The Defense Department will revamp its approach to environmental
stewardship, in an effort to reduce the contamination caused by
weapon manufacturing and to lower the costs of waste removal at
military installations, without undermining military readiness.
The plan is to adopt more commercial practices in the management
of weapon programs and installations, said John Paul Woodley Jr.,
assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for the environment.
He said the Pentagon increasingly will focus on “good environmental
During the Clinton administration, the Pentagon’s environmental
accounts reached about $5 billion a year. Spending is now down by
more than half, which means that the military services are more
hard-pressed than ever to reduce the cost of cleaning up their facilities,
Woodley said that commercial industry could teach the Defense Department
some useful lessons when it comes to environmental management. “The
fact that you have to pay good money at the end to clean [things]
up is not good management,” Woodley told National Defense.
Before coming to the Pentagon, Woodley was Virginia’s secretary
of natural resources. Previously, he had been an Army lawyer at
the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
Within the Pentagon’s environmental office, he noted, the
latest buzzword is EMS, or environmental management systems. EMS
is defined as a “systematic approach to make compliance with
environmental laws simpler, less costly, and a routine part of mission
planning and execution.”
In the private sector, Woodley noted, “very hard-headed,
clear-eyed business professionals are doing [EMS], because they
know it will improve their efficiency and make their enterprise
more profitable.” The Defense Department is not a profit-making
operation, he added, “but it should not be in the business
of wasting the taxpayers’ money either.”
Woodley conceded, however, that the environmental program has been
affected by funding instability in recent years. The fiscal year
2003 budget for his office is about $2.1 billion. Of that amount,
$1.3 billion is for environmental restoration. This pays for the
identification, investigation and cleanup of contamination resulting
from past military activities. Each service receives a share of
“The administration has strongly supported our cleanup efforts
and goals,” he said. “The services have budgeted very
aggressively to meet those goals or to get as close to meeting them
as humanly possible.” Most recently, he added, “we are
seeing small increases.”
The ups and downs in the environmental accounts do not help, he
noted. “When you have that kind of budgeting, the managers
do not know what to expect from year to year, they do not know whether
they should give that activity priority.”
Given the realities of annual defense appropriations, he noted,
“you can turn a program on and off like water from a spigot.
[But you can’t] expect to run an efficient and stable program.”
Having a stable program over time can help managers establish long-term
goals, he said.
A long-term vision and a strategic environmental plan will help
the Pentagon solve many of its environmental problems, said Rebecca
Patton, a senior associate with Booz Allen & Hamilton, a defense
contractor that works on environmental remediation projects.
“For the past 20 years, we have tackled the easy challenges,
but now we’ve got left with the hardest 15 percent that needs
a lot of money,” she said. “We tackled things like painting
and painting stripping—the heavy industrial parts of pollution,
but now we have to look at how we actually manage our operations.”
Patton explained that EMS mostly applies to the management of facilities
and installations. The services, she said, need to incorporate environmental
standards into the development of weapon systems, to make them less
polluting from the get-go rather than spend billions of dollars
later to clean up the waste.
A case in point is the widespread presence of unexploded ordnance
on military installations. Removal is so costly that the services
would benefit from developing and fielding munitions that don’t
contaminate the ground after they are expended.
The EMS concept also has been embraced by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency. EPA’s assistant administrator, John Peter
Suarez, said that “it seems a paper intensive exercise, but
puts compliance into practice.”
Implementing something like EMS at the Defense Department is a
daunting task, because the operations are so fragmented, said Joseph
Argento, from the Army’s Industrial Ecology Center. “What
we are doing primarily is trying to comply to a whole bunch of rules
that have come out through the EPA, but there is no unified management
system looking at this whole thing to see if in fact we are doing
it the most efficient way.”
The services have been told to implement a viable EMS by 2005.
Some organizations have moved ahead and adopted the ISO 14000 international
standards, which were established in 1996 by the International Organization
for Standardization. The ISO 14000 series defines and establishes
environmental management best practices for global industries.
