The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command has created an automated,
global mission-planning tool that can help military commanders predict
how a training mission or exercise will affect the environment in
the theater of operations.
This environmental planning tool, called GOER, also would be used
by planners, operators and environmental professionals for overseas
operations. GOER stands for Global Operational Environmental Review
(GOER). The system will identify environmental concerns and provide
mitigating actions. The user has to provide basic routine planning
information such as date, location, equipment, duration and flight
altitudes. GOER can do the rest.
AFSOC missions typically are conducted under tight time constraints,
under strict security, and do not have organic environmental civil
engineering support. Time constraints, lack of staff and security
issues hamper AFSOC’s ability to conduct adequate environmental
reviews of missions or deployments. Although the Defense Department
requires an environmental impact review of missions beforehand,
compliance may be rudimentary at best. GOER will address this shortfall.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Executive Order 12114,
and Department of Defense Directive 6050.7, require the Pentagon
to conduct environmental reviews of how a mission affects the environment.
DODD 6050.7 says that defense officials must “be informed
and take account of environmental considerations when authorizing
or approving certain major federal actions that do significant harm
to the environment of places outside the United States.”
Similar requirements exist for actions taken within the United
States. To comply with these requirements, mission commanders must
study the probable environmental impacts and legal concerns of a
mission or deployment and consider the effects in the mission plan.
Further, the Defense Department must review alternative mitigating
courses of action.
There are other regulations and international treaties or agreements
overseas including Status of Forces Agreements, Final Governing
Standards, Basel Convention, Ronchi Agreement, JCS Pub 4-04, Host
Nation Laws and the Overseas Environmental Baseline Guidance Document.
The current draft of the NATO Standardization Document states that
a review of environmental impacts must be conducted during the planning
phase of all military training missions.
Because of many constraining factors, environmental reviews usually
are not conducted for small-scale operations. The GOER technology
offers a geographic information system (GIS) tool that, during the
planning phase, operators can quickly and easily review the potential
environmental and legal impacts of missions and deployments.
GOER analyzes proposed plans against known environmental factors
to assess potential environmental issues. The tool provides operators
and mission planners with a means to account for environmental concerns
at the operational planning stage. It identifies potential legal
concerns, provides mitigating alternative courses of action and
generates environmental review reports.
GOER is a capability that currently is not available in the Defense
The user of the GOER program must provide certain baseline deployment/mission
specific information. The system links or sorts databases of environmental
and legal information, which is compared against mission information.
GOER will suggest possible mitigating alternative actions. Examples
of the output include:
In the executive summary, red indicates a strong probability of
adversely impacting the environment or exceeding a legal or regulatory
threshold. Yellow indicates the potential of impacts to the environment,
but with proper planning the effect could be mitigated or eliminated.
Green means there are no overriding environmental or legal constraints.
Currently, the Defense Department has a limited capability to quickly
analyze and review the potential environmental/legal impact of a
deployment or mission. Consequently, deployments or missions that
require short notice to plan and execute are not getting properly
evaluated prior to execution.
By not properly conducting these reviews, the Defense Department
and the Air Force are exposing the United States to the risk of
violating treaties, U.S. federal law, executive agreements and orders
and/or host country laws. The environmental impact of military action
increasingly is under scrutiny around the world. It is likely that
foreign regulations and subsequent enforcement will become stricter.
GOER could assist the U.S. government in avoiding international
environmental incidents by identifying environmental issues in the
AFSOC designed GOER’s architecture so it can be adapted for
general use by the entire Defense Department. GOER will interface
with standard Pentagon planning software and will meet spatial data
system requirements. With some simple component modifications, any
service branch can use GOER. Each service can tailor the unit type
codes/equipment database and tailor the mission profile database.
The system will generate a command specific environmental review
and review reports.
GOER will save scarce environmental programming dollars too. AFSOC’s
costs to comply with environmental review requirements under Executive
Order 12114 and DODD 6050.7 depend on the number of missions and
deployments under review. To determine the overall cost, AFSOC compared
the GOER costs against a fully manned professional environmental
impact analysis staff, to prepare environmental reviews of all missions
or deployments. AFSOC anticipates a payback in less than five years.
