Magazine article National Defense

Environmental Dollars 'Moving Dirt'

Magazine article National Defense

Environmental Dollars 'Moving Dirt'

Article excerpt

Pentagon cleanup boss extols military partnerships with communities

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 equals progress.

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. Progress

The Fiscal Year 1999 environmental budget allocated $1.8 billion for compliance, $1.2 billion for cleanup; $672 million for base realignment and closure; $2a4 million for pollution prevention; $173 million for technology; and $108 million for conservation.

Compliance, the largest investment, involves the day-to-day operations that keep military bases open and functioning.

'Those funds are slightly declining," says Goodman, "mostly because we are getting more efficient in how we do our business. For example, within the last year, we completed all our work to upgrade underground storage tanks, which was a requirement of federal law."

Other measures of progress include the reduction of toxic releases by 66 percent, the reduction of hazardous waste disposal offsite 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.

Ordnance Cleanup

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 land 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. …

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