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Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to the Conference Report of H.R. 1588 , the Defense Authorization Act. This bill contains anti-environmental provisions that roll back fundamental protections of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

H.R. 1588 exempts the military from protecting endangered species. Provisions in this Conference Report compromise the survival of some 300 threatened and endangered species living on military lands by prohibiting the designation of critical habitat as mandated under the ESA. Instead, military lands will be managed under Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans, prepared by the Secretary of Defense. Currently, such plans have no definitions, no standards, and no limits.

Such sweeping changes in the management of species living on military lands are completely unnecessary. Sea otters and toads do not and will not prevent our military from being the best trained and prepared in the world. But if for some reason the toads rise up, the military already has, but never has used, a national security exemption as part of ESA. The military has shown so little previous concern with this issue that it was only in March of this year that the Department of Defense began developing guidance on how to assess and process exemptions requests inappropriate situations.

Marine mammal protection is under its greatest fire today. Although unnecessary from the start, a full exemption from the MMPA was granted for military readiness activities in the version of this bill that passed the House on May 22, 2003. The Senate version of the bill contained no MMPA exemption for any reason. How then did it come to pass that the Conference Report we debate today broadens the exemption to include scientific research activities by the Federal Government? The Conference Report, agreed to by Republican conferees behind closed doors, opens gaping loopholes in the management of marine mammals and creates unequal standards for ocean users. This is both unfair to the marine mammals struggling to survive and to the shipping, fishing, and tourism industries, which will now be held to different standards under MMPA than scientific researchers and the Navy.

The ``encroachment'' of civilian communities on military managed lands is a serious problem as the separation between where people live and where the military trains decreases. As such, there has never been a more necessary time for the military to look out for the public's best interest. The public wants and needs a healthy and well-managed environment and for the military to be held to complying with our nation's fundamental environmental protection laws. The military should be listening to its neighbors and respecting their requests, and Congress should have listened to its constituents and prevented the weakening of the ESA and MMPA.

Mr. Speaker, I did not sign the conference report because I object to the exclusion of the minority members of the Conference Committee from deliberations over several important issues. In some cases, we were able to work constructively to reach reasonable compromise, but in others the majority was unwilling to work with us in an attempt to produce a consensus position. I do not believe that our Nation's interests or this institution are well-served by this process. For example, the conference report mirrors the House report language to rewrite the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act, two critical environmental laws. While this bill generally represents a sound approach to most of the issues before the Committee, I am disappointed that its flaws were not corrected. In the coming months, I hope that we will be able to move forward and address the shortcomings in this conference report.
Mr. Speaker, I spoke against this bill when it was on the House Floor and, unbelievably, it's gotten worse in Conference.


This bill is missed opportunity to focus on real priorities. The anti-environmental provisions in this bill are especially frustrating. Instead of addressing real threats to readiness, the administration and the Republicans in Congress are taking on an easier target, dolphins. Using defense as cover, they are proposing changes to environmental laws that have nothing to do with defense readiness.


The Conference Report also retains controversial House language that would reduce protections for marine mammals. New language, added in conference, would also apply the weakened standards to any research activities by the Federal Government (or contractors), creating a double standard as current law would continue to apply to citizens and the private sector.

In addition, key conservation terms of the Marine Mammal Protection Act are altered in order to overturn a recent Federal court of appeals decision regarding the impacts of Navy sonar technology. The bill allows the Department to exempt itself from what's left of the Marine Mammal Protection Act for anything necessary for national defense. It excludes any meaningful involvement of the wildlife agencies, the States, Congress and the public in review of these exemptions. This contradicts language passed unanimously this week by the Resources Committee--the House committee with exclusive jurisdiction over the MMPA--which does not contain any special standards or exemptions for DOD. This has raised the ire of both Democratic and Republican Resources Committee Members participating in the Conference.

Not only are these provisions harmful, they are also unnecessary. Under current law the Department can already waive environmental laws when it's necessary for national security. There has never been a case where a waiver has not been granted for military necessity.

