The Pentagon's environmental budget has been on a downward slope during the
past several years. Sherri W. Goodman, deputy undersecretary of defense for
environmental security, believes this trend will continue.
"Our budget is on, what I call, a stable decline, which to me is good
news," she says in a recent interview.
Unlike traditional defense programs, funding cutbacks in environmental cleanup
As more cleanup projects are completed and more pollution prevention methods
are instituted, less funding is required to meet the Pentagon's environmental
security goals, says Goodman.
"One of the trends we track in our cleanup program is how much of our
investment is in actually cleaning up and moving dirt compared to how much of
it is studying and characterizing what needs to be done," she says.
The most recent statistics show 75 percent of total restoration dollars going
to cleanup, 15 percent for studies and investigations, and 10 percent allocated
to administration and support.
Pentagon officials are aiming to complete 90 percent of the base realignment
and closure (BRAC) process by 2001. They are currently at 53 percent.
Funding for BRAC is decreasing as the process is completed, says Goodman.
"There will come a time still several decades away," she says, "when
we will be able to invest much less in this area because we will have accomplished
all this work."
The environmental security budget was approximately $4.8 billion in Fiscal
Year 1998. In Fiscal Year 1999, that figure decreased to $4.4. billion. The
environmental security budget makes up about 1.8 percent of the entire Defense
Department budget, says Goodman.
The Fiscal Year 1999 environmental budget allocated $1.8 billion for compliance,
$1.2 billion for cleanup; $672 million for base realignment and closure; $254
million for pollution prevention; $173 million for technology; and $108 million
Compliance, the largest investment, involves the day-to-day operations that
keep military bases open and functioning.
Other measures of progress include the reduction of toxic releases by 66 percent,
the reduction of hazardous waste disposal off-site by 46 percent, the reduction
of solid waste disposal such as landfills by 33 percent, and a 120 percent increase
in recycling. Recycling efforts have more than doubled the department's expectations.
Hazardous waste and solid waste disposal reduction, though in progress, are
still short of reaching the Pentagon's 1999 goals.
Another initiative set forth is the reduction of fatalities from safety-related
accidents. Since 1979, this figure has decreased by 61 percent. However, the
department's objective is to have zero accidental fatalities.
Recent environmental safety undertakings have included the development of more
efficient cleanup technologies and partnering with safety regulators.
The Defense Department continues working to improve its methods of detecting
and removing unexploded ordnance.
"Only in the past five years," says Goodman, "have we begun to
put unexploded ordnance or dud bombs into a similar kind of framework of regulation,
framework of funding and framework of policy and activity as all the other types
of cleanup that we have been doing on our military bases for almost two decades
now. And this is important because there are now mandates in law and regulation
for us to find and remove unexploded ordnance where it is an environment safety
or health threat."
There is an increasing demand, says Goodman, to remove ordnance from closed
bases so property can be put back to productive use. On operating bases, training
must be allowed to continue.
"On our active ranges, given that we are not in the mode of acquiring
land now-mostly we're closing bases-we have to make sure the land we still have
is sustainable for the future," she says, "and that means developing
policies so that we can clear ranges sufficiently to continue to use them on
into the future."
To meet its objective, the Defense Department is developing guidelines for
clearing active and closing bases-a set of regulations that has not been established
"We'll help establish what the requirement is to clear active and closing
ranges and then identify the resources needed to do the unexploded ordnance
detection and removal or cleanup, work with citizens and interested stakeholders,
and also advance technology in this area," says Goodman.
The most common method for detecting unexploded ordnance today is a method
called "bag and flag," she says. During this procedure, site inspectors
walk in rows with hand-held metal detectors, similar to what one may see on
a beach. When an inspector hears a positive detection, he puts a stake in the
ground so that each warning area can be checked again for ordnance.
"While it works reasonably well, it is extremely cost ineffective because
it gets a lot of what are called false positives," says Goodman. "It
detects all the metal, but not all the metal may be unexploded ordnance."
