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Pentagon weighing environmental priorities: deputy undersecretary Woodley concerned about stability in cleanup program.

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 management.

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, experts said.

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 dean [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, dear-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-malting 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 fur the identification, investigation and deanup of contamination resulting from past military activities. Each service receives a share of the funding.

"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 dose 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 Alien & 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 dean 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 Arm/s Industrial Ecology Center. "What we are doing primarily is trying to comply to a whole bunch of rules that have come our 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 sell."

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.

Stewardship

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 Norfolk, Va.

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 bird.

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 been completed.

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 envitonmental 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 training readiness."

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 derailed and consistent approach to managing military munitions.

Unexploded Ordnance

Unexploded ordnance is a problem of its own magnitude, said Booz Allen's Rebecca Patron. 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 dean 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, Cob., 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 funding."

"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 geophysical 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 environment.

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 caches.
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Author:Tiron, Roxana
Publication:National Defense
Date:Dec 1, 2002
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