this matter is that we are no closer to a solution today than in 1980. And that really bothers me. I am aware of the recommendations of the study performed by General Pace and Admiral Fallon. And I look forward to understanding more about their recommendations today. I need to better understand why the integrated live fire training must still be conducted in this way. Can it be significantly changed or downsized?
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    Is the training different for the West Coast Navy? What do we know about the environmental contamination and mortality concerns? I am eager to hear from the Department about the Rush Panel that was chartered by the Secretary to look at the larger picture.

    I regret that the results of that initiative are not available for us today, and that representatives from the Rush Panel are not available for us to obtain some sensing about the direction of their efforts. But I understand that the Rush Panel efforts has not yet been reviewed by the Department, and it might be inappropriate for the Congress to interject itself into the Panel's activities at this time.

    I am pleased that the Department rejected the status quo response and directed a more complete assessment of the need to continue to use the island for live fire integrated training. I am also pleased that the Navy officials are attempting to develop some recommendations that will alter the training and enhance the economic development activity. I hope these activities are not too little too late. I have also been reminded by some of my colleagues of the success the Department has had in negotiating adjustments to training areas, the levels of activity, and time of training, both here and in Europe in response to local concerns.

    Mr. Chairman, it is clear to me that we cannot afford to take actions and make decisions that we know will increase the risks to our military personnel by reducing their readiness as they prepare to go into harm's way. Neither can we ignore the realities of the total environment.

    I remain committed to seeking a solution to the readiness issue, and addressing the legitimate concerns of the local populace. We must take care of the readiness of the force, but the military must also be a good neighbor, and a responsible steward of the environment.
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    And no one in the decision process can be indifferent to the concerns about the health and safety of the residents, as well as the loss of employment opportunities when military activities are downsized. Again, I welcome all of our distinguished witnesses to this hearing. And I look forward to your testimony and response to some of the questions that we might have later on.

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. BATEMAN. Thank you, Mr. Ortiz.

    The bells have rung for that vote. And after we have taken the vote, I certainly want to now and then invite the distinguished Resident Commissioner to join us here at the dias. We would be more than pleased to have him sit with us through the hearing.

    With that, I would suggest that we go, and vote, and return just as quickly as we have been able to cast the three votes that are pending.


    Mr. BATEMAN. The subcommittee will come to order.

    At this point, I am pleased to recognize as the first witness on the first panel, Vice Admiral Fallon. Admiral Fallon, we are happy to have you here and look forward to hearing from you.
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    Admiral FALLON. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.

    For the record, my name is Vice Admiral William J. Fallon, United States Navy. I am the Commander of the United States 2nd Fleet, and the Commander of NATO's Striking Forces in the Atlantic.

    I am responsible for the operation of Naval forces in the Atlantic, and I am also charged with the training and preparation of our East Coast-based Naval forces in their operational and wartime tasks, and for certifying their readiness for deployment and assignment to the unified commanders overseas.

    I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and the members of the committee, for your support for our men and women in uniform. I am also very, very grateful to be given the opportunity to be here today to testify on this important subject, and to address the national security interests regarding the Vieques Target Complex. To get to the root, sir, Vieques is absolutely critical to the readiness, training, and preparation of our forces prior to their deployment overseas.

    As a Commander, I feel that it is absolutely essential that we provide our men and women the best possible training that we can offer, prior to introducing them into a situation in which their lives may be potentially at stake in a wartime environment. This is what the national security interest is to me.
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    It is about the risk to our people, to the men and women that we depend on, that we ask to go forward and carry out the task in defense of this nation. Vieques is the only place at which we can conduct, it is the only place available to East Coast-based forces, where we can conduct and train in several warfare competencies that are essential to combat readiness.

    The most important of these is live ordnance training. Members of the committee, as you are no doubt aware, there was a tragic mishap on the 19th of April of this year, in which a life was lost down on the range in Puerto Rico. We sincerely regret this unfortunate loss of life.

    Since that time, there has been a moratorium on operations at the Vieques Target Range that was imposed by the Secretary of the Navy, pending the outcome of the Rush Panel and the investigation into that mishap. That moratorium continues in effect. And since then, we have not been able to train any forces at that complex.

    This is just beginning to make itself evident in that this week, we are deploying the John F. Kennedy Battlegroup and the Baton Amphibious Ready Group, with its embarked Marines. And we are seeing for the first time the readiness implication of not being able to use this target, in that we have got a ship deploying that is not certified in a major warfare area, due to the inability to train with our gunfire support down at the Vieques Range.

    The Secretary of the Navy asked Lieutenant General Pace and I to conduct a study, several months ago, into this entire issue at Vieques. There were several things that we were asked specifically to do. The first was to look at the need for training specifically at Vieques, and more importantly for the need to conduct live ordnance training there.
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    Our study confirmed that the training there is absolutely essential. There are several categories which we just do not have another place to do it on the East Coast. Regarding the live ordnance training, it is my personal feeling that it is absolutely unconscionable to ask men and women to go into a combat situation, or a potential combat situation, knowing that we have the possibility of providing them an experience, a very realistic experience beforehand, and to ask them to go forward and not give this to them.

    It is very critical for two reasons. If you do not give it to them, the risk to them and their actions, unfamiliarity in these severe circumstances, is very serious. And the second thing is that the effectiveness of that force, the individuals and the force involved in combat, is put at risk and most likely to be degraded. And this is through an awful lot of personal experience of myself and other members on the panel.

    We also conducted a very comprehensive review of potential alternative sites. This was not something that we conducted from scratch. There have been several endeavors over the last two decades in which the Navy Department has undertaken a search for potential alternatives to this target complex on Vieques. We considered every single target range from Maine to Texas that is in use today that might have some potential to absorb some or all of the training that is currently conducted or had been conducted at Vieques.

    We also considered several uninhabited islands, including several that were proposed by the Government of Puerto Rico in days past, that might be suitable. We have not found a single one of these sites that can replicate the training that is available on Vieques. And we did not go into this with some unrealistic expectation.
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    We know that we are not going to find a mirror image of Vieques out there somewhere. It just does not exist. This particular target complex, down in Vieques, is a part of the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Range. Over a period of over five decades, at tremendous investment of taxpayer dollars, on the order of $3.5 billion, this complex has been built up so that it provides an opportunity for our forces to engage in multi-dimensional, simultaneous, and sequential operations which are just not available in other places.

    This was done intentionally. This is not just a matter of convenience. We are not down there because it happens to be handy. In fact, to the contrary, it is not. It is three days of steaming for the main forces to come out of Norfolk to go down and operate, and three more days to get back. We are down there because it is the best place and the only place to do the kind of training that we believe is required.

    The other major reason for the choice of this target complex is for safety reasons. We believe, and I personally believe, and I have operated down there for many years, that range operations do not pose a safety hazard to the island's civilian population. In fact, we cannot find another place that affords the kinds of buffers between civilians and the live ordnance areas that exist on Vieques.

    We also took a very close look at the operations that are conducted down there by the Naval forces. We have concluded that the operations can be modified. We have proposed to the Rush Panel that, in fact, we make substantial modifications to the type, conduct, and duration of the operations that are conducted down there.

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    And we feel that we can do this and still maintain a high level of readiness because of several changes that have occurred in technology, procedures, the types of weapons, and, frankly, learning how to do things better. We also feel that we need to address the very legitimate concerns of the population of that island. Nobody wants to have a bombing range in their backyard. That is not an unfamiliar refrain. We hear it at many places.

    There are over 50 different ordnance ranges in the Continental United States, in the 50 States, which are currently in use. At many of these sites, there are civilian populations much closer to the impact areas than exist in Vieques. Nonetheless, we are aware that our operations do have a significant impact on the people.

    And we would like to ask your help to join with us to enable us to get together with the people of that island and to figure out a way to make our continued security need for the facilities down there meshed with the very legitimate needs of the people, to address their concerns, to address and hopefully improve their quality of life, as well as their economic situation.

    I would like, with your permission, Mr. Chairman, to introduce my written testimony for the record. I would be very happy to address any questions you might have for me. I would like to, with your permission, turn it over to Lieutenant General Pace for his statement, sir.

    [The prepared statement of Admiral Fallon can be found in the Appendix.]

    Mr. BATEMAN. Admiral, thank you.
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    Your complete statement will be made a part of the record. And we would be delighted to hear from General Pace at this time.


    General PACE. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you very much for this opportunity to be here with you today. And thank you again, sir, for the steadfast support of this committee. We know that it is the Congress of the United States that provides for the Armed Forces of the United States.

    Sir, I am Lieutenant General Peter Pace. I am the Commander of the United States Marine Corps Forces Atlantic. And it is my responsibility to train 92,000 Marines and sailors, Active and Reserve, and then to deploy those Marines and sailors overseas to our five geographic combatant commanders. Your Marine Corps has approximately 25,000 Marines forward-deployed every day.

    As one example, today, we have just over 2,000 Marines aboard ship in the Mediterranean. Those Marines trained at Vieques just before going on this deployment. Immediately upon arriving in the Mediterranean, they went into Albania and were working with the refugee population in Albania that was flowing out of Kosovo.

    Midway through that operation, they were put back aboard ship, went around and off the coast of Greece, and went into Kosovo itself; a very, very tense situation, as you know, sir. They did a magnificent job there. They came back out of there and went over to Turkey. And as a result of the earthquake in that country, were able to go ashore and help in humanitarian efforts there.
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    Humanitarian efforts, combat situations, earthquake relief, all in the first four months of a 6-month deployment, sir. These Marines and sailors are doing a magnificent job for our Country. And I owe it to them to ensure that they have received the very best possible training that I can provide them. I must provide that training. That is my focus.

    I truly do not care where that training takes place, sir. I just must conduct it. So, when Admiral Fallon and I were tasked to take a look at the Vieques Range Complex to see what alternatives we might come up with, I went into this dispassionately saying to myself, surely there is another range, there are other facilities that we can use to lesson the burden in Vieques.

    And as Admiral Fallon has pointed out, after a very exhaustive examination of the numerous facilities available, we concluded that yes, we can in fact do some training, as we do today, in other locations. I can, for example, do amphibious landings at Camp Lejeune and support them with artillery, but I cannot drop bombs there. I can go out to 29 Palms California, and I can drop bombs, and I can have artillery, but there is no beach. I cannot come across.

    There is no access to the airplanes off of the carriers that would be in support of these groups. So, although we are able to do, in football analogy, some practicing of blocking, some practicing of tackling, some practicing of throwing and catching the football, it is only in Vieques, sir, where we get to scrimmage the whole team in the combined arms integrated training that is so essential to their own survival in combat to mitigate the risk, to do all we possibly can to train them, sir.

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    This is an emotional issue; I understand that, sir, certainly for the family of Mr. Sanes Rodriguez, who was killed on the range and to his many friends, both in and outside the Department of the Navy. There are very legitimate concerns of our fellow citizens in Vieques. And there are the legitimate requirements of national defense.

    Admiral Fallon, and I, and the other members here before you, sir, are committed to finding a good solution. I know we can find a solution that will, in fact, pay attention to and be sensitive to the needs of the citizens in Vieques and also provide the proper training for the young men and women, many of whom are sons and daughters of Puerto Rico, who currently serve in the United States Navy and in the United States Marine Corps.

