Leadership: March 5, 2000

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The political battle for the Vieques bombing range in Puerto Rico is having yet another unpleasant side effect. The Department of Defense has ordered all military construction in Puerto Rico be placed on hold. Projects underway will be suspended and no new work is to begin. Major items affected are the new US Army South headquarters that moved to Ft Buchanan after leaving Panama and many other construction projects. The order to stop construction has more to do with congressional politics than any hard feelings in the Defense Department. The Vieques issue has brought out bad feelings in congress, as well as in Puerto Rico. The struggle is basically getting some prime tropical beachfront real estate away from the military and into the hands of developers. The result would be more jobs for Vieques, although no one wants to put it in such crass terms. The military is also a major source of jobs in Puerto Rico, but most of those jobs don't take up a lot of beach front property like Vieques. Many members of congress, urged on by their constituents, would like to bring some of those jobs back to the mainland, for the benefit of Americans who can vote (Puerto Rican residents cannot vote in federal elections.) Bombing ranges, essential for troops to practice their combat skills, are generally the least popular military bases, again because they take up a lot of land, produce few jobs for the locals and generate a lot of noise at odd hours.

 


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