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Public Statements

Marine Base Explosion

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. REID. Mr. President, in the late 1920s, there was a violent explosion in New Jersey at an ammunition depot of our military. Basically, it was the Navy at that time, and it was a very bad explosion. After that explosion, there was a decision made that storing our ammunition should be someplace else. After some work done by relevant committees in the House and Senate and working with the President, it was decided the best place to do that was in Nevada near a place called Hawthorne.

Hawthorne is, frankly, in a kind of remote place. That base has been there since about 1930. It was originally a naval ammunition depot where most of our ammunition was stored, and it is still there. It survived base closings--the BRAC work--and it was determined it was essential for the security of this Nation.

Anyone who flies over that area will see miles and miles of bunkers where ammunition is stored. Some ammunition is stored there from World War II. It is a wonderful place for storing ammunition because it is so dry so stuff can stay there for long periods of time.

I just met with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. They were very impressed with this. It has also become a terrific place for tearing down ordnance--demil, they call it. In recent years, it has also been used as a training facility. The terrain is much like a lot of the desert in Afghanistan and Iraq and places such as that. We have had training exercises there for some time. It is very valuable.

Late last night, seven of our marines were killed in Hawthorne, and many others were injured in an explosion during a training exercise near the ammunition depot in Hawthorne, NV. We don't know exactly what happened, but we know it was a violent explosion. My thoughts are with those who were injured and, of course, the families of those who lost loved ones.

Marines all over the world are now focusing on the loss of their fellow marines. They are grieving their loss. Details are emerging, but at this time we don't know everything. The area has been blocked off. As I indicated, it was quite a big explosion. We will follow this news very closely. I will do whatever I can going forward to support the U.S. military and the families of the fallen marines.

It is very important we continue to train our military--it is so important--but one of the things that has happened due to the sequester is we have cut back on our training and maintenance. That is the way the sequester was written. The bill that is on the floor--we hope to pass today--helps that a little bit. At least for the next 6 months it will allow the military some degree of ability to move things around a little bit. We call it flexibility, which is good. But we have to be very vigilant. This sequester should go away.

We have already cut huge amounts of money in deficit reduction, which is not appropriate. Our military cannot train and do the maintenance that is necessary. These men and women are marines who are training in Hawthorne, and with the sequester, it is going to cut stuff back. I hope everyone understands the sacrifices made by our military. They make significant sacrifices by being away from home, their families, and their country. The sequester needs to go away.

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