    So, we are committed to working this problem. We appreciate very much this opportunity to appear before you. This is beyond the abilities of admirals and generals to solve. But we are committed to doing our part and we appreciate this opportunity, sir.

    [The prepared statement of General Pace can be found in the Appendix.]

    Mr. BATEMAN. Thank you, General Pace.

    Next, we will hear from Rear Admiral Cutler Dawson who is the Former Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group 12, the United States Navy.


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    Admiral DAWSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I am Rear Admiral Cutler Dawson. Until August, I was Commander of the Enterprise Battlegroup. I deployed with the Enterprise Battlegroup this past year from November to May of this year. Our battlegroup operated in the Mediterranean, and in the Persian Gulf, and supported regional combat operations in both of those theaters.

    The Enterprise Battlegroup utilized the Puerto Rican training areas at Vieques Training Range during our work-ups for deployment. In July and August of last year, we conducted live at-sea firings, air-to-air missile exercises, surface-to-air missile exercises, Naval-surface fire support qualifications at Vieques, and air-to-ground qualifications at Vieques.

    When the Enterprise Battlegroup deployed on the 6th of November last year, we conducted a 29-knot transit to the Persian Gulf. Shortly after our arrival, the battlegroup executed four days of combat operations in Operation Desert Fox against Iraq. Our live fire training exercises in Vieques and the Puerto Rican operating area was the last live firing opportunity we had before those combat operations.

    The success of our battlegroup forces that we enjoyed, with no loss of American life or significant collateral damage in Iraq, was directly related to our training opportunity in Vieques and Puerto Rico, prior to our deployment. Our forces were able to conduct end-to-end training for the entire battlegroup. Sea and air space availability that was there allowed the battlegroup to operate under realistic conditions that we would later see in Iraq, off of Iraq, and in the Mediterranean.

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    We executed surface operations, including Naval surface fire support, while simultaneously training the airwing, with airwing over land air-to-ground strikes. The aviation ordnance for these strike packages was prepared and uploaded to the aircraft onboard Enterprise. We would next see this evolution on the day prior to our strikes into Iraq for Desert Fox.

    At Vieques, our aircraft were able to deliver precision guided munitions at altitudes above 18,000 feet to counter potential anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) and surface-to-air missile (SAM) threats that we would see in Iraq. This skill was honed and practiced at Vieques. The training that we conducted prior to deployment allowed the entire battlegroup to come together as a team.

    The unrestricted access to sea and air space, as well as the Vieques inter-range target area helped to train the battlegroup for the operations that we would see during our deployment. In fact, as I mentioned, it was our last opportunity to train with live ordnance, prior to Desert Fox operations. It prepared us to be ready upon arrival.

    Again, Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the opportunity to be here with the others. And I look forward to any questions you may have.

    Mr. BATEMAN. I thank Admiral Dawson.

    Next, we will hear from Brigadier General Emo Gardner, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Aviation, United States Marine Corps.

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    General GARDNER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Sir, I am Brigadier General Emerson Gardner. While I am currently at Headquarters Marine Corps, I was the Commanding Officer of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit from May 1996 until August 1998. During that time, I had the honor of deploying to the U.S. European Command (UECOM) area of responsibility (AOR) twice, both 6-month deployments, once without the benefit of Vieques training and once with. Now, with is better.

    I have a statement which I will submit for the record in its entirety, but with your permission will only offer three points at this time. Throughout our 6-month pre-deployment training which precedes each 6-month deployment, we stress the importance of integrating combined arms. The reason is simple. We are a light force and we need to leverage the fire power we have available.

    When a Marine initially goes ashore, the only fire power he has available to him is his rifle, air support, and Naval surface fire support. I cannot emphasize enough how important and how difficult it is to be able to integrate those fires, such that the Marine on the ground receiving the support of those fires is protected, and that the mission is accomplished. The only place on the East Coast where it all fits together, where I can realistically train my Marines, and the shooters supporting those Marines to do combined, live combined arms, is on Vieques. There are some things you cannot simulate. When we began the complex preparations for live fire off Vieques, the shipboard procedures that have often been described as a ballet looked more like slam dancing.
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    It was taking nearly an hour and a half to move live ordnance from magazine to aircraft. By the time we left Vieques, we were well-under 30 minutes with that procedure. My Naval gunfire liaison officers and forward observers experienced first-hand the remarkable improvement in Naval gunfire as ships actually put steel on target.

    Contrast this training with what we were able to do at Camp Lejeune. There, the ship calls and tells the observer that a round has left the barrel of the ship's gun. Of course, no round has left the gun. The observer waits a suitable amount of time, pretends it impacted, calls the ship, and makes a simulated adjustment.

    Without a training area like Vieques, the first time a Marine observer in combat calls for Naval surface fire support is not only the first time he has ever really called for that kind of support, it is the first time the ship has ever really provided that support. This is a matter of some concern to my Marines. Finally, our best deserve the best. I would say that the best way to judge the significance of the realistic training we get on Vieques is to watch the growth of our fantastic individual Marines and sailors. For six of the eight AV–8 Harrier pilots I had aboard, Vieques was the first time they had ever dropped live ordnance from a ship.

    One of the best comments I heard was from a young Harrier pilot who had just returned to the ship at night, after delivering his first-ever 2,000 pound bomb. You have to remember that bringing a Harrier back aboard an amphibious ship at night has to be one of the toughest evolutions in aviation. It was worth the trip just for this one hop, he said. I would respectfully submit that no amount of bonus pay can achieve that kind of motivation.
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    I thank the committee for the opportunity to testify.

    Mr. BATEMAN. Thank you very much, General.

    Now, we will conclude the first panel by hearing from Rear Admiral John M. Johnson, Commander, Carrier Group Six, United States Navy.

    Admiral Johnson.


    Admiral JOHNSON. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, and members of this committee. I am Commander of Carrier Group Six, for the record, John Michael Johnson. I am also the Commander of the John F. Kennedy Battlegroup. Our battlegroup is underway this afternoon, recovering airplanes off the coast of Florida, en route to the Mediterranean and to the Persian Gulf.

    And unless there are some dramatic changes in what has been our national policy, these young men and women will be dropping weapons in combat inside of a month. And the last realtime they had to drop precision guided weapons from the altitudes commensurate with what we are asking them to do in the real world was six months ago, because of the loss of Vieques.

    I have a concern about that, because I am the one who has to order these young men and women into combat, and approve the tactics that they are going to use. And also keep in mind that everything that they do has a commensurate cause and effect to national policy, as well as potentially to their lives. I would like to talk a little bit about what goes into the complex way we train our battlegroups today.
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    It is a building block approach. We do fundamental training at the unit level on bases throughout this country and in target complexes throughout this country. But it all culminates, like the previous testimony has shown you, when we come together off of the Island of Vieques and do that ballet that requires extreme coordination and extreme accuracy.

    It is not like playing a Nintendo game or a video game on TV. You cannot turn down the cacophony of war. It is real, in the minds of those who are practicing across those beaches in Vieques as the shells and the bombs are falling around them, and they take it seriously. They cannot be doing it for the very first time when we just go into combat, or someone's life on our side, as well as potentially national policy, will be put in jeopardy.

    We have Fallon, as our principal effort for putting the airwing together, but that misses the Naval and Marine Corps aspect of doing warfare. And without doing it from the ships we put to sea, from the distances that we have to fight our wars of today, then this training is for naught. As you know, the real test of Naval aviation is doing this complex warfare from sea.

    And that requires huge air space and huge sea spaces, because we spread our forces so far across the seas. We do not have the sea space and room off the East Coast. We tried to substitute for our battlegroup, East Coast targets, as we moved back up from the Vieques Target Complex. And we have the airways that go from New York down to Florida, which are one airplane after another, constantly.

    We have the shipping lanes that go up and down the East Coast. And at the same time, we have to meet the FAA regulations required to provide safe transportation of our forces, as well as the air forces that fly through those lanes. That does not replicate combat. That replicates bureaucracy. And that is not what our sailors, and airmen need, and Marines need when they go into combat.
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    They need to be able to practice the way they will fight. The East Coast is exceptionally congested. When we tried to go to target complexes in Pine Castle, in Eglin Air Force Base, in Townsend Target in Georgia, in Derrick County off of Virginia, we had to do it in single numbers, not as we would have fought in combat. And that is what these air crews have experienced over the past six to seven months.

    They will have a deficiency in training when they arrive on the scene in the Persian Gulf within a month. Our final training ended in March, but the unit training has continued. I will take 12 of my 80 combat training people, my tactical air crew, into combat who have seen combat before. The rest of them have never been to combat. It is a constant training evolution.

    Eighty percent of this battlegroup of 12,000 people were not even in the Navy in Desert Storm. It is a continuous training effort, and we must train those people appropriately for their levels of experience. And that experience is generally as a nugget, as a brand new person who is about to approach his first combat tour.

    We have no other place on the East Coast that can precisely measure the effects of weapons that are dropped from high altitudes. There is no range on the East Coast that allows us to employ our laser guided weapons systems from the altitudes which keeps our air crews safe. That is above 20,000 feet outside the AAA and the SAM Systems that give them a chance to come back to that ship and then go back into combat again.

    The only place that we can do that is in Vieques where we have no altitude limit because we are not concerned with airways that cross over top of the target complex. We expect our warriors to do things today that were never put on the backs of those of us who fought in Viet-Nam or other conflicts between then and now.
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    We have to have no collateral damage because that is the expectation we put onto them. That requires a level of precision and a level of decision making that far exceeds that which most people have to come to grips with. They have to hit the target every time or not drop their weapon.

    If they have not had the opportunity to train to that, then they have to bring that weapon back to the ship, and go back to that target again, and that exposes our young men and women unnecessarily. And we also cannot afford to take any damage to ourselves. These young men and women today will have a bounty on their heads when they cross into Iraq.

    Saddam Hussein would like nothing better than to be forcing them down to altitudes that he could shoot them down and parade them across the streets of Baghdad. Today's tactics require us to go higher and farther from the weapons systems. And the target range in Vieques is the only place my battlegroup can train with any consistency to get that level of training.

    This requires and end-to-end system reliability that is measurable. I did my live weapon training for the battlegroups and the ships in accompany with us at sea where we were bombing the ocean. We cannot miss. The same is not true when you have to bomb a precise target and get the weapon within 30 feet of it to achieve the kill that is necessary today.

    They have tested this equipment and fused weapons on-again and off-again off these ships. But as Admiral Fallon clearly pointed out, we have had accidents in the past. It takes 100-plus parts to put together a laser guided weapon. You do not do that over night. You have to practice putting those weapons together, moving them over the flight deck, loading them on the airplanes, and having the crew get fused weapons on target.
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    We have recently experienced air crews who have not been able to drop those weapons on target, dropping dead weapons which, again, exposes those air crews to unnecessary risks that could have been alleviated had they had the range to practice on. The first measurable test of these young men and women that I will take into combat again will come in combat.

    Our air crews are acutely aware of all of these pressures that are on them. And they will do their darndest to provide America what they need in answering our national policy that requires them to put themselves in harm's way.

    And in summary, I firmly believe that the successes since Desert Storm are a direct reflection of the rigor and the realism we have placed in our training. Our ships train realistically. Our airwings train realistically and our crews know what to expect. Without such effort, we risk compromising not only our national and regional objectives, but even more importantly, we risk these young and men and women's lives unnecessarily.

    Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement. Thank you.

    Mr. BATEMAN. Thank you very much, Admiral Johnson.

    I hope that the witnesses at the witness table will be able to remain with us because I would like at this time to ask the distinguished Resident Commissioner to make his statement. And then we could join in asking questions of both him and of the panel, and perhaps any further comments that the panel might want to make.
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    Of course, I am not the master of your time. So, if you cannot remain, I, of course, will understand. With that, the Resident Commissioner is recognized and we are very pleased to hear from you.


    Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I really appreciate the opportunity to be here today. Chairman Bateman, and Ranking Member Ortiz, and members of the Subcommittee on Military Readiness, my name is Carlos Romero-Barceló, for the record. And I am the sole elected representative for 3.8 million disenfranchised American citizens in Puerto Rico.

    I very much appreciate the opportunity to testify before this subcommittee to make sure that the position of the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico is also represented here today. So, that it is taken into consideration as you deliberate the issue of the bombing and the military maneuvers carried out by the Navy in the tropical island paradise known as Vieques.

    And I would like to under score this. This is a tropical island paradise that we are talking about. When you consider what is the bombing and the maneuvers, always keep in mind that we are talking about a real tropical island paradise. And for the record, I wish to state that there can be no question as to Puerto Rico's commitment to the United States, to American democratic values, and to our national defense.
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    In fact, Puerto Rican Americans have served shoulder-to-shoulder with our fellow Americans from the 50 States. Throughout this Century, 197,000 have fought alongside their fellow citizens from Virginia, from Texas, and other states in every armed conflict that this nation has been involved, wherever and whenever it has been necessary in the world. Another 150,000 men and women have served the nation, and thousands more continue to serve during times of peace.

    I would like to point out that in the Korean War, which was the last war where there was any segregation in the Armed Forces, there was still the 65th Infantry Regiment. It is a Puerto Rican Regiment in Korea. And that was also the first time, according to General Harris who lead those troops, that any regiment from Puerto Rico, any group of soldiers, had been properly trained.

    And in that war, in the Korean War, the 65th Infantry Regiment was the most decorated regiment in the Korean War, both by the U.S. and by foreign countries. And even though we would be 26th in population, we were number four in casualties in Korea. In every single military conflict that America has engaged in during the 20th Century, we have been there.

    And in most instances, our presence and our casualties have exceeded from most other states. In Korea and Viet-Nam, for instance, we were third in per capita casualties, when compared with the rest of the 50 states. And we are equal in war and death, but unequal in peace and prosperity. You have just heard an impressive presentation from the Department of the Navy.

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    They argued forcefully for continued bombing and the use of live ordnance with live fire on the Island Vieques, as a basic requirement for military readiness. As a civilian, it is very difficult for me to rebut these allegations because I do not have the resources nor the back-up data and the reports, whether true or imagined.

    But what is obvious and clearly comes across from the Navy's presentation, it is not that Vieques is the only place which can serve to provide readiness, but rather that Vieques is the most convenient place for the U.S. Navy. However, they do not seem to be too concerned about that happens to be the most inconvenient place for the American citizens in Vieques.

    We in Puerto Rico, and particularly the Puerto Rican Americans in Vieques, know first-hand about military readiness. As our nation prepared for war in 1941, they expropriated and brought lands in Vieques for training purposes. And that purpose also was to bring in the Atlantic Fleet; and, in case England was invaded, to bring in also the British Fleet, and it would be housed in Roosevelt Roads.

    They expropriated and bought lands in Vieques for those purposes. And since then the war has never stopped for the people of Vieques. The same, not only the same maneuvers, and the bombing, but it has increased since 1941. It has escalated. The civilians in Kosovo need no longer fear the nightly NATO bombing raids.

    Yet in Vieques, they have been exposed to those raids at least 180 days out of each year for the past 57 years. Now, some people would say, oh, they do not hear the bombs. I once was an Admiral in Puerto Rico in Bahardo at the resort, at the place where they go and have vacations. And while we were there, there was this, we heard these bombings.
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    And he asked me, what is that? And I said, Admiral, those are the maneuvers in Vieques. And we were in Puerto Rico. That is a few miles away, quite a few miles away from Vieques. Yet, it has been almost 60 years that the residents of the tropical island paradise of Vieques, which today number 9,311, have coexisted with the Navy enclosed in a 2-mile area between the Naval munition's site on the Western Coast and the Live Impact Range on the Eastern Coast.

    I wish we had a map here of Vieques. You could see it is a long island. It is about 19 miles. And the Navy owns the western part, which is the one closest to Puerto Rico, and all of the eastern part where they do the bombings and the maneuvers; and the people live right in the middle. So, they are hemmed in from both sides.

    For the past two decades, in particular, that coexistence has been shaken by a growing number of accidents. And the latest and most serious, the tragedy of April 19, 1999, when a bomb fell off target, during Navy maneuvers, and hit Observation Post One, an observation post that is nearly two miles away from the intended target, killing Mr. David Sanes Rodriguez, a civilian employee by the Navy, and severely wounding four others.

    Now, this bomb fell two miles off-target. We have heard here today how they have to go now higher, and higher, and higher in the bombing. Now, the higher you are, any mistake, any error would go even farther, the range. The radius becomes even longer. Now, if you missed two miles, you missed your target by two miles, how can anyone guarantee you will not miss it by 10?

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    I mean, what happened in Kosovo? Did they not bomb the Chinese Embassy by mistake? I am sure nobody wanted to have that to happen, yet it happened. What are we waiting for here, to have a bomb fall in a school and kill 10, 15, 20, 100 children and then the Navy will leave Vieques? My God.

    The accident, which is a result of pilot inexperience, and a failure of communication between range control officers and the pilots of the F–18 fighter jets, expose the clear and the present hazards and the herein danger that the 9,311 residents of Vieques confront during maneuvers featuring live ordnance and bombings. As I said, before this time, the bomb was off-target of the Navy property.

    What was going to happen the next time? Where will it be off-target? This tragic event, redefined and emboldened virtually all of Puerto Rico to raise its voice in unison in a demand for the safety, the security, and the well-being of the 9,311 Puerto Rican Americans who reside in Vieques. Every single political party, civic, and church group, as well as a vast majority, overwhelming majority of Puerto Rican Americans, stand united in this demand.

    Those of you who are familiar with Puerto Rican politics know how difficult it is to achieve consensus and thus how meaningful this unity of purpose is. The issue is not mainly whether the Navy should continue its maneuvers in Vieques, but rather, why should one group of disenfranchised American citizens bear a burden for the national defense and military readiness that creates anxiety, the constant fear of an accident, and that puts their lives at risk, when the same burden is not asked of any other group of citizens in the nation in times of peace?

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    These are critical issues that require your attention, the Armed Services Committee's attention, and will ultimately test the entire Congress' commitment to the rights and the freedom of all its citizens in the United States, and its commitment to the democratic ideals of this nation. I would discourage any attempt by this committee to impose or force a decision.

    Such an action would be viewed as a throwback to, and a return to the nation's role as a colonial power in past centuries. I want to make sure that the safety, the security, and the well-being of the 9,311 U.S. citizens in Vieques is an overriding concern in all Presidential and Congressional determinations on this issue.

    My objective is to appeal to the sense of justice, to the equality and fair play that is such an integral part of the American heritage. Let us turn this proceeding into an attestation of the faith that we have in America. Puerto Rican Americans have never skirted, shirked our responsibilities for our 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 their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Since the 1940s, the Department of the Navy has carried out amphibious training air-to-shore, ship-to-shore, and other military maneuvers in Vieques.

    When the Navy was ordered by President Richard Nixon to stop military operations, maneuvers in Culebra in 1975, and Culebra is an island to the north of Vieques, it shifted all of its operations to Vieques. The action was carried out in spite of mounting concerns of the residents of Vieques. In 1977, during my first term as Governor of Puerto Rico, I filed action in a U.S. District Court to enjoin the U.S. Navy from using Vieques for weapons training purposes, citing violations of federal and Puerto Rican statutes, Executive Orders, and Constitutional provisions.
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    I filed suit because all of the conversations, and all of the attempts to discuss with the Navy were fruitless. I kept getting the run around, and the run around, and the run around. And finally, I had to file a lawsuit. In 1979, U.S. District Court Judge Juan Torruella found that the Navy was in technical violation of three statutes: the National Environmental Policy Act; Executive Order 11593 by failing to nominate historical sites; and the Clean Water Act.

    After the above decision was upheld through the appeals process, the Government of Puerto Rico, the Governor, and the Department of the Navy entered into negotiations to set forth the legal framework for all Navy operations in Vieques, and set standards and goals for Navy and Puerto Rico cooperation that culminated in the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in September 1983.

    Contrary to the provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding, the Navy escalated and expanded its range of operations in Vieques after the mid-1980s. The Navy offered the range, listen to this. The Navy offered the range for use by foreign militaries and commercial and other uses, such as weapons and munitions manufacturers on a reimbursable basis, highlighting the assets and features of the weapons range in Vieques in a website.

    This outrageous offer was withdrawn after it became a public issue after the April 19th tragic accident. This is a gross, crass violation of the Memorandum of Understanding, where the Navy committed to reduce to as much as possible the use of live ordnance. And here they were, advertising for other countries to use their facilities in Vieques which were so extraordinary.
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    In a blatant violation of the letter and the spirit of the MOU, the Navy used hazardous weapons, and toxic bombs, and other munitions, including napalm, depleted uranium bullets, and cluster bombs that are banned for use near civilian populations, all by mistake. These actions not only constitute a callous disregard, but a flagrant and crass violation of both the terms and the spirit of the Memorandum of Understanding.

    What effect the toxic waste, dust, and particles produced by these hazardous bombs and ordnance have had to cause the much higher incidence of cancer in Vieques is not clearly established, but must be carefully studied. There is clear evidence that the incidence of cancer in Vieques is substantially higher than in Puerto Rico. Whether it is caused directly or not by the bombing or the maneuvers, it has not been established scientifically. But should any bombing be continued or allowed to be continued before that is established, whether or not it is directly due to that?

    I am sure there would be no community in the nation that would allow for them to start again, using the bombs, until that issue was at least clearly defined and decided whether or not the cause for cancer, the increase in cancer incidence, was caused by the bombings and the toxic materials.

    The tragic death of Mr. Sanes Rodriguez, compounded by the reports on the use of banned munitions and the ordnance in Vieques, the increasing number of military accidents over this past decade, and the increasing discovery of an exploded ordnance beyond the legal impact acre, particularly in the waters and coastal areas surrounding Vieques, have made us weary.

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    We stand in a solid and unified front and speak with one voice when we question the unequal risks, anxiety, and danger that Puerto Rican Americans face throughout most of every year in Vieques. If you were to dive in the area of the impact area, and the water surrounding the impact area, you will find unexploded ordnance on top of the reefs, on reefs, on the corals.

    The ordnance with toxic materials would seep through them, out of them continuously. They destroy the corals. The tragic death of Mr. Sanes Rodriguez, compounded by the reports on the use of banned munitions and ordnance in Vieques, the—I am reading the same paragraph.

    Can assurances or guarantees be provided by this committee that a bomb will never fall over the civilian population? Are each of you willing to live with the outcome of a bomb falling in one of the schools or in the midst of a civilian population in Vieques? What precautions could ever possibly be effective when a pilot's blink of an eye, or failed communications, as happened on April 19th, can detour a bomb or a missile for miles?

