July 15, 2005 E-Newsletter
My office is publishing this electronic newsletter as a way to keep you informed about what is happening in Washington and in the Second Congressional District in Colorado. You can also log onto my website at www.house.gov/markudall for more information about constituent services, upcoming events or to read recent statements on various issues. Please feel free to share this newsletter with friends or direct them to my website. I hope you will find this newsletter to be helpful and informative.
UDALL LEGISLATION WOULD INCREASE TROOP STRENGTH BY 80,000
With the United States Army straining to meet its current obligations and the National Guard and Reserves stretched to the limit, Senators Joseph Lieberman, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bill Nelson and Jack Reed and Representatives Ellen Tauscher and I this week announced that we will introduce legislation to significantly increase the Army's baseline troop strength. The United States Army Relief Act will boost the overall troop levels authorized by Congress by 20,000 active duty members per year over the next four years, giving the Army the breathing room to reduce the overburden on our active duty troops as well as our Guard and Reserve and rebuild our capacity to respond to future threats.
The war in Iraq has put a tremendous strain on our Army. Our troops are overstretched - not just in Iraq and Afghanistan but in 117 other countries around the world - and unprepared to meet potential future threats. Additionally, we continue to rely too heavily on our Guard and Reserves. Our troop levels should reflect the fact that we are at war. Without this bill, we risk asking too much of our men and women in uniform who have performed so courageously and sacrificed so much in their service to this country. They, future recruits, and the country all need to know that we are committed to providing the resources necessary to keep our Army strong.
I am one who believes we have more work to do to thoroughly understand these other global threats and the strategies and tactics necessary to prepare for the kind of conflict we are facing in Iraq. The upcoming Pentagon defense review needs to look at increased troops levels in the context of our long-term security needs as well as the immediate challenges.
But in the meantime, the Bush administration's lack of foresight in Iraq has left us with an immediate problem that cannot be ignored. Our troops are overstretched - not just in Iraq and Afghanistan but in 117 other countries around the world.
Without increasing troop levels, the force requirements of the ongoing operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere as part of the Global War on Terror are unsustainable. There are currently approximately 499,000 active duty Army troops backed up by nearly 700,000 National Guard and Army reservists, a third less than the force level on hand when the first Gulf War was fought in 1991. This relationship between the total number of troops versus the number of operationally deployed troops has resulted in an active duty force that is stretched to the limit.
In addition to hampering the military's ability to successfully complete the missions assigned to it, this overuse has significant consequences for domestic homeland security operations. A disproportionate number of federal, state and local first responders are also Guard and Reserve members. At a time of strain for large municipalities struggling to secure their infrastructure against the threat of terrorism, the drain on available personnel as well as budgets is unacceptable.
This prolonged strain on our active duty members of the Army and our Guard and Reserves is damaging the long-term ability of these components to operate effectively. Increased force requirements since September 11 have resulted in soldiers facing constant deployments into war zones without rest, training and preparation. The Guard and Reserve have been strained to the breaking point for years on end. To continue to retain and recruit the high-quality soldiers we need for our 21st century fighting force, we must slow down their deployment schedules and make them more predictable.
This bill is not about increasing troops so that President Bush can plan for more Iraqs; this is about rebuilding the strength of the incredible institution that is the U.S. Army.
Leadership begins with recognizing reality. Although we may wish we had a different starting place, this is the place that we find ourselves after much miscalculation and wishful-thinking by the Bush administration.
So we ask the administration to heed the call of so many in the military community who understand the importance of increasing the Army's end strength. The defense of the United States is and must continue to be a high priority of the government.
UDALL, SALAZAR TO INTRODUCE WILDERNESS FOR ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
U.S. Senator Ken Salazar and I have introduced legislation which would designate nearly 250,000-acres within Rocky Mountain National Parkincluding Longs Peakas wilderness. The areas included in the bill are based on the recommendations prepared over 30 years ago by the Nixon administration. I have sponsored similar legislation every Congress since 1999 and am proud to work with Senator Salazar on this worthy goal.
Over the last month, the National Park Service has held public meetings in Grand Lake and Estes Park to gauge public support for the proposal. Following the town meetings, the town councils of both towns expressed support for wilderness designation for lands inside the Park.
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the nation's most visited parks and possesses some of the most pristine and striking alpine ecosystems and natural landscapes in the continental United States. It contains high altitude lakes, herds of bighorn sheep and elk, glacial cirques and snow fields, broad expanses of alpine tundra, old-growth forests and thundering rivers. It is essential that we act to preserve this park so that future generations can enjoy some of the things that now make Colorado such a special place to work, live and play.
The exact acreage in the legislation is pending while we consider Grand Lake's request for map adjustments to facilitate activities to reduce and manage forest fire risks and to accommodate some access issues.
The bill would not create a new federal reserved water right; instead, it includes a finding that the Park's existing federal reserved water rights, as decided by the Colorado courts, are sufficient. Certain lands in the Park, including Trail Ridge Road and other roads used for motorized travel, water storage and conveyance structures, buildings, developed areas of the Park, and private inholdings, would not be affected by the bill.