According to Patton, the services are “working on the metrics
right now.” But she noted that EMS has been a “tough
What makes it more complicated for the U.S. military is that the
ISO standard was written for traditional manufacturing operations,
rather than military organizations, explained Patton.
However, she noted that the way the military does business is not
at odds with EMS. In fact, she said, the Navy was the first service
to develop a weapons system based on EMS standards. The Navy’s
new dry-cargo ship,called the T-AKE, has implemented EMS standards
and has been ISO 14000 certified, according to Patton.
Implementing EMS can be expensive, she cautioned. “There
is no payback on it,” she said. Not like it would be through
changing an industrial process, or reducing the chemical content
in a product (system). “When you change a management style,
you are not really eliminating anything,” she said. “You
are just doing business differently” and there is no dollar
amount to peg onto it.
In recent months, the Pentagon’s environmental stewardship
efforts, at times, conflicted with immediate military training priorities.
The war on terrorism and speculation about a possible conflict
with Iraq has left the department scrambling for ways to balance
training readiness and environmentally friendly practices.
Some military commanders, for example, complained that the strict
interpretation of the environmental laws by federal courts have
hindered their ability to train forces in live ranges.
On June 3, a federal district judge in Washington ordered a halt
to all military training activities on the training range of Farallon
de Medinilla, an island north of Saipan in the western Pacific and
the closest U.S. training range to the current conflict in Afghanistan.
The judge reached his decision based on a lawsuit brought by the
Center for Biological Diversity against the Navy and Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld. The CBD used the provision in the Migratory Bird
Treaty Act that the Fish and Wildlife Service does not permit the
“unintentional takes of birds,” during military training.
“The quality of our training is currently being degraded
by vague definitions contained in existing law and unrealistic interpretations
of those definitions,” wrote Adm. Robert J. Natter in an opinion
column published by the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. He is the commander
of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command and the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, in
The Pentagon has been lobbying to clarify the Endangered Species
Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Clean Air Act and the Mammal
Protection Act, among other pieces of environmental legislation.
The Pentagon said these acts are stated too broadly and leave room
for a wide range of interpretation. For example, the Marine Mammal
Protection Act requires commanders to alter training if a marine
mammal reacts in any way to underwater activity. Military training
also could breach the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act, because all
birds are essentially migratory, said experts. The Defense Department
could face an injunction that would halt military training if that
training was expected to result in the injury or death of a single
The Defense Department requested that the language in the Marine
Mammals Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act be revised
to reflect its concerns. That legislation remains tied up the fiscal
2003 defense authorization bills, which at press time had not yet
Woodley brushed off allegations that the Pentagon is looking for
exemptions from basic environmental regulations and that it is trying
to impose its own laws. “I do not regard any of these as being
exemptions, because what we have asked for is reforms and clarifications
that are designed to help us manage the military training activities
on military training lands in a way that is respectful of the environmental
concerns and the military necessities.”
Further, he added, “we are asking Congress to set this rule
in a way that makes sense, and in a way that permits us to manage
lands both for bio-diversity and military training hand in hand.”
Wildlife concerns are not the only impediment to military training.
Sprawling urban sites around military bases have prompted a series
of complaints and lawsuits from the public, a phenomenon that the
Pentagon calls “encroachment.” But a May 2002 study
by the General Accounting Office found that “service readiness
data do not indicate that encroachment has significantly affected
GAO recommended that the services enhance their outreach efforts
to make communities aware of the Defense Department’s “need
for ranges and airspace, its need to maintain readiness and its
need to build public support for sustaining training ranges.”
According to GAO, the Defense Department needs a comprehensive plan
to manage encroachment on training ranges.
The contamination caused by unexploded ordnance at military bases
prompted the Defense Department to develop a Munitions Action Plan,
which is supposed to provide a detailed and consistent approach
to managing military munitions.
Unexploded ordnance is a problem of its own magnitude, said Booz
Allen’s Rebecca Patton. It has been plaguing the services
for years and technological solutions have been slow to come by.