    All of these events vividly exposed the tenuous safety and the false sense of security to which 9,311 American citizens are subjected and have been subjected to for 57 years. I can assure you that almost all of us in Vieques and in Puerto Rico believe that the civilian population is neither safe nor secure and is actually in danger.

    What is more, we are convinced that the accumulated damage of bombing operations has damaged and poisoned the environment, has damaged historical and archaeological sites, has damaged and poisoned endangered species, the flora, and the fauna, and the surrounding sea.
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    Increasingly, information released by federal agencies points to health threats and environmental damage. The Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior has been seeking, for at least five years, to reassess the Navy's compliance with the Endangered Species Act, citing the change of conditions since the initial agreement was set forth in 1980.

    The Navy has continued to assert that conditions remain the same, but they have no access. We all have trouble believing that this is the case. The reported use of toxic, noxious, and hazardous materials alone belies their contention. The devastation and the moon-surface-like appearance of the impact area belies that assertion.

    The number of unexploded bombs lying on reefs and coral beneath the sea also belies that contention. The Environmental Protection Agency recently informed the Department of Defense of its intent to deny a Clean Water permit because of violations to the law.

    In addition, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry within the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that their specific investigation reveals a health threat to the population in Vieques, including a meaningfully lower life expectancy, and a substantially higher incidence of cancer than anywhere else in Puerto Rico.

    Given these facts, how can this Congress even consider authorizing or allowing the bombing of Vieques to be renewed before a careful and reliable study is made to decide whether there is any scientific evidence as to whether the worsening of health and increased levels of cancer is caused by the bombing?

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    There is one aspect of Judge Torruella's decision in 1979, that I would also like to bring to your attention. ''In our view, questions dealing with the level and type of training required to maintain the Navy at an adequate level of efficiency, or the determination of the relative merits of various training sites or similar issues, are purely political questions which are not justifiable unless we are concerned with whether specific legal standards have been violated.''

    The judge's clarification confirms that the decision concerning the future of military maneuvers in Vieques is ultimately a political decision. The Navy's presence in Vieques and the military maneuvers with live ordnance and bombing has been the source of examination and Congressional investigation for at least 20 years.

    In 1980, Chairman Ron Dellums of the Armed Services Committee directed the Navy to seek an alternative site. What did the Navy do? Nothing, absolutely nothing. They completely ignored this committee.

    Why have these directives been ignored for two decades? It is our conviction, and this is what makes this issue even more obviously inequitable, is that the Navy has ignored this committee and the U.S. citizens of Vieques because we are disenfranchised American citizens. We do not enjoy the fundamental rights and protections that every other American in the 50 states enjoys, the right to vote, and the right to participate in the governing and political process of the nation. We have no senators. I am not only the sole, but also a non-voting representative in Congress for 3.8 million American citizens.

    When you consider that the average Congressional district in the 50 states represents between 550,000 and 600,000 individuals, and I represent six or seven times that number, you can see how defenseless we are when compared to the power of a full Congressional delegation.
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    Also, we have no senators. Therefore, we have no one representing us in that chamber. Does anyone here believe for a single minute that such bombings and maneuvers could be carried out in Martha's Vineyard? The number of military ranges in the nation has been reduced in the past 50 years, giving in to political considerations in Congressional districts.

    One of the best examples that comes to mind is the Island of Kaho'olawe. In Hawaii, Senator Inouye and Senator Akaka, whose tenure in powerful Senate committees and persistence, coupled with the intense lobbying of the Congressional delegation from Hawaii, ensured that the Navy stopped using the Island of Kaho'olawe for military maneuvers similar to the exercises that are now held in Vieques.

    At that time, Senator Inouye was the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. And the Island of Kaho'olawe was uninhabited, not an inhabited island like Vieques. The 3.8 million U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico are exercising their rights as Americans by petitioning the Congress, saying enough is enough.

    The status and future of military maneuvers in Vieques has become a defining moment in Puerto Rico's relationship with the rest of the nation. I know that this issue is a difficult one, but it goes straight to the heart of the freedoms and democratic rights that unite all Americans.

    The Second Continental Congress, on July 4, 1776, approved The Declaration of Independence, one of the Nation's most venerated documents. The colonists sought redress from a long list of grievances against the British monarch, among them that ''He has affected to render the Military Independent of and superior to the Civil Power.''
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    Our nation was founded on principles which place the ultimate power of our government on the people, and it is the people that should be the Congress' overriding concern. Were this Congress to deny a recognition of the rights of U.S. citizens to seek redress from this grievance, a flame will be extinguished in the hearts of free men and women everywhere.

    The United States would be exposed before the world as a perpetrator of colonialism. What message do we send to the world? That we, as a nation, are willing to risk the lives of some of our citizens, but only of those who happen to lack the same political rights and influences as all the others.

    The facts, the history, and the will to do the right thing clearly weigh in favor of guaranteeing the right of the people of Vieques to peace, safety, and a fair opportunity to develop to the maximum of their potential. That is the least that the nation owes its 9,311 disenfranchised citizens in Vieques.

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    [The prepared statement of Mr. Romero-Barceló can be found in the Appendix.]

    Mr. BATEMAN. I thank the distinguished former Governor and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico for his very articulate statement. And we are now at the point where we will commence with some questions. And first, I have a few that I will ask. I will not ask all that I have, but I will ask a few and then recognize Members in the order in which they arrived in the committee room for the hearing.
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    Admiral Fallon and General Pace, either or both of you, reference was made in your testimony to Vieques being the only place. The Resident Commissioner speaks of it as not the only place, but only the most convenient place. Give me your response to that.

    Admiral FALLON. Yes, sir. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

    I would have a couple of thoughts on that regard. The first is, it is not the only place at which training is conducted. In fact, there are some 57 sites throughout the United States, all 50 States, and the Territories at which ordnance delivery is conducted.

    There are certain training evolutions that are unique to Vieques. And those are really three. There is air-to-ground weapons delivery in a tactically realistic environment at the altitudes that are required to survive in combat today, which you have heard from Admiral Johnson and Admiral Dawson.

    The second thing is the requirement to do surface fire support. That is to fire the 5-inch guns from our destroyers and cruisers, guns that are designed and then placed on those ships to support Marines and soldiers ashore. That is the only purpose really to which those guns are used today. And that training is only available on the East Coast of the United States at Vieques.

    The third thing and probably the most important is the opportunity to put together the entire battlegroup, the entire supporting arms coordination effort to bring to bear the combined arms effect of all of these systems at the same time in an environment in which people have to survive. That is not possible at other locations.
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    We have looked at every other training site east of the Mississippi, with an eye toward seeing what we could move into those places. And every one of them have significant shortfalls. As was indicated by some of the other panel members, there are things that can be done at some of those bases and some of those ranges.

    In fact, we propose shifting those unit-level things that can be accomplished at other places to those bases, rather to those ranges. But there are some things that just do not fit or there are other severe restrictions, such as too far inland or some other geographic restriction that will not permit us to do this combined arms training. That is the reason why we have not been able to find a substitute for the range there at Vieques. Now, nobody wants a bombing range in their backyard. We understand that. This is not convenient. It is noisy.

    There is certainly a dislocation to the quality of life to people that are in the vicinity. But the facts are at many of these ranges, these 50-something ranges throughout the United States, much higher population densities live closer to the target range than exist at Vieques.

    There are 9,300 people, roughly, on the Island of Vieques. There are ranges in Florida, for example the first one that you have heard mentioned here is Pine Castle in Central Florida. It has got a town, Esther Park, closer than the nearest town in Vieques. There are 10 times the population within that same radius.

    The other ordnance facility in Florida on the West Coast at Eglin Air Force Base has a population of almost 30 times the number, I am sorry, 300,000 people, compared to 9,000 within the same radius of that range. And it goes on and on. Fort Sill, Oklahoma, 100,000 people in Lawton. The nearest people live 3 miles from the range.
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    There are lots of examples of this. So this is not unique to Vieques. We have had an extensive search trying to find another place. At the suggestion of the Government of Puerto Rico, we have looked at several uninhabited islands with an eye towards maybe being able to do the training there. Each one of these things have significant or multiple deficiencies that have rendered them basically unusable to our effort.

    We continue to look and would welcome any suggestions on places that might be suitable. We have not just blown this off. We have conducted a very rigorous assessment in an attempt to find these targets.

    Mr. BATEMAN. Thank you, Admiral Fallon.

    Of course, very appropriately in your statement, as well as the Resident Commissioner's, reference was made to the unfortunate loss of life in April of this year. I do not take that matter lightly. No one could or should. But in terms of the risk factor, is that the only casualty that has been experienced through the 57 years or so of the operation of the firing range at Vieques?

    Admiral FALLON. Sir, there have been zero, no civilian casualties off the range in Vieques in Puerto Rico in the entire time that this range has been in operation. We have documented three deaths on the range since we can find records, two Navy pilots who were killed when their aircraft went down on the range, and the tragic death of Mr. Sanes back in April of this year.

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    They are the only documented cases of casualties on the island. Again, none of them occurred off the range. All three of these were on the range.

    Mr. BATEMAN. Is there any record or documentation of casualties at any of the other ranges that you have mentioned, I think some 57 of them?

    Admiral FALLON. I do not have the data on that one. I would be happy to take it for the record and get back to you, sir, but I do not have that first-hand.

    [The information referred to can be found in the Appendix.]

    Mr. BATEMAN. The record would suggest that while nothing is without risk, there is not substantial risk as the result of the type of training that has been done at Vieques and which you say cannot be done anywhere else but there.

    Admiral FALLON. No, sir.

    One of the things that makes Vieques unique and exceedingly attractive, in addition to the training facilities, is the physical location of the range and the population center. And I know we have a chart here somewhere, if somebody could get that out. It is much easier to see it, than attempt to describe.

    Mr. BATEMAN. Yes. If we have any graphics, we would certainly like the benefit of them.

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    Admiral FALLON. Yes, sir.

    On the far left-hand side of the island, which is about 21 miles from east to west, you will see a dark circle, I believe. That circle encompasses the hazardous frag pattern, the areas in which it is possible that fragments might fall from a weapon, even at the extreme ranges of the impact area.

    The impact area is a much smaller area, about two miles in width, at that extreme eastern end of the island. That is the only place on this island in which ordnance is delivered. And that looks like a bombing range. As the Resident Commissioner indicated, it does. It has got craters. It has got metal on the ground, as one might expect.

    Just to the west of that, you will see an area, I am not sure what the color is on this particular chart. It is white. That area is uninhabited. It is intentionally so. That provides a buffer almost 10 miles long from the population centers. And you can see the two towns; I believe it is in an orange color, at the center. And that is an area about four miles wide or so which the civilian population lives.

    So, the safety aspect is enhanced by the fact that there is this uninhabited land. That is the eastern maneuver area. That is where Marines actually maneuver ashore. But all of the firing, again, is in the east. The water area around the island also serves as a buffer. There are no civilians living there. We just do not have anyplace that I can imagine that has, in fact, the geography that provides the framework for safety as this particular range does.

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    Mr. BATEMAN. You also mentioned, Admiral, that over the period of some 50 years, an investment of $3.5 billion. Certainly, that is not just related to the acquisition cost of whatever number of acres of land. What is associated with that investment?

