WASHINGTON -- Restrictions on military training imposed by development and environmental concerns could put the lives of soldiers at greater risk when they face combat, military leaders and lawmakers say.
"A high state of readiness is critical to our ability to perform the missions assigned to us and to do so efficiently and with minimum casualties," Army Lt. Gen. Larry R. Ellis told the House Government Reform Committee on Wednesday. "When we lose sight of our critical mission ... we risk tragic consequences that place in jeopardy those who have elected to serve."
Once remote bases have seen urbanization and other development stretch to their borders, bringing with them citizens' demands for safety, less noise, good air quality and preservation of endangered and other species.
That very buildup has made it difficult to separate civilians from the noise, dust and danger they want to avoid, Ellis said, because the Army cannot buy adjacent land to use as an undeveloped buffer around training areas. Instead, it must restrict the area it uses for training.
"Without realistic combat training, particularly training with live ordnance, we are unable to train our people" adequately, said Adm. William J. Fallon, vice chief of naval operations.
Even some Navy pilots learning the delicate, exacting skill of carrier landings have been forced to take aerial paths different from those they would use in combat because of citizen demands for noise reduction, said Rep. Ed Schrock, R-Va., citing two facilities in his state.
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