Mr. Speaker, for all of my 25 years in this Congress, I have worked to strengthen America's military and to increase our national security. During the conference committee negotiations on this bill, Republican leaders shut out Democrats, including the distinguished ranking member of the Committee on Armed Services, the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Skelton), on some key areas of the conference. ... This is part of a clear and dangerous pattern by Republican leaders. We have seen it on the energy bill, the Medicare bill, and the FAA bill; but it is extraordinarily disappointing to see America's national defense policy treated in such a partisan manner. ... does anyone really believe that national security requires that we gut landmark environmental protections? Of course not. But rolling back America's environmental protections is a Republican priority. So Republicans stuck into this bill provisions that attack the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Mr. Speaker, Over the next several months, the Committee on Resources will be reauthorizing the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The language in the defense authorization bill dealing with the marine mammals was something that we worked out. The language that is in the defense bill now, I think, goes beyond what is necessary.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to express my disappointment in this conference report. I regret that I must oppose it. I support our troops and our veterans, and applaud the conference report's improvement in pay for our troops, but there are far too many things wrong with this bill. For example, under H.R. 1588 , environmental standards are weakened and worker rights are severely limited. Yet again, the Republicans have placed a higher priority on partisanship and special interests than doing what is right for our country and our service men and women.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to express my opposition to the conference report on the Department of Defense authorization bill. I want to pick up with where the last speaker finished. He said he thought in this bill they went a little further than was necessary in the area of the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act. I want to say what I believe to be the case, that the problem with this bill is that it has been hijacked by the Republican leadership and the White House, who insisted on provisions that weakened environmental laws relating to the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. ... It is wrong to take important must-pass legislation like the DOD authorization and load it up with right-wing policies that damage the environment and strip employees of basic rights, but that is what this bill is doing, and I am going to urge my colleagues to oppose it.
Mr. Speaker, I would have liked to offer my support to this conference report. The conference report includes a much needed pay raise and much needed support for our military families. In typical fashion, however, my Republican colleagues have taken a good bill and bogged it down with extraneous and extreme measures. The conference report does not include the stronger House language on Buy America and allows research on low-yield nuclear weapons--a practice prohibited by Republicans and Democrats over the last 20 years because it violates the non-proliferation treaty and makes it easier for questionable regimes to obtain nuclear weapons.

The conference report also exempts the military from complying with two of our most important environmental laws, the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

When this authorization process began, Secretary Rumsfeld came to Congress and told us that in order to maintain readiness, they needed exemptions from the Clean Air Act, the Resources Conservation Recovery Act, Superfund, the Endangered Species Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Fortunately, the Congress saw fit to exclude most of what the DOD asked for with regard to environmental exemptions.


Just this week, the Committee on Resources passed a bipartisan reauthorization of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. That legislation was the culmination of over 4 years worth of hearings and the testimony of dozens of witnesses. Contrary to what happened in the committee of jurisdiction, where they were able to successfully compromise to address the definition of harassment, the language in the conference report would overturn a recent court decision and construct a wall against any further litigation against the Navy.

Over the last 5 years our troops have toppled a dictator in Iraq, stopped a genocide in Kosovo, and defeated the Taliban in Afghanistan. Our troops prepared for those missions without exemptions from our cornerstone environmental laws-- laws that administration officials and the General Accounting Office do not believe are hampering our military readiness.

Indeed, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, General Wesley Clark recently stated, ``Additional exemptions aren't needed. I spent a lot of time in the Army and, in all my years of service, complying with the environmental laws never compromised the military readiness of troops under my command.'' Mr. Speaker, we need to ask ourselves why we are passing language that neither the Resources Committee nor a four-star general deem necessary.

In short, Mr. Speaker, I regret that I cannot support this conference report. I must draw a line in the sand. My Republican colleagues have got to stop looking for ways to put bad and extraneous language in good bills in an attempt to force the hands of those who disagree with them.

(South Carolina)
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 1588 , the conference report thereon, but I have some real concerns. First of all, I have already spoken to the failure of the underlying bill to accrue properly the budget authority that will be necessary to implement the compromise on concurrent receipt or the provisions for lease purchase of 100 tankers. I am concerned about the radical reform of civil service laws in the Department of Defense and the dispensation this bill gives to the Department of Defense from environmental laws that apply to everybody else.
(Rhode Island)
Mr. Speaker, as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am pleased to speak in support of the bill before us. I am particularly pleased with provisions in the legislation that demonstrate Congress's commitment to the role of submarines as an essential part of a strong naval fleet. ... Unfortunately, today's agreement contains language that may undermine important civil service safeguards for civilians within the Department of Defense, as well as existing environmental protections.
Mr. Speaker, given our current military situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, I believe it is incumbent upon us to send an unequivocal message of support for our troops who are currently in the field. ... While I do not believe this bill is perfect and I am particularly concerned with certain provisions regarding civil service reform and the environment, I do believe that given our current military obligations, it is essential that we support our troops.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 1588 , the FY 2004 Department of Defense Authorization bill. However, I believe that this bill is far from perfect. It does not fully support veterans' disability issues, collective bargaining for civilian personnel, and protection for the environment. It is unfortunate that these issues suffered due to the political process.

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