    Admiral FALLON. Yes, sir.

    That is an investment of 50-something years in time. To accurately describe the facility down there, one might view it as, that map that you just saw, that chart of Vieques, is really the center, the kernel of the entire facility. If one were to expand the view away from it, you would find vast areas to the northeast and southeast, open water areas, that comprise the so-called outer range.

    These are the areas in which we have room to maneuver, to bring aircraft carriers and other ships in close, and to be able to fly and actually train to those tactics that Admiral Johnson and Admiral Dawson indicated earlier. The thing that makes this place unique is that this is a fully-integrated facility in which these air operations, far afield, underwater operations, there is a range near the Island of St. Croix, fully instrumented.

    The entire complex is linked together with data links so signals can be transferred back and forth. The heart of this is the Vieques Island Target Range, this two miles at the center. Why? Because that is the only place where we can do this live ordnance training that really brings this all together.

    Mr. BATEMAN. How does this relate to the geographic proximity and the mission of Roosevelt Roads?
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    Admiral FALLON. Sir, the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station functions primarily today to support the training operations that occur on the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility. I know there are other activities that are conducted at that base, but the majority of the folks there are focused on supporting the training activities that take place on the range.

    Mr. BATEMAN. At this point, Mr. Ortiz.

    Mr. ORTIZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    These are very complex and delicate. I know that your responses to questions will help us to better understand the military's perspective on the matter. I have a number of questions I want to ask, but I do not know which one of you is in the best position to answer.

    So, I will leave it up to you to decide which one of you responds to the questions. Now, how often, and I heard the number 180 days, but how often does this type of integrated live fire training take place on the island during any year?

    Admiral FALLON. Sir, 180 days is an accurate number.

    That is the number that some activity occurred last year. The 180 days was not heavy activity, coordinate, live fire on each of those days. In fact, by the record keeping that was done down at the facility, any activity, even a single flight on a day, counted as a range day.
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    In fact, given the Operations TEMPO of our forces today, one could expect that about three times a year for approximately five days would occur this heavy, intense, coordinated operation in which Marines are moving ashore and the amphibious operations supported by the rest of the combined arms force.

    However, there are other very essential training events that occur, not to the extent and the numbers as would occur in these three final preparations. These are, if you would, the final exams, the final training operations, opportunities for me, as a fleet commander, for General Pace and his subordinate at the Expeditionary Force level, to see how our forces do when they pull together.

    There are other times, as the battlegroups are preparing for these final operations in which they need to use the range, they use it for the air-to-ground and for the surface fire support. The ships can get most of their qualifications done at other times. The bottom line is that the heavy intense operations are only conducted on a fraction of the total days.

    Now, we have examined as part of the study that General Pace and I were asked to do, the entire spectrum of operations. And for a lot of reasons, although we feel very, very confident in saying that we believe that the Navy has been very responsive to this 1983 MOU in that the total amount of live fire conducted down there since that MOU went into effect in the years after 1983, is at about 1/2 the level of live fire activity total ordnance that occurred before.

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    At any rate, nonetheless, we think that right now, today, if we had the opportunity to get in there and recommence training operations, we would make some very substantial changes to the operations which would, in fact, reduce not only the number of days, but the intensity of operations. And particularly, some of the most aggravating features, which are noise, which I personally feel the biggest aggravation to people on the island is probably is the noise or the heavy guns being fired from the ships on the south coast.

    Now, we are kind of the victims of our own attempts at good work here. To enhance safety on that island, we only permit the ships to fire on target bearings away from the population up towards the northeast to ensure that there is very, absolute minimum chance of a shell going astray.

    The very fact that we do that, unfortunately, puts the ships in position where the noise is probably a bigger factor than it might be if we could do it some other way. But nonetheless, from the ship's side, I think we can significantly reduce those operations.

    Mr. ORTIZ. And is it possible that some part of the training could take place at an alternate site?

    General PACE. Some alternate training, sir?

    Mr. ORTIZ. If you could use an alternate site, is it possible?

    General PACE. Sir, absolutely. And there are, as Admiral Fallon and I have indicated, some 50 other sites in the United States where we do alternate training. We have looked at that very carefully. An example of how we might be able to do business better, and one of the things that we found when we did our study that we did not expect to find was that, for example, when we assign pilots to squadrons, some of our personnel assignment policies have resulted in Marines and sailors being assigned to their squadrons perhaps just a month or two they were to deploy.
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    In the time that they have left, their squadrons have already deployed out to the West Coast at Fallon, where they have done most of the work-up. So, these particular pilots only have the opportunity to drop ordnance at Vieques. If we can do a better job with our assignment policies, for example, then those pilots can, in fact, go out to ordnance with their squadrons, instead of having to catch-up, so to speak, at Vieques.

    It is that kind of analysis and rigor that we expect of ourselves to be good neighbors and to only use the ranges at Vieques for those things that are unique to Vieques, the ability to fire Naval gunfire, the ability to drop ordnance from aircraft at tactically relevant and significant altitudes, and to be able to do so in support of the Marines going ashore, employing their artillery and their mortar, sir.

    Mr. ORTIZ. You mentioned something about being good neighbors. Do you think that the Marines or the Navy have been good neighbors or maybe you can be better neighbors than you have been in the past?

    General PACE. Yes, sir, and yes, sir.

    I think we have been good neighbors. I think we can be better neighbors. And I think that the Navy's intent to reassign a flag officer to that region, and Admiral Fallon can address that in more detail; but the things that the Department is looking at now to ensure that the dialogue between our fellow citizens in Vieques and the Armed Forces that are sworn to support them and defend them, that we in fact consider and take into proper consideration the valid concerns of the people and the valid need for well-trained forces that deploy overseas, sir.
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    Mr. ORTIZ. Admiral.

    Admiral FALLON. Sir, if I could add to that. I agree with what General Pace said. And my opinion is that we have not done a very good job in some aspects of our relationship with the people on this island. I think that we can do a lot more. There are some realities. The kind of operation that the Navy and Marine Corps conducts down there is not conducive to employing large numbers of people, basically a weapons range and a weapons magazine.

    There is just not a whole lot of activity. But nonetheless, there have been many attempts since the 1983 MOU to start up economic activities, new incentives, new ventures. Unfortunately, they just have not taken. I think that we need, as the Naval service, to support re-initiation of activities that can benefit the people and to raise their economic status on the island.

    This is something that we cannot do alone. The people in uniform are going to need some help. And this is going to take a concerted effort on the part of not only the Navy Department, but the people and the government leaders in Puerto Rico, and hopefully with your help as well, sir, to make this happen.

    Mr. ORTIZ. There were 57 sites that were mentioned where we do some training. Am I correct? Is the number correct?

    Admiral FALLON. Yes, sir.

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    Mr. ORTIZ. You know, I have been on this committee for about 17 years, and I have not heard any serious complaints from any of the other sites. Is it possible that because our dialogue has deteriorated in the past? I know that at one time we had an admiral who was assigned to Puerto Rico. And maybe I think that there was a bridge between the Puerto Rican Government and our people of the island and the Navy.

    Could you say that maybe because this decision is not there that we do not have the communication that we could have had in the past?

    Admiral FALLON. Mr. Congressman, I think you are absolutely right on that last point. The fact is that back in the early 1990s, at the end of the Cold War, when the services began to contract and the Navy Department shrunk by about 40 percent, there were some hard decisions to be made about where we were going to reduce.

    Unfortunately, one of those decisions was to remove the billet for the flag officer down in Puerto Rico whose primary mission was to effect this close liaison between the people, the Government, and the United States Navy. That occurred several years ago, I think five or six years go.

    And it is very regrettable. The Navy has already made a commitment to reestablish that link and to install, before the end of the year, in fact, he has already been named, the flag officer who will go down there and attempt to reestablish these communication links, which are obviously not working very well. If I could go back to your first point, though.

    This is not a unique situation regarding the local populations in the vicinity of target ranges. In fact, there are many, and I am not sure to what level, but I know for a fact that other Navy ranges worldwide, and I should emphasize worldwide, not just ranges in the U.S., but almost everywhere are under continued pressure for all of the reasons that are coming out in these hearings.
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    Nobody really wants this activity. They want it to go away. Go somewhere else. Go find that island half way around the world, somewhere, just anywhere, not here. Environmental considerations, noise considerations, and so forth. So, this is not unique, but it happens to have obviously reached a point of severe frustration, and I think primarily because of the lack of communication.

    Mr. ORTIZ. And I do not want to take much of the time, Mr. Chairman, because we do have a lot of Members with us today. And I do not know whether we have got a great Delegate, Mr. Barceló, who represents Puerto Rico, the island, very, very well. And I do not know whether at this point it is too late to make some adjustments to your training to where the people of Vieques would be happy. I do not know.

    I just hope that we can be able to arrive to a solution that could be beneficial to our military and the residents of Vieques. With this in mind, I yield back the balance of my time, Mr. Chairman, and allow somebody else to ask other questions.

    Mr. BATEMAN. Thank you, Mr. Ortiz.

    Now, proceeding under the 5-minute rule, Mr. Sisisky.

    Mr. SISISKY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I thank you gentlemen, and of course our colleague, Mr. Barceló, for great testimony in here today. All of you were very eloquent and very plain. Admiral, one of those 57 sites would not be Fentress, would it?
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    Admiral FALLON. We were just talking about that.

    Mr. SISISKY. Now, you are talking about noise, Adm. Fallon, I am telling you, that is a base in my area that is touch and go. And they happen to do it at night a lot. But our people fortunately live with it. In capital letters, I had spelled out, when you were testifying, to spell out the good solutions.

    I think you have basically done it. There are solutions to this thing. And I think that is important. Mr. Barceló, one of the questions I had to ask, there was an island you said that we gave up. What was the name of it?

    Mr. BARCELÓ. Culebra. It is north of Vieques.

    Mr. SISISKY. Was that done because of economic problems they were having?

    Mr. BARCELÓ. It was done because of the same concerns right now that we have occurring in Vieques, because the population was complaining. There had been a couple of near misses in the surrounding water.

    Mr. SISISKY. I thought I read they wanted it for economic reasons, to develop the island. I am just wondering, have they developed?

    Mr. BARCELÓ. Well now Culebra is better off than Vieques, than it used to be. Now, Culebra is better off than Vieques, definitely. It is substantially better off.
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    Mr. SISISKY. I just want you to know that why I brought up—is all of us live under this. I happen to live in Virginia Beach right in the flight path of all of the planes going to Oceana.

    Mr. BARCELÓ. The only big difference is, as you have heard from their testimony, all of the types of activities are coordinated there. It is not just one of them. And all of these other areas usually have one of the activities, but here they have all of the activities.

    Mr. SISISKY. I am glad you heard that part because obviously that is the important part of coordinating all of these things. If they could reduce some of this and train in other areas, do you think you would drop your opposition?

    Mr. BARCELÓ. I wish I could answer positively to that, but I cannot. I think there is an agreement, an opinion that is overwhelming in Puerto Rico and Vieques that this has reached the zenith. I mean they are not going to tolerate any more. The reason for this is there has been a lot of indifference on the part of the Navy for many years. Let me explain.

    When I participated in this, I suggested to several of the officers that we spoke to, the admirals, I said, now look, you have to make the people of Vieques more aware of the fact that they are so important. You have to make them aware of that. In other words, make them participants. That was never done. They would say, oh yes, yes.

