Representative Kevin Brady (R-Texas) has cosponsored (with Representative Richard Pombo, R-California) and won House passage of legislation that expressed the “sense of Congress” that U.S. military forces should not participate in environmental preservation activities in foreign nations.
The action amends H.R. 1119, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998. It followed revelations by Clinton administration officials of plans to send U.S. troops to guard rain forests and endangered species in up to 32 Latin American and Caribbean countries. The bill is now in the Senate.
In early June of this year, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs (and former U.S. Senator) Tim Wirth announced at the Defense Department-sponsored “Western Hemisphere Defense Environmental Conference: The Road to Military Environmental Cooperation” that members of the U.S. Southern Command would be asked to perform environmental duties south of the border. The conference, held in Miami, was organized to lay the foundation for greater participation by U.S. forces in environmental preservation, an activity Wirth said was a “legitimate military issue.”
According to Brady, using the military for such purposes abroad is unacceptable for several reasons: defense forces are being reduced; we are already unable to protect all our military personnel from terrorist attacks abroad; and military bases are being closed while those remaining face shortages. Brady was amazed that the Clinton administration would on the one hand call upon U.S. troops to keep peace throughout the world and fight the war on international drug trafficking while on the other hand divert scarce military resources for “frivolous environmental crusades in foreign countries.”