“Current technologies are characterized by high false alarm
rates in which non-UXO items are detected, or low UXO detection
rates, in which too many actual UXO items are not detected,”
said the Munitions Action Plan.
“UXO has been worrying the environmental community for a
long time, because they know they can’t get their arms around
it,” said Patton. “We have pretty much figured out where
all the ranges are and when they were in use and what was actually
expended on those ranges,” she said. “We can’t
address the clean up until we figure out what is there.”
However, Argento said that the services “have been developing
technologies and digging up a lot of ground, but I don’t necessarily
think that is the smartest way to do things.”
The first step, he said, “is to determine what the problem
is” that UXO is posing on certain bases. In some places, the
problem could be ground water pollution, Argento said. “Once
you bind the problem to that, you restrict yourself to a certain
family of ammunition, and once you restrict yourself to a certain
family of ammunition you can find them and get rid of them, without
having to dig up the whole country side.”
That way, he added, “you turn a very expensive problem into
something less expensive that can be handled more rationally.”
Patton said that many people have a tendency “to over-emotionalize
the environmental problem. Everything from the munitions to water
contamination from residue” needs to be looked at. “For
each site, the risk that is presented has to be prioritized and
managed. It’s tough when you are a community surrounding that
installation to look at it in that light,” she said.
According to Les Clark, the UXO operations manager at the Chemical
Corporation, in Lakewood, Colo., there are more than 2,500 formerly
used defense sites that potentially have UXO. It is estimated that
in excess of 10 million acres of land in the continental U.S. may
be affected by UXO.
“There is a lot of property that has been contaminated, but
it is not a priority until somebody gets hurt,” he said. He
said that, although Congress has introduced some legislation and
allocated funding for UXO, “environmental protection is discretionary
“It’s money that when we go to war, tends to be frozen,”
he said. “Give a commander a choice and training comes first.”
Approximately $150 million a year is spent on UXO removal at formerly
used defense sites, he said.
It is not a secret that the success of UXO detection technology
depends greatly on a heavy infusion of research and development
money, he said.
“When you do not have a lot of prospects for work there is
no incentive for people to throw in their own research and development
money for it,” Clark said.
The technologies that are currently used for the detection of UXO
were initially developed for geological purposes, such as looking
for oil or ground water, said Clark.
So far, clean-up crews have used digital geo-physical mapping,
magnetometers and hand-held metal detectors, “depending on
what we are looking for,” said Clark.
“Now, we are asking the [geological] science to do something
that it was not grown up to do,” he said. “We are asking
this science to find this tiny piece of metal in this huge-geophysical
Because the ammunition is small, the “noise in the environment”
makes it hard to find, he said. “You are looking at very minimal
differences to what is background and what isn’t.”
Even if 100 percent of the UXO is removed from a piece of property
as deep as four feet, said Clark, “you can’t prove that
you have removed it, unless you dig it all up.”
There is no fool-proof technology, he said. “If you leave
anything in there, then there is a whole residual risk. This is
where technology may help us some day—give us the guarantee
that we have found everything, or come along behind after the clearance
and verify that we have dug everything out.”
The current situation, he said, is analogous to “trying to
find a 20 mm sitting on top of a manhole cover,” said Clark.
“If you can use a detector to help you sift through all that
noise, that may be your ticket here, but I don’t know if it’s
going to happen, if we are that smart.”
Clark said that there is research going on to combine sensors.
Also, among the technologies developed through the Environmental
Security Technology Certification Program are airborne platforms
for the detection of UXO.
ESTCP is a defense program that promotes innovative, cost-effective
environmental technologies through demonstration and validation
at military sites. The ESTCP is looking at developing an airborne
analog of the already fairly successful vehicular Multi-Sensor Towed
Array Detection System, known as MTADS. The airborne system will
enable the survey of areas that can’t be surveyed by vehicles,
or which require large areas to be non-intrusively surveyed for
the detection of impact clusters, target bull’s eyes or burial