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    Mr. SISISKY. Admiral Fallon admitted that just a little while ago. I think they are well-aware of what they have to do now.

    Mr. BARCELÓ. That is a problem. I suggested to have some sports training. Have some little leagues, basketball, and baseball, and buy them some uniforms and train them. And then once in awhile, take our the people on a picnic, out somewhere else.

    Mr. SISISKY. Having had a base closed, the cleanup is an astronomical amount of money. Fort Pickett, a base in Virginia was closed. If it had turned over to the state, because of that $500 million to clean it up, where it only cost $9 million to run. So, what I am talking about is the investment of $3.5 billion in that land.

    And I cannot even imagine what the clean-up cost, unless any of you gentlemen would hazard a guess of what that would be, but astronomical. I doubt if it will ever be cleaned up. So, all you would lose is the bombing noise, I guess. Of course, you did state about the risk of children. Of course, we never want that to happen, but there is nothing to verify that truly. I looked at your statement again.

    I looked at it last night and I looked at it again today. You just insinuate that this may be, but we really do not know though.

    Mr. BARCELÓ. No. I am saying we are taking a risk. We take a risk to continue the bombing, but the risk would be there. As they have said, they have got to go higher and higher. The higher you are, it is the smallest mistake.

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    Mr. SISISKY. You know, I have got to be very honest, and the Chairman spelled it out, that we are very well-aware that one person's life is very important. But basically that has been it in 57 years. We are not talking about something happening every week, every month, or every year. So, somebody has been careful at that. I mean in all honesty, I think we have to admit that, that they have been that way.

    Again, my light is up and I appreciate all of your testimonies today.

    Mr. BATEMAN. Thank you, Mr. Sisisky.

    Mr. Buyer.

    Mr. BUYER. [No response.]

    Mr. BATEMAN. Mr. Buyer has departed.

    So, we will turn to Mr. Blagojevich.

    Mr. BLAGOJEVICH. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

    Admiral Fallon, let me ask you a couple of questions. In Congressman Sisisky's district, the Navy does not conduct multiple, simultaneous sorties, do they?

    Admiral FALLON. Yes, sir, we do.

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    Mr. BLAGOJEVICH. Are there any restrictions on what the Navy does in Congressman Sisisky's district?

    Admiral FALLON. Absolutely.

    Mr. BLAGOJEVICH. Are there the same restrictions applied to the Navy's operations in Vieques as are applied in Congressman Sisisky's district?

    Admiral FALLON. Different types of operations, sir.

    Mr. BLAGOJEVICH. Is it in fact true that of the 57 sites in the United States, at Vieques that is the only one that has absolutely no restrictions with regard to what the Navy does in terms of training and so forth? Let me put it this way. It is true that on the East Coast, Vieques is the only place without any restrictions at all, in terms of multiple, simultaneous sorties and other kinds of training exercises?

    Admiral FALLON. Absolutely no, sir.

    If I could maybe ask Admiral Johnson, who is the most recently acquainted officer down with his battlegroup to explain some of the restrictions, in fact, with which we operate. Admiral.

    Admiral JOHNSON. Yes, sir.

    We have multiple restrictions placed on all of the evolutions we do on any of the target ranges. And there are avenues of approach to these targets. There are altitude restrictions. There are times of day restrictions. There are noise focusing sounding restrictions that are in place today on the Island of Vieques to try to minimize the impact on surrounding populations, as well as the Vieques people themselves.
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    So, when we do these multiple evolutions, all of these safety considerations have been pre-briefed to all of the individual air crew, as well as to the ships that are in company with them.

    Mr. BLAGOJEVICH. Only at Vieques are the high altitude bombings taking place. Is that correct?

    Admiral JOHNSON. Vieques is the only range that allows us to go to the heights, to the altitudes that we currently employ in combat. That is correct.

    Mr. BLAGOJEVICH. Okay. Now, earlier Admiral Fallon mentioned Pine Castle, Florida, compared to Vieques. Is it fair to say that there are differences? For example, is it true that in Pine Castle, Florida, the only bombing that takes place are single planes, single bombing runs, and there you do not have the multiple, simultaneous sorties that you do in Vieques?

    Admiral JOHNSON. No, sir. That is not correct.

    At Pine Castle Target, we are allowed to do multiple aircraft drops. Again, with some of the similar foundations, we are also very much under the gun with regard to the fire hazards that occur when we have not had the rains in Central Florida, and the sound focusing issues that come from multiple drops. Now, the difference becomes; it is only aircraft. It is not also combined armed operations with the ships and other forces.

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    Mr. BLAGOJEVICH. So, there is significantly more intense training and bombardment at Vieques than at Pine Castle, Florida, right?

    Admiral JOHNSON. For very focused times of year.

    Admiral FALLON. Sir, if I could. This is a really good point. Pine Castle is one of only two other sites on the East Coast at which we can do any live ordnance training. There are severe restrictions in connection with this range. In fact, the range was supposed to be shut down at the end of this month.

    And we have asked and gotten permission to get it extended to the end of the year to attempt to accommodate the Eisenhower Battlegroup, which is, as you know, getting underway to train this week to leave in February. But this particular range in Florida has a large number of restrictions which, in fact, may get very unsuitable to the kind of combined arms training that we need there.

    If I could ask Admiral Dawson, please, to relate an incident from his work-up last year.

    Admiral DAWSON. Yes, sir.

    We trained at both areas for my work-up, Vieques and Pine Castle. What we found at Pine Castle was that it only facilitates four targets in the area; so, therefore, only four aircraft and a tactical strike. What we were faced with in Iraq were sorties of 12 to 16 aircraft.
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    Further, when we went to make our deliveries in Pine Castle with the high density of air traffic that occurs on the East Coast corridor, we were constrained to the avenues from approach and the altitudes that we could approach the targets. We would have to go non-tactical and just simply fly to the target, rather than train to the tactics that we used in Iraq.

    Mr. BLAGOJEVICH. Let me just reclaim my time real quick. So, you are going to close Pine Castle down at the end of the year. So, going in to the next Century, that will no longer be a place for training, but Vieques, for all intents and purposes will. That is more of a rhetorical question.

    Let me ask you, in Culebra, Puerto Rico, the changes that were made in the 1970s, there were statements back in the early 1970s that if you closed down Culebra you could not find an alternative site. It turns out that that is no longer the case. Can somebody tell me about what happened.

    Mr. BATEMAN. The gentleman's time is expired, and he is starting a whole new question.

    Mr. BLAGOJEVICH. Okay. Can I have an additional question for the record?

    Mr. BATEMAN. Oh, sure, for the record. Submit it for the record.
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    Mr. BLAGOJEVICH. Thank you.

    [The information referred to can be found in the Appendix.]

    Mr. BATEMAN. And we will come back to you as soon as others have had their chance.

    Mr. BLAGOJEVICH. Very good.

    Mr. BATEMAN. Mr. Buyer.

    Mr. BUYER. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I have a series of questions. One, I would like to know if the United States is unwilling to use our own range because a particular Governor, whether it is of Puerto Rico, maybe it is the Governor of Florida, the Governor of California, they make demands upon the United States, our military, who is to provide the national security for the nation.

    If we are unwilling and say, well, we are going to close a particular range in that state, tell me what the impact is going to be by other nations and they watch how we conduct our business, in particular, Japan and Okinawa. So, I would appreciate someone to make comment on that.

    Second, my sense here, Admiral Fallon, in response to the Chairman's question and that of the Ranking Member, that we have not had the best of relationship, meaning between the Navy and Puerto Rico. What, if any, have you tried to do, either you or the Secretary of the Navy, tried to develop a relationship?
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    Or is your sense that they are uninterested in developing a relationship because they feel they have the President of the United States in their pocket, because the Governor has a close relationship with the Vice President and is on his fund raising team for the next Presidential election cycle? I am just curious.

    So, let me also ask, if we limit dropping an ordnance on that range, what is that going to do to your military readiness? And if you have got any extra time, tell me about the Eisenhower Battlegroup and how you are going to be deployed. At what readiness level, if you do not get to have a combined arms training on this island as we deploy to the world?

    Admiral FALLON. Thank you very much, sir.

    Sir, with regard to your first question about other countries, I think it is absolutely safe to assume that other countries are watching us very, very carefully. If we were to deny our own armed forces the opportunity to train on our own soil, I would think that other countries looking in at us would ask why we would ask them to allow us to train on their soil.

    I spent two years in Japan as a Deputy Commander of the U.S. Forces-Japan, sir. My primary responsibility in that job was to work with the Government of Japan on the Status of Forces Agreement, all of the arrangements with regard to their support of our forces, our use of their ranges and their land, just like in our country.

    Understandably, there are concerns of their citizens about noise, safety, all the exact same things that our own citizens are concerned about. We worked with them on that. I know for a fact because when I got done testifying before the Rush Panel, I was approached by a reporter from Japan who asked me was I aware of the fact that folks in Japan, the citizens of Japan, are watching very carefully, very closely what our government decides here in Vieques. So, sir, I think you have touched on a very, very sensitive, accurate part of this ripple effect of the decision in Vieques and what it will do elsewhere in our own country, and what it will do outside our own borders.
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    If I could skip to your third question, sir, which is readiness. Clearly, not being able to train the way we fight will impact our readiness. I cannot quantify it for you. I cannot give you a percentage, sir, to tell you that if you do not do this, then the percent will be that. Just like I can tell you that if you wear a flack jacket in combat that you will be more safe in combat by wearing that than you will not.

    It will not protect you from everything, but it is, in fact, an added opportunity for me to provide protection to my troops, by training them in combined arms, the most difficult procedure of all. We are ensuring that they are as ready as we possibly can make them. Said the other way, if we do not give them the opportunity to live fire, we are putting our sons and daughters at increased risk. We are increasing the likelihood of collateral damage.

    Mr. BUYER. Well, my light has just come on. You had better finish the question.

    Mr. BATEMAN. There was another question that had not been responded to. Then, we need to turn to Mr. Underwood.

    Admiral FALLON. I cannot address the motivations of people in moving forward in this relationship between the Navy and the government and leadership in Puerto Rico. We are ready to sit down at any time, get in a meaningful dialogue to come up with some solution to this.

    I firmly believe that there is available, right now today, the means to come to an agreement to accommodate both our real readiness requirements and to address the real needs of the people of that island. We are open and ready to conduct that dialogue at any time.
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    Regarding your last point and to follow-up on the ordnance thing, if I believe that I understand it correctly, we cannot just train with inert ordnance. If we are not going to be permitted to re-initiate live ordnance training down here, we will have a very, very significant effect on our people.

    It is difficult to quantify in terms of numbers, but there may be examples. A soldier, a Marine, that is training with an inert hand grenade, just a piece of metal. An airman training with a piece of concrete for a bomb. We can go through the entire training motion. We can have people attuned to the safety requirements and so forth.

    Exchange that piece of metal for something that is going to detonate either in the hand when that safety is pulled or on the wing when that fuse is armed the second it comes off the wing. There is a dramatic change in the minds of the people that are using that ordnance.

    That is exactly what we want to have happen, because we want them to know how critically important it is to handle this stuff the right way, not just for their safety, but for the safety of all of those involved. So, this is a really important readiness issue. And we think it is critical.