As other Air Force commands and military services use the system,
the payback period could be substantially reduced.
To conduct conventional pre-deployment environmental reviews, AFSOC
needs to hire six full-time professionals, at an annual cost of
$475,000. Based on 450 deployment reviews per year, the annual maintenance
cost is expected to reach $100,000. It is assumed that 80 percent
of all conventional environmental reviews could get prepared in
four man-hours, 17 percent of the reviews require 240 man-hours
and 3 percent of environmental reviews require more than 960 man-hours
Nearly all GOER environmental reviews can be prepared in a half-hour
or less. Operational costs will be evaluated on the basis of software
maintenance, and the refreshing of database information. Long-term
opportunities for cost savings will be evaluated based on the use
of the GOER, versus employing the staff required to complete the
The first GOER system will be limited to a U.S. Central Command
theater. AFSOC plans to have a fully operationally capable global
GOER within two years. The system will provide worldwide biome databases,
mission profiles, laws, digital maps, cultural resources and pest/disease
data. Additional capabilities will include joint-theater usage,
environmental appendices and Air Force system validation and certification.
GOER can operate as a stand-alone system, but it is Web-based, with
an open architecture. It can interface with existing mission planning
software, such as Falcon View, and environmental or civil engineering
systems such as Environmental Management Information System Hazardous
Material (EMIS HAZMAT) Tracker, Geo-Reach and BCAT. GOER can be
adapted for other U.S. government agencies, foreign governments
and international organizations such as NATO.
In February 2001, AFSOC successfully demonstrated the prototype’s
capability to determine environmental impacts of AFSOC missions
in Australia’s Great Victoria Desert. GOER tests by AFSOC
began in June. Demonstrations of the tool to selected audiences
will follow. The demonstrations will help determine the appropriateness
of applying an automated system to account for environmental legal
restrictions and the effect that military missions have on the environment.
In August, AFSOC plans to demonstrate the prototype by predicting
AFSOC mission impacts to any biome within the Central Command Theater.
AFSOC planners, operators, attorneys and environmental specialists
will evaluate GOER to determine its accuracy and usefulness. Specific
performance and accuracy standards will be established.
Success parameters for the demonstration of the system will include
ease of use by operators and planners, and creation of a legally
defensible environmental impact review document in an acceptable
format. The demonstrations will occur at the Air Force Special Operations
Command units at Hurlburt Field, on August 1, at the Joint Service
Pollution Prevention Conference, on August 15, at the SERDP/ESTCP
conference and at the Tri-Service Environmental Conference.
AFSOC will develop a stand-alone capability and then will incorporate
GOER into existing Air Force planning tool software, such as PSP-Falcon
view. Air Force users will find GOER software has a familiar format.
AFSOC plans to commercially license GOER software and databases
to private environmental and engineering firms. Additionally, the
tool could be used for biological, environmental, political science,
archaeological or sociological education enrichment.
The Air Force Special Operations Command has several partners and
contractors assisting with developing GOER. AFSOC created the concept
and is providing development leadership to contractors. The command
also will test system protocol and conduct field tests.
To date, GOER is primarily funded by AFSOC. The Air Force Center
for Environmental Excellence is providing personnel for program
management and development support including development planning,
troubleshooting, budget estimating and tracking and assisting in
technical reports. Air Force staff has provided project development
and management support money. The Army Corps of Engineers oversees
the work by CH2M Hill, the prime contractor for development and
system integrator. Universe Technologies Inc. and ANSER Corp. provide
AFSOC with technical project management and personnel support. Earth
Tech Inc. is conducting research of the Alpine Biome and creating
The first operational demonstration of the AFSOC Global Operational
Environmental Review is scheduled for August 20, at the 6th Annual
Joint Service Pollution Prevention and Hazardous Waste Management
Conference and Exhibition, in San Antonio.
Col. Michael Hrapla is the civil engineer at the headquarters of
the Air Force Special Operations Command, at Hurlburt Field, Fla.
Michael Applegate is chief of the command’s environmental