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USAF Software Automates Environmental Forecasting.

The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command has created an automated, global mission-planing tool that can help military commanders predict how a combat mission 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 or 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 computer-aided 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 Department.

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:

* A legally defensible environmental impact review document in a NEPA-like format that will meet most regulatory requirements.

* Digital maps and imagery detailing environmentally constrained areas.

* A color-coded red, yellow and green tabular executive summary that shows potential effects of the mission and a synopsis of applicable environmental laws and regulations.

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.

Expected Benefit

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 pre-deployment phase.

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 to complete.

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 same tasks.

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, APSOC 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 a database.

The first operational demonstration of the AFSOC Global Operational Environmental Review is scheduled for August 21, 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 chi of the command's environmental division.
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Title Annotation:Global Operational Environmental Review
Author:Applegate, Michael
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2001
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