    The Eisenhower Battlegroup, your last comment, is preparing training. They are underway this week. Unless things change, they are very, very likely to be forced to deploy with reduced readiness in several critical areas, unless we can get access to this range. We are going to do our darndest to figure out a way to maximize training for them with every available means.
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    Right now, I would venture to expect that they will definitely have some deficiencies. We have a ship deployed this week with Admiral Johnson's battlegroup, a destroyer, that did not complete its gunfire support qualifications due to the closure of the ordnance range down there. I told the Commander-In-Chief in my endorsement of readiness for that battlegroup that this ship was deficient, with a serious deficiency and was not capable; in my opinion, capable is not the right word.

    But I told them they were not ready to go forward to conduct support for amphibious operations having not completed this qualification. That is the tip of the iceberg. This is going to continue to snowball if we do not soon get access to the range. Thank you.

    Mr. BUYER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your courtesy.

    Mr. BATEMAN. Thank you.

    And now, Mr. Underwood.

    Mr. UNDERWOOD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I appreciate the opportunity that you have provided us to address this issue. I know you have advised us that you wish to stay within the confines of the readiness and the effects on our armed forces readiness if Vieques were to be closed down.

    Yet, I cannot help but feel that ultimately the issue is connected in some way to the political status and the political characteristics of Puerto Rico, an island with which, of course, Guam shares similar political characteristics. The clearest example of this that comes to mind is Kaho'olawe.
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    Kaho'olawe was closed down as the result, primarily, of the unity of the people of Hawaii, the political efforts on the part of the political leadership of the State of Hawaii, not only the governor, but their Senators. The reality is that if these 3.8 million people that the Honorable Carlos Romero-Barceló represents voted for President, I think we would have even increased interest in this topic on an even more intense scale.

    I appreciate the problem that you have. I really do. I really appreciate the issue of trying to provide integrated training. Being from Guam, I know the value of amphibious landings. If amphibious landings were not perfected, perhaps I would be speaking Japanese rather than English today. So, I understand the value of that.

    On the other hand, I think the lack of effort, apparent effort, which has been admitted to on the part of the Navy in its relationship with the people of Puerto Rico, has lead to a new unanimity on this issue. I am sure the unanimity is maxed by the affection showed for the Boxer-Trinidad over DeLehoya this past weekend.

    I mean, I cannot think of any more popular issues alive in Puerto Rico today. I want to ask the question about what happened to Kaho'olawe, because I heard the same rhetoric. I was not in Congress at the time, but I certainly, as an observer from Guam, and as someone who has sat in the path of runways along with Mr. Sisisky all my life, I had touch-and-go landings. I have heard all of the noises, and I have had my life disrupted by military maneuvers all of the time thinking that this was for some greater purpose. But when Kaho'olawe was under the chopping block, we heard all kinds of dire predictions about its effect on readiness and those have not come to pass.
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    So, I would like to ask the question about what happened to Kaho'olawe? I also want to ask the question about the possibility of using this island called Nevassa Island as a place to replace Vieques. The impact area that you are talking about is a relatively small impact area. And I am thinking it is along the same line as Farallon de Melonean (FDM) in the Northern Mariana, which is also a very small island.

    It serves approximately the same purpose as a bombing range. And that is an issue that I have tried to be helpful with the military on that particular issue, because there are some objections to the use FDM in the Northern Marianas. So, I want to ask about Nevassa and Kaho'olawe. If this is the only place to do high altitude bombing, where does the Air Force do their high altitude bombing?

    Admiral FALLON. Sir, if I could start.

    I have not been to Kaho'olawe in several decades. I do not know the chapter and verse of the activities that went on in connection. I have read about it, but I can tell you this. When that decision was made, there was a backup. The backup was in fact the primary training location for the Pacific Fleet, which was not Kaho'olawe and has not been, but, in fact, is the San Clemente Island off the West Coast, adjacent to the Southern California operation areas.

    That facility continues in operation, thank goodness, today. And that provides as near as could be compared to Vieques with the facilities for the Pacific Fleet. They can do air-to-ground. They can do the surface fire, the gun support, and they can do amphibious landings, albeit on a slightly smaller scale because the beaches are smaller there.
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    The critical thing was the principal training area was and is still in place. If I could go back to an earlier question by one of the other Members because it is directly related, and that is the issue of Culebra and Vieques back in the 1970s. An interesting situation in that at the time in the 1940s, if my history is correct, when this entire area became a defense zone, both islands were, in fact, being used for training by the armed forces.

    Gradually, after the second World War, it came such to be that most of the live ordnance activity actually took place on Culebra. Vieques was primarily the training area, the maneuver area, that large area that we call a buffer zone today, which was primarily for amphibious forces. But there were bombing ranges on the island.

    When the activities that culminated in the removal of the Navy from Culebra in the mid-1970s occurred; in fact, Vieques, that remaining part of the complex, was still there and available for training. And so, both other islands have been lost over the years, but we still were able to retain principal training sites at Vieques and San Clemente.

    If this place is shut down and remains closed, then we do not have a fall-back and we have looked at these other islands. You mentioned Nevassa Island. For the members of the committee that might not be familiar with this, we did study this and we have a couple of pages in our report as a synopsis. Nevassa Island is uninhabited.

    It sits midway roughly between Jamaica and Haiti. It happens to sit right underneath an airway, the principal airway from Kingston to Port-Au-Prince. This island was looked at extensively back in the 1970s as a potential site. There are several drawbacks, some environmental issues. It is unsuitable for any kind of Marine or landing activity.
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    It has got high cliffs and sheer cliffs. In fact, there is a small uninhabited lighthouse, a remote lighthouse, on the island. The only way to get up there is to climb a Jacob's ladder up a 30-foot cliff and you get there. The inland part of this island is exceedingly rough. Now, we have, in fact, sent people to go look at this place. This is going to require, assuming that all of the other factors could be neutralized, and frankly the things that make this place unsuitable are, number one, it is under an airway. Number two, it sits in the middle of the Windward Passage, which is the main shipping channel from Europe into the Caribbean and en route into the Panama Canal.

    The place is very remote. It is about a 2-day steam from Roosevelt Roads. There are no facilities whatsoever. We do not think this is an appropriate place. The study that was done in the 1970s, the first study of this place said that this was the lowest possible payoff for potential investment of anyplace. Since then, the cultural factors with the airways, the shipping channels, and stuff make this look like pretty much of a—

    Mr. UNDERWOOD. The advantage of Nevassa is they do not have a Governor.

    Admiral FALLON. Well, yes, sir.

    I am not sure. Did I miss? Did you have another issue, sir?

    Mr. UNDERWOOD. The Air Force. The Air Force does high altitude bombing.
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    Admiral FALLON. Absolutely. The Air Force can do some. Here is the big difference between the Navy and the Air Force. It is that we must fly from aircraft carriers and ships. We have to train our people to do their mission from a carrier, not from a land base. Now, there are places we could move airwings to do, again, some of this training. Unit level training can be conducted at air bases.

    We, in fact, use Air Force ranges to do some of our work out in the desert. But we cannot get there from the East Coast. It is a different story on the West Coast. They can reach it from the carriers. We just do not have a place to do it.

    Air Force training, from the tactical bases on the east coast, is done in the west. Again, different story. They are working from land bases. That is the environment they operate in. That is not ours. We need to be able to do it from the ship and we cannot get there from the east coast on the carriers.

    Mr. UNDERWOOD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Admiral FALLON. Thank you, sir.

    Mr. BATEMAN. Thank you, Mr. Underwood.

    Let us see, Mr. Pickett.

    Mr. PICKETT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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    I want you gentlemen to know that I have five military bases in my Congressional district and they conduct all types of operations, just the full scope: air, sea, land, and the whole works. We manage to get along very well. Are there accidents? Yes, there are accidents. There have been accidents over the past 30 or 40 years that I remember very vividly in cases where people lost their lives.

    I am very pleased to tell you today that the people in my district did not resort to civil disobedience to interrupt the military activities. Tell me a little bit, if you would, about the intensity of activity on Vieques and whether or not it has been increasing, decreasing, or remaining about the same over the past several years.

    Admiral FALLON. Yes, sir. The level of activity is about 180 days a year. But as I indicated earlier, those 180 days do not have the same level of activity. The record keeping, as such, has been in the past down there that any activity at all, single flight, single bomb, single ship, come in and fire one shell counts as an activity day.

    And I do not want there to be confusion, if I could try and clear up a point that I think has been buzzing around here. That there is this high intensity operation at Vieques, 180 days a year, combined arms, everything being thrown at the place at one time. That is not the case. There are about 3 periods of about 5 days each during the entire year at which the combined arms activity takes place.

    The rest of the time, usually it is just a single evolution. Again, one of these critical skills, the air-to-ground or the surface firing. A part of the study that General Pace and I did, we discovered that the activity level at many ranges in the United States is much higher than Vieques.
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    For example, our primary training range at Fallon is about four to five times the activity level, day-in and day-out, as occurs at Vieques. We have airwings that go out there year round from both coasts using this same place. So, the activity levels there are much higher than at many other bases.

    Mr. PICKETT. The issue about the environmental compliance, is that a genuine issue or is that something that has just come up as a result of the recent events that took place there?

    Admiral FALLON. Yes, sir. I will take that one.

    I am not an environmental expert, but I can tell you that the research that we have done, General Pace and I, in conjunction with the study that we conducted for the Secretary of the Navy, indicated that the Navy was in compliance with the regulations that were required to carry out our activities on Vieques.

    We went down there and looked at the island closely again. The lands to which the Navy has custody and ownership look beautiful, with one exception. That is this impact area. Again, to the chart, a very small area, less than two miles across, less than three percent of the total land area of this island is a bombing range.

    That buffer zone looks beautiful. The western end of the island, the ammunitions storage area, beautiful lands. Most of them are conservation areas. The reason the place looks so good is because of the stewardship of the Navy. So, I have a hard time finding fault. I am sure that there are probably things, here and there, that we could be doing better. But in the main, I think that we have been very good custodians. I think just a look at the island, one cannot help but appreciate the fact that this is the case.
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    Mr. PICKETT. Apparently, what triggered this whole series of events that we are discussing here today was the tragic death of this one civilian employee. And as I understand from the notes that I have here, this employee was a contract employee of the Navy. Do you think it is prudent maybe not to contract out this kind of activity?

    Admiral FALLON. Well, sir, I really do not know the answer to that. I can tell you that any loss of life is regrettable. This was a civilian employee working for us. This mishap occurred at the observation point, again, within the range. We have done the investigation on this mishap. This was the result of human error on the part of several people.

    This was not a bomb that was dropped from a high altitude that just happened to wander and hit somebody. I can tell you that the bomb, regrettably, hit its aim point. There was a mistake made by the pilot in acquiring the wrong target. He knew there was something out there and he made a mistake, and it is a little more complicated than that.

    The bottom line is the pilot made a mistake and aimed for the wrong thing and regrettably hit it. And the unfortunate civilian guard was nearby. The reason that these civilians are employed there is to keep other people away from the bombing range, to keep them away from harm. There have been suggestions that we might automate this entire process and that way make it safer.

    We are considering some of that. We think that there is some merit in there. But the principal reason that this man was hired and that the other civilian guards are down there is in fact to keep people, trespassers, if you would, away from the bombing range there. That is very regrettable that the ensuing casualty was a result of that mishap.
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    Mr. PICKETT. I see my time is up. Thank you.