Only a small number-approximately one out of 100-of warnings actually turn
out to be ordnance, she said.
A recent advance in unexploded ordnance detection took place at the Pine Ridge
Oglala Sioux Native American Reservation in South Dakota.
During World War II, the United States military used several Indian reservations
as bombing ranges. After the war, some of the ordnance was not removed.
Goodman, a few years ago, signed a cooperative agreement with the president
of the Oglala tribe that partners the Defense Department with the tribe in developing
advanced technology and performing the actual cleanup.
"It empowers them to develop capability and capacity in unexploded ordnance
work," say Goodman.
A new technology that has been implemented at the reservation is called the
multisensor towed array detection system (MTADS).
The system-developed by scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory-uses cesium
vapor, full field magnetometers and active, pulsed-induction sensors. The sensors
are mounted on low-signature platforms that are towed over survey sights by
an all-terrain vehicle. MTADS contains an integrated data analysis system that
locates, identifies, and categorizes military ordnance.
"The idea is to have something on the ground that's towed, that is not
hand-held, that puts a number of sensors on the ground and has the possibility
of reducing onsite costs from several thousands of dollars an acre to a couple
of dollars an acre for actually detecting ordnance," says Goodman.
In earlier tests, MTADS completed 145 acres of surveys in approximately 60
hours. It identified close to 1,600 targets in the process. Officials say the
system is easy to use and requires little training.
"The other really important part of this is to include the environmental
regulators in these tests so that they will understand the capability and the
technology and be more willing to accept it as a solution," says Goodman,
"since in most cases, they are involved in approving our use of technologies
at a particular location."
Another environmental safety advancement has taken place at Fort Lewis, Washington.
Soldiers at the Army base are using new weapon-cleaning technology that cuts
maintenance time by 85 percent.
Gun cleaning is a "time-consuming process, and it is one that typically
involves solvents that can be toxic and hazardous if there is long-term exposure,"
The new system not only reduces the time spent cleaning the weapon, but also
"reduces the probability of improper waste disposal, reduces solvent use,
and develops an overall better system," she says.
Fort Lewis has saved about $3 million a year with this program. Pentagon officials
believe the method will have similar effects in other military establishments.
The savings from the gun cleaning system are not reflected in the environmental
budget, says Goodman. Because soldiers are actually doing the labor in cleaning
the weapons, the funds come from the training budget.
"But it shows you the benefits that you get from the modest investments
in pollution prevention and in technology for economic benefits elsewhere in
the defense budget," she says.
The Defense Department is also forging partnerships with state governments in
Legislators in Pennsylvania, specifically, signed an agreement with the Pentagon
to establish a voluntary cleanup program.
"The landmark agreement-established in 1998-allows us to take advantage
of a law that Pennsylvania enacted on voluntary cleanup agreements that streamlines
a lot of the paperwork and red tape that is involved in cleaning up," says
Goodman. "It allows us to do it at lower costs and also gives is a release
from liability for contamination that might arise later."
The department is working to develop additional cleanup agreements and pollution
prevention initiatives with other states.
"We are partnering with regulators in pollution prevention, because it
is far better to prevent the pollution than to either have to regulate it, comply
with it, or clean it up later," says Goodman. "So we have some pollution
prevention partnerships with states as well."
The Pentagon has an agreement with regulators in Texas to assist military installations
in discovering and developing pollution prevention methods.
The Defense Department's environmental security representatives are also trying
to maintain open communication with industry on the best environmental safety
"We are a lot like industry," says Goodman, "in that we are
on a path of continuous improvement. I think our programs have improved tremendously,
yet we are on a path of continuous improvement."
Goodman recently participated in a roundtable session with defense industry
executives who informed her about their environment safety and health operations
within their companies.
"We shared notes, and we shared lessons, and it's valuable for us because
we sort of roughly try to benchmark our performance here against what is happening
in industry," says Goodman. "We're doing better in some areas; maybe
a little worse in other areas. There are things we can learn. There are things
they can learn from us. And it's a valuable and constructive undertaking."