Congress Tries To Stop Humanitariuan Demining Program Cuts

Washington, D.C. Congressmen TJ Cox (CA) and Brad Sherman (CA) led a letter signed by 89 of their Democratic and Republican colleagues in defense of The USAID demining program in the Republic of Artsakh. The letter was sent in response to the USAID's recent decision to end all support for humanitarian landmine clearance in the traditional boundaries of Artsakh at the end of 2019. The development is a reversal of the testimony USAID Administrator, Mark Green offered on April 9, 2019, during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in which he stated on the record, that USAID is committed to completing the clearance of landmines and UXO within the traditional boundaries of Nagorno Karabakh.

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Members of Congress Push for Alternatives to OB/OD On Vieques

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Richard Blumenthal along with Congress Members Alexandria Cortez and Jose Serrano sent a letter of concern to The Committee on Armed Services to push for alternatives to OB/OD for use on Vieques. In particular, the group is requesting $10M from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) be used for closed detonation chambers.

The letter reads in part, "The military has now been engaged in cleanup efforts on the island for years - a crucial and overdue process. But those efforts have included open-air burning and detonation of hazardous wastes."

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Legacies of War Recognition and UXO Removal Act

Washington, D.C. Rep. Duffy, Sean P. [R-WI] introduced HR 2097, 'Legacies of War Recognition and Unexploded Ordnance Removal Act' to recognize the Hmong, Khmer, Laotian, and other ethnic groups commonly referred to as Montagnards, who supported and defended the Armed Forces during the conflict in Southeast Asia and to authorize assistance to support activities relating to clearance of UXO and other explosive remnants of war.

The Bill mentions the tragic legacy of the conflict in Southeast Asia and the UXO which continues to "litter forests, rice fields, villages, school grounds, roads, and other populated areas hindering development and poverty reduction efforts" in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

The proposed Bill states that, "Since 1993, the United States has provided more than $3,400,000,000 in assistance to more than 100 countries, including more than $132M in Vietnam, $200M in Laos, and $140M in Cambodia.

To honor the Montagnard Freedom Fighters with recognition for their support and defense of the Armed Forces, it calls on Congress to "continue to support activities to clear UXO and other explosive remnants of war in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, and strengthen people-to-people ties and reaffirm America's long-standing commitment to Southeast Asia."

The draft Bill proposes an authorization and appropriation of $250M over a five year period (i.e., $50M for each of fiscal years 2020 through 2024).

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New Congressional UXO / Demining Caucus

Washington, D.C. Representatives Jackie Speier (CA-14) and David Valadao (CA-21) are co-chairs of the recently established Congressional UXO/Demining Caucus. The caucus was apparently setup with a focus on international humanitarian demining programs.

Although listed as a "new" caucus, this is not the first time that Congressional leadership setup a caucus to examine UXO issues. Several years ago, a UXO caucus was setup which was more focused on the domestic UXO problem.

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UXO Removal Act Introduced (For Syria and Iraq)

Washington, D.C. Rep. Keating, William R. [D-MA-9] introduced legislation to require DoD to develop and implement a strategy for removing UXO in Syria and Iraq. The bill, titled the "Unexploded Ordnance Removal Act", specifically requires the U.S. government to provide assessments about threats posed by improvised explosive devices, landmines, and other ordnance to US strategic and military populations as well as the countries' civilian populations.

Keating, a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and ranking member on its Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Subcommittee said, "One imminent focus of our attention needs to be unexploded ordnance there. The Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIS has caused a proliferation of mines around civilian population centers, including schools, hospitals, and places of worship. Worse, oftentimes, these devices are hidden in everyday objects such as refrigerators or toys.....If these explosives are not cleared and continue to maim and kill civilians, including children, the lasting insecurity will provide the perfect environment for the rise of other terrorist groups."

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Local Government Requests UXO Clearance from Army

Waikola, Hawaii Hawaii County Mayor, Harry Kim, sent a letter to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health (ODASA ESOH) asking for assistance in adjusting the UXO clearance schedule for portions of the Former Waikoloa Maneuver Area. The request was made to accommodate the construction of affordable housing units.

According to the letter, the US. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has put restrictions on new funding due to the potential for UXO in the area. The funding restriction essentially stopped development projects in the area.

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Congressional EOD Caucus Expands

Washington, D.C Formed in 2011 by Congressman Rick Crawford (R-AK) and Susan Davis (D-CA), the Congressional EOD Caucus has been reaffirmed for the 115th Congress with the addition of co-chairs Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) and Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN).

Mast is a former Army EOD technician who served in Afghanistan while Waltz is a retired command Sg. Major with the Army National Guard.

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Mast Moves His Fight for America from Battlefield to Washington

Florida Congratulations to retired EOD veteran Brian Mast! UXOInfo has been keeping up with Mast along the campaign trail as he sought to win the Congressional seat for District 18 to represent North Palm Beach County and the Treasure coast in Florida. When the polls closed, he indeed emerged as the winner.

Mast, who served for 12 years and lost both of his legs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan, was running as a Republican candidate to replace the vacant seat of Democrat Patrick Murphy.

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UXO Oversight Committee Blows Through $44M

Honolulu, Hawaii In 2004, the State of Hawaii took over management of Kaho'olawe Island from the U.S. Navy following a large scale UXO remediation effort which at the time, was the largest civilian UXO project. Along with the management, the Navy also provided approximately $44M in funds appropriated over several years for the long-term care and management of the Island.

Management responsibilities fell onto the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC), the organization that provided "oversight" for the state during the UXO clearance effort conducted by the Navy. The management efforts included tracking and recording UXO sightings for the Navy to remove on an as-needed basis.

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Louisiana Legislature To Debate Proposed Ban on Opening Burning

Baton Rouge, Louisiana State Representatives Gene Reynolds (D-Minden) and Terry Brown (I-Colfax) have filed House Bill 11 for next year's Louisiana legislative session which states that the secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality can't grant a "permit, license, variance or compliance schedule that authorizes, nor shall the secretary allow in any manner, the open burning of any munitions or waste explosives."

The proposed Bill comes after an extensive battle with the U.S. Army and the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) over the best disposal method for 16M pounds of M6 propellant at Camp Minden. The Bill will not impact the path forward set for the Camp Minden M6 propellant which calls for a controlled contained burn method of disposal.

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