January 30, 2016 – It has been a tough month for the public. First we learned the Navy has commandeered 68 beaches and State Parks in western Washington for SEAL combat training that includes armed reconnaissance patrols in residential neighborhoods; neither State Parks nor the Fish and Wildlife Service, nor any other agency, for that matter, was aware of it, and the one agency that had an inkling was not told the full scope of it.
Then we learned the Navy has been doing SEAL combat training mostly without permits since 2014 (after denying it for 2 days, they finally admitted it.) A reporter discovered they’ve already had an unknown number of mock gun battles with paintballs in a local peace park. That’s enough for one month, but no. There’s more.
The Navy denied it was operating sonar in areas frequented by endangered orca whales, even when spotted on camera leaving the base and then spotted near the area where scientists recorded it on hydrophones. They also denied it in 2012 when an otherwise healthy whale was killed by “blunt trauma.” (Sonar can be 235 decibels at the source and still be 140 decibels 300 miles away.) And they denied it in 2003, even when recorded both visually and via hydrophones in this startling video.
How about underwater drones? Testing has just been concluded in Puget Sound on Strike Planning and Execution Systems unmanned submersibles.
How this will impact whales, fisheries and recreational boating is unknown, because, once again… nobody knows anything about it.
And then sonic booms, at least nine of them, so big they caused tremors that were recorded by USGS as earthquakes and scared hundreds of thousands of people across three states, damaging buildings. The Navy would only say their F-35 jets “may have” caused the booms in the northeastern US, but they did at least “reassure” the public that the testing was routine. The next day, under no doubt intense media pressure, they finally admitted it. Nearly 300 news stories expressed shock and surprise. The Navy has not apologized. They never do.
Combine the above with this week’s news that the Navy admiral in charge of Intelligence has not been allowed to see military secrets for years, followed by the guilty plea of a Navy commander in a corruption case about exchanging military secrets for prostitutes, bribes and Lady Gaga concert tickets. Add an awkward story about the newest combat ship being unable to fend off attackers in tests due to “significant reliability problems” and “repeated failures,” and an epic Navy bribery scandal ensnaring Navy personnel from the top down, and one cannot help wonder: who is in charge here? Since the Pentagon has not passed a budget audit since a law was passed in 1994 requiring one, and since it’s unclear what has been done since that famous press conference in 2001 in which the Secretary of Defense announced that $2.3 TRILLION dollars was missing from the Pentagon, a sum that amounted to 25% of its total budget, one might be excused for commenting, “You just can’t make this shit up.”
People living in western Washington are all too aware of the Navy’s long history of saying one thing and doing another.
What does it say about accountability when the Navy can dose civilians with dangerous levels of noise, and an unknown amount of electromagnetic radiation from jets practicing electromagnetic combat overhead? What does it say about respect when the Army can fire rockets into South Puget Sound to “test” how annoyed the public will be by the flashes and sonic booms? Or that it can do combat helicopter landings in the North Cascades next to a pristine and beloved wilderness, as well as in Southwest Washington, in the best habitat for endangered marbled murrelets? What does it say about the Navy being a good neighbor when, in addition to all the above, it can restrict development on private property, and it wants to do ten times more explosions and sonar activity in waters that surround us? And that they can lie to us, even when caught on video?
One more thing: the Navy just awarded a $2.5 billion dollar contract to Boeing for “modifications” to jets. That’s our money, folks. They are still accountable to the civilians who give the Pentagon $600 billion per year, and millions of acres of Defense Department land to train in. Make them accountable by raising your voice, LOUD.
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