Murphy's Law: January 5, 2004


The U.S. has enacted a law allowing the military to ignore environmental laws that interfere with training. In the last three decades, the United States has enacted several laws that protect wild animals from human activities that might cause harm to an endangered species, or just some animal with a large fan club. The laws are often enforced by an animal protection group suing a suspected offender. Over the last two decades, more litigation was directed at the military, which has huge training areas and uses them to practice for combat. Running armored vehicles through woods and deserts, it appears, disturbs the habitat of many animals. Low flying aircraft, and practicing with bombs and artillery shells also tends to upset the critters. During the 1990s, the military was encouraged to settle a lot of these lawsuits by modifying training. But the cumulative effects of these legal settlements resulted in training exercises that were quite different than what the troops would be doing in combat. Since the military was trying to "train as you fight and fight as you train," this was becoming a serious problem. Training exercises were being held where troops could not dig foxholes (lest they disturb some endangered species), and had to send out scouts, not to look for the enemy, but to check for signs of some endangered species. If there was a chance some endangered animal will be in the area, the training had to be modified or cancelled. Congress was not able to get behind Pentagon appeals to modify the laws. But then there were some obvious problems in Afghanistan, related to unrealistic training (marines who had little experience in digging foxholes) and the problem became an embarrassing media item. This led to the law being modified so realistic combat training could resume.


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