Previous claims by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others that oil and gas exploration and development activity in the eastern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) would harm military training and readiness “were premature and based on incomplete information,” a recent report by energy industry group Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) maintains.

The Department of Defense’s (DOD) “ability to assess the impacts of encroachment on its training and testing ranges has only in the past year reached a level whereby the department could, for ranges in specific locations, credibly assert that non military activities may or may not be detrimental to national security,” the report said.

That assertion, however, was met with skepticism from at least one eastern GOM drilling opponent.

“It should come as no surprise that a group that touts drilling off Florida should produce a study saying drilling there is OK,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “Its report must be considered against a backdrop: it was produced by a group that helped craft and promote legislation that would allow oil drilling 45 miles off Florida’s coast.

“As for the report citing claims by former or retired military that armed forces training off Florida could co-exist with drilling, the Pentagon for years has said otherwise. It remains the Defense Department’s policy that military exercises and training in the eastern Gulf are incompatible with oil drilling operations.”

Safe said a 2009 DOD “sustainable range assessment” showed that 82% of the Air Force’s mission range areas would be “only minimally impacted by encroachment” and 72% of the Navy’s mission range areas were threatened with minimal impacts from encroachment.

“We do not believe that current and future military testing and training requirements necessitate the maintenance of offshore areas in the Gulf of Mexico intended to exclude specific classes of commercial airborne, surface or subsurface activities,” the report said.

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