    Mr. BATEMAN. Thank you, Mr. Pickett.

    Mr. Taylor.

    Mr. TAYLOR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Admiral, I happen to represent South Mississippi. We are very fortunate to have a number of Naval units down there. All of them have endeared themselves to the local communities, but probably none more than the Navy Construction Battalion. Particularly for the way they have chipped in to help the less fortunate communities build soccer fields, playgrounds. The way that they are out there after every hurricane to help clear the roads and get people back upon their feet.

    I know that in any of the communities, if we were to lose our military installation, it would be a real blow to any of those communities. I think people literally would do something just short of slitting their wrist because of the sense of community and the sense of belonging that they have, which brings me to Vieques.

    To what extent has the United States Navy sought to endear themselves to the local folks there the way you have Gulfport, Mississippi, the way you have in Pascagoula, the way you have in my home county of Hancock County? You know, I would think that, going back to what Mr. Pickett said, that one of the first things that the Navy should have done is said, you are right.
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    We are not going to allow any civilian to be in any more danger than or own folks. And that is going to get changed right now. We are going to do that ourselves. But I would take it even a step further. I would be curious to see how many sailors and how many families actually live on Vieques, because I think a very good come back to the expression ''not in my backyard'' would be to say, it is my backyard too. And I am a little bit closer to it than you are.

    Admiral FALLON. Yes, sir. If I could.

    I think that is a great question. If I could begin by pointing out what I think is the major different between the major Gulfport and the facility at Vieques. Gulfport is home to CB Battalion, a large number of people, with a large family footprint.

    Vieques, the type of operation, and this gets to the heart of the economic difficulties that I think we have had there. This is not the type of operation that supports a large population of either people in the service or civilians that might be hired to help and thereby boost the economy. There is only a handful of people that actually run the range.

    Mr. TAYLOR. May I interrupt there?

    Admiral FALLON. Yes, sir.

    Mr. TAYLOR. I happened to have followed the departure of the American troops from Panama probably a little bit closer than most. I know that many of those folks went to Puerto Rico. For example, much of this is not a totally done deal. What harm would there be in the Navy expressing an interest in possibly locating some of those folks or some of those detachments on Vieques?
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    Admiral FALLON. I do not know, but I take your point. There just first, if I could go back, there just are not very many Navy people on Vieques. If I could—

    Mr. TAYLOR. Here is my line of thought. Do you not think you play into the hands of those who say, all we get are the bombs. We do not get the folks showing up at the restaurants. We do not get the folks shopping in our stores, et cetera, et cetera.

    Admiral FALLON. Yes, sir.

    Mr. TAYLOR. I mean. My communities see both sides. We do have a live fire range. And yet, the folks who are doing those live fire exercises one day, are shopping in the stores the next.

    Admiral FALLON. I do not have at the tip of my fingers the number of people that are actually employed either in the service or off at the bombing range. I think the uniformed people are a handful. I got a chance to meet them. They were all in a tight circle. I asked those people how many actually lived in town. One lieutenant put up his hand.

    Most of them do not have families down and they actually lived in a barracks there. But one man did. And I asked him what it was like and did he like it, and he said yes. He was quite happy living in the community. Regrettably, after the mishap in April, he felt that the climate in that community was not appropriate to continue to be there with his family. So, he pulled them out of there.
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    I take your point on the move up from Panama. I think most of those people are headed for the main Island of Puerto Rico. I believe that is where the Army's south forces in fact are into Fort Buchanan, I believe is the headquarters. But I will have to get back. I will have to take that one.

    [The information referred to can be found in the Appendix.]

    Mr. BARCELÓ. That is correct. It is Fort Buchanan.

    Mr. BATEMAN. Yes, Mr. Taylor, go ahead. If you would, make it as brief as you can.

    Mr. TAYLOR. I am curious. If you were to ask a question like that, what is the local governing authority that you would approach? Is there a governing authority on Vieques itself? Are all of those decisions made on the big island?

    Admiral FALLON. I think the truth is they could live wherever they wanted down there. If they felt comfortable living on the Island of Vieques and wanted to do the commute, this gets to another issue though. One of the primary reasons that I feel that the economic situation on that island has not progressed very well is that communication, both physical and by other means, is severely beneath what we are used to here.

    I do not think there is any reason whatsoever. There would not have to be any negotiation with any authorities. This is American soil. Our people can live wherever they choose. If they want to live out on that island, I think they could.
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    Mr. BARCELÓ. Maybe I could help put some light into this. Roosevelt Roads is a base, not Vieques. Roosevelt Roads is on the main island. Roosevelt Roads relationship with the Town of Sava, which is the closest town has been very good relations throughout the years. But where there has been no exchange whatsoever, no relationship is with the people of Vieques where the bombing is being carried out.

    So, there are two different situations, one in Sava, which is the town next to the base and where there is an interchange. Some of the people on the base live in Sava, not in Vieques but in Sava. And some of them are inter-married. But in Vieques, it is like a separate country.

    Mr. BATEMAN. With that, let me thank the Resident Commissioner and Mr. Taylor, and suggest that now we turn to Mr. Gibbons for a round of questions. Then we apparently have a series of votes. I had hoped to be able to get back to Mr. Blagojevich, but it looks like this may be the last opportunity.

    Mr. GIBBONS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

    Gentlemen, welcome to the committee. We are a very grateful nation for your service and thank you for all of your dedicated time and effort that you put into this country.

    I represent the desert paradise of Nevada, which has not only a Navy training base there called Fallon, which is the Top Gun School for the Navy in a large range complex with live ordnance deliveries, but also the Fighter Weapons School for the United States Air Force, Nellis Air Force Base, and another large complex for live ordnance delivery.
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    The Air Force expends about 75 percent of all live ordnance deliveries at Nellis Air Force Base. I am sure that there is a high percent also with the Navy and the Marines training there at Navy-Fallon. My question would be what is the impact on Naval operations with the loss of Vieques in terms of a training site for you? What would be the impact of such a loss to your operations, especially from a training standpoint.

    Mr. PACE. Sir, thank you very much for the opportunity to address that question. If we lose Vieques, we lose the opportunity on the East Coast to have combined arms integrated training. We will still be able to do amphibious landings at Camp Lejeune and do artillery firing at Camp Lejeune. We will still be able to go out to twenty-nine Palms, California, and out to Fallon, Nevada, and deliver ordnance from airplanes.

    It is the uniqueness of the opportunity at Vieques that we would lose. We would not be able to have Marines going ship-to-shore supported by aircraft, Naval gunfire, and then their own artillery and mortars all combined in what is the most difficult of all military operations to conduct. We would lose that. And therefore, sir, we would have degraded readiness.

    We would have the likelihood of increased friendly casualties when we employed them, and we would have the likelihood of increased collateral damage because we did not have the opportunity to train. Sir, we have a strategic dilemma. We are employing our forces more frequently. We are expecting greater accuracy from them and, at the same time, we are taking away the ranges they need to train to be able to deliver on the accuracy that is expected.

    Mr. GIBBONS. So, what you are saying is that the loss goes to joint training between both sea assets, as well as land and air assets, and the resultant lessons learned when you are able to train, in terms of carrying out strategies and tactics that are devised for our forces.
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    I guess my second question would be is, do you see with a loss of training at Vieques a higher risk to our men and women in the military when they carry out their operations at time of war?

    General PACE. Yes, sir, I do.

    Mr. GIBBONS. Admiral, would that be your statement as well?

    Admiral FALLON. Yes, sir.

    If I could come back to your previous question to answer this one as well.

    Mr. GIBBONS. Yes.

    Admiral FALLON. In addition to the combined arms training of Marines ashore, the two other critical functions that are served by the range at Vieques are the surface gun training qualification, and the air-to-ground piece of this, not necessarily the unit level training of individual pilots, which we conduct at Fallon and at Nellis ranges in your home state, but the entire cycle of ordnance from the magazines to the target that is so critically essential to be done right.

    I cannot tell you how many casualties we might suffer if we do not start training again at Vieques very soon. But I can tell you that we instituted a very rigorous program of heavy ordnance surge capability on the aircraft carriers as the result of a couple of disasters back during the Viet-Nam War. The Forestall and Enterprise disasters which killed hundreds of sailors and Marines were the direct result of an unfamiliarity and mistakes in handling live ordnance on the aircraft carrier.
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    That is what makes Vieques unique. We have to have a place to mitigate this risk, to be able to run the ordnance from the magazines, assemble it, put it on the airplanes, and drop it someplace to get this entire training cycle in the intense environment of working from an aircraft carrier, sir. That is what is going to be lost if the range is continued to be closed.

    Mr. BATEMAN. I understand Mr. Blagojevich has a very brief question and we will recognize him as long as we make sure that we get there for the vote.

    Mr. BLAGOJEVICH. That is very generous of you, Mr. Chairman. I will be very quick and brief. Vice Admiral Robert Natter, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Planning Policy and Operations was at the White House last week. And he said the following, ''With a combination of location changes, training alternatives, and technological improvements, given a 5-year transition, the Navy could find alternative sites to Vieques and be combat ready.''

    Would you like to address that?

    Admiral FALLON. Yes, sir.

    I certainly have not heard that quote. And I can tell you that my opinion is that there are many technological advances which we are looking very, very closely at and in fact have incorporated. The primary reason, one of the primary reasons why the level of activity at Vieques has, in fact, declined dramatically from the pre-1983 MOU days has been the result of a couple of technological advances.
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    One, we used to drop air-to-ground ordnance in large numbers in order to try and hit the targets. Today, that is not the case. We drop precision guided weapons. In this last operation over in the Balkans, 94 percent, if I am correct, give or take a percent, of the weapons that were dropped were precision weapons.

    That same percentage was what I experienced when I was over there in Bosnia in 1985. My personal experience, sir, in the Gulf War was exactly the opposite. Only six percent were precision and most were live. So, what has happened now is that the large numbers are not required. We can drop smaller numbers with a higher expectation of hitting the target to do the same damage that we used to do in the other days. That is one evolution.

    The second is there have been advances in navigation, such as Global Positioning System (GPS), that enable us to precisely locate now these ships to be able to fire their guns knowing exactly where they are and solve a critical piece of this shore support problem. But we have yet to see the technological advances that will translate into an ability to stop doing some live fire training.

    I do not know how to do that. I certainly do not see that coming in five years. We can work to mitigate many of the problems that exist on Vieques, given time. We are moving in that direction—air-to-ground ordnance. Today, our principal weapons are these laser guided precision bombs. They come in pieces. They have to be put together.

    Every time a piece is touched by a human hand, there is a probability of a mistake being made. That is the essential piece of this training. That is not going to go away tomorrow or in five years. But tell me 10, 15, it is coming. But right now, I do not see it in that short duration time frame. Thank you.
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    Mr. BATEMAN. Admiral, thank you very much. Thank you General Pace. Thank Admiral Johnson, General Gardner, Admiral Dawson. You have been excellent witnesses. You have certainly, I think, made a compelling case for the need. I hope that this issue will get resolved to the benefit of the people in our uniform who we do not want to send in harm's way without adequate training.

    Thank you very much.

    [Whereupon, at 4:00 p.m., the hearing was adjourned.]


September 22, 1999
[This information is pending.]