UDALL JOINS IN EXPRESSING DISAPPROVAL OF SUPREME COURT EMINENT DOMAIN CASE
On June 30, I voted in favor of a House Resolution expressing disapproval of the majority opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Kelo et al v. New London et al.
That case involved the question of the scope of a local government's authority to use the power of eminent domain, and in particular whether local governments may condemn private houses in order to use the land for uses that are primarily commercial.
The question before the court was whether such use of eminent domain is consistent with the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment - made applicable to the States by the 14th Amendment - which says "nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." Answering that question required the court to decide what qualifies as a "public use."
The case involved actions aimed at redevelopment of a particular neighborhood in New London, Connecticut to encourage new economic activities. Toward that end, a development corporation - technically a private entity although evidently under the city's control - prepared a development plan.
The city approved the plan and authorized the corporation to acquire land in the neighborhood. However, nine people who owned property there did not wish to sell to the corporation. The city of New London chose to exercise its right of eminent domain and ordered the development corporation, acting as the city's legally appointed agent, to condemn the holdout owners' lots. These owners were the petitioners in this case, with the lead plaintiff being Susette Kelo, who owned a small home in the development area.
The owners sued the city in Connecticut courts, arguing that the city had misused its eminent domain power, but lost. They then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Connecticut Supreme Court's decision in favor of the city, arguing that it was not constitutional for the government to take private property from one individual or corporation and give it to another, simply because the other might put the property to a use that would generate higher tax revenue.
The Supreme Court agreed with the City of New London in a 5-4 decision. The majority decision, written by Justice John Paul Stevens, said that local governments should be afforded wide latitude in seizing property for land-use decisions of a local nature. The primary dissent, written by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, suggested that the use of this power in a reverse Robin Hood fashion -- take from the poor, give to the rich -- would become the norm, not the exception: "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms." A separate dissent was written by Justice Clarence Thomas, while Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote a separate concurrence with the majority's ruling.
I am not a lawyer, and certainly no expert on this aspect of Constitutional law. But I find Justice O'Connor's analysis of the likely fallout of the decision persuasive and I share the concerns of many of those who have been critical of the decision, especially those related to the possible abuse of the power of eminent domain in situations such as the one involved in this case.
That is why I voted for the House resolution. I do not fully agree with every word of it -- especially the statement that the majority's decision in the Kelso case "renders the public use provision in the fifth amendment without meaning." But I definitely agree that, as the resolution states, "State and local governments should only execute the power of eminent domain for those purposes that serve the public good must always justly compensate those individuals whose property is assumed through eminent domain [and] any execution of eminent domain by State and local government that does not comply [with the conditions stated] constitutes an abuse of government power and an usurpation of the individual property rights as defined in the fifth amendment."
I also am in sympathy with the parts of the resolution that state that "eminent domain should never be used to advantage one private party over another," and that state and local governments should not "construe the holdings" in the Kelo case "as a justification to abuse the power of eminent domain."
And I certainly agree that "Congress maintains the prerogative and reserve the right to address through legislation any abuses of eminent domain by State and local government."
However, of course Congress can only take such action in ways that are themselves consistent with the Constitution, and in any event I think we should be reluctant to take actions to curb what some - perhaps even a temporary majority - in Congress might consider improper actions by a State or local government.
The States, through their legislatures or in some cases by direct popular vote, can put limits on the use of eminent domain by their agencies or local governments. I think this would be the best way to address potential abuses, and I think we in Congress should consider taking action to impose our ideas of proper limits only as a last resort.
UDALL INTERN SELECTED FOR U.S. CONGRESS-KOREAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY YOUTH EXCHANGE
Barrett Foster, 20, of Boulder, CO, has been selected to participate in the 2005 U.S. Congress- Korean National Assembly Youth Exchange from July 19 through August 2. Foster served as an intern in my office in the spring of 2005.
I am so pleased that Barrett is one of eight Americans who were selected for this prestigious program. When he was an intern in my office this past spring, Barrett always showed great interest in and enthusiasm for our political process and international affairs. I am glad he is applying his internship experience to other opportunities to stay involved in world affairs. I know he will be an excellent ambassador for the United States.
The program is sponsored by Meridian International, a non-profit organization contracted by the State Department to promote better understanding between U.S. and South Korea. U.S. participants in the program must have interned in a congressional office in Washington, D.C.
During his time in South Korea, Foster will intern in a National Assemblyman's office for two to three days, have a weekend homestay with a Korean family, take Korean language lessons, and participate in meetings and briefings on national security, the legislative process, the economy and politics. U.S. organizations sponsoring these meetings include the Center for Strategic and International Security, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Department of Defense. Korean organizations that will sponsor meetings include the Korean National Assembly's Foreign Affairs Committee, Trade Committee and Unification Committee. Foster will also visit Changdok Palace and Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone (DMZ).
Foster is a junior at Pomona College in Claremont, CA. He is a 2003 graduate of Fairview High School.