Environmental groups are calling “groundbreaking” an agreement they’ve wrested from the Pentagon that will drastically limit the Navy’s ability to use a new, low frequency sonar system that animal advocates say poses a threat to whales and porpoises, but which the service says is essential to tracking the world’s increasingly stealthy submarines.
It is indeed “groundbreaking” — and not in a good way — when green extremists are granted the power to dictate exactly how and when U.S. military forces use advanced technologies vital to their own defense, putting the interests of marine mammals above military readiness and porpoises above the American people.
The Navy denies science has conclusively determined that such sonars harm marine animals, and says such technologies are essential to maintaining an edge over the increasingly stealthy submarines used by potential adversaries. “It will limit the readiness of our sailors and Marines to meet the submarine threats of the new century,” a Navy spokesman said of the court ordered “agreement,” which will limit use of the Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System-Low Frequency Active sonar to less than 1 percent of what the Pentagon believes is required to ensure national security.
More specifically, the Navy will be prohibited from using the system around the Hawaiian Islands and in all the world’s oceans and seas except for a 1.5-million-square mile area off Asia’s coastline. The agreement also restricts the system’s use along the coastlines of China, Korea, Japan and the Philippines when whales are passing through.
Green groups, worried perhaps about a possible backlash their endangering of U.S. national security could bring, were quick to point out that the restrictions would be waived in times of war and increased international tensions. But the military must train as it fights in order to ensure military readiness is at the highest level possible at any given time.
In addition, we think it sets a dangerous precedent to allow private environmental groups and federal judges to dictate where and when and how a military technology can be deployed and for what purposes. Those decisions should be made by the national security professionals, not a bunch of seaweed-smoking eco-attorneys.
Greens see this as part of a larger, international effort to ban all use of active sonar — a dangerous quest unless greens also can win agreement from potential adversaries that they’ll give up deployment of super-silent subs, one torpedo or missile from which could cost thousands of American lives.
The Pentagon euphemistically calls these threats to military readiness “encroachment” issues, and has been moderately successful at moving a package of reforms on Capitol Hill that will help address the problem.
But the military had better stop pussy-footing around about what’s at stake in this and other encroachment battles, in terms of national security and military readiness, and begin doing a better job of informing average Americans about the threat posed not just by foreign powers and rogue nations, but by environmental zealots here at home.