Defense Environmental Programs Reaching out to Communities

By Erwin, Sandra I. | National Defense, June 2004 | Go to article overview

Defense Environmental Programs Reaching out to Communities


Erwin, Sandra I., National Defense


Suburban sprawl around military training areas shows no signs of slowing and this growth is fueling tensions between base commanders and communities around the United States.

The Defense Department, meanwhile, has been criticized for its attempts in recent years to obtain waivers that would allow military training exercises in areas protected under environmental laws. Although the Pentagon plans to stand firm by its policy to make "military readiness" its top priority, it is also reaching out to communities in an effort to mend fences.

A case in point is a new $20 million program designed to build "partnerships" between military installations and localities.

Overall, the Pentagon's fiscal year 2005 budget request includes $3.8 billion for environmental programs including: $1.3 billion for cleanup, $300 million for base closure-related cleanup, $1.6 billion for compliance, about $100 million for pollution prevention and $100 million for conservation.

The Pentagon is working to strike a balance between "how to support realistic training requirements and still remain good neighbors within the communities we are part of," said Alex Albert Beehler, assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for environment, safety and occupational health.

He spoke at the 2004 National Defense Industrial Association's environmental and energy symposium, in San Diego.

As the demands for military training escalate, the Defense Department also faces increasing competition for air, land, and water resources needed to support training at installations, ranges amt test sites, said Beehler. "On a daily basis our installation and range managers are confronted with various encroachment pressures.

"Such pressures include incompatible development outside our fence-lines that result in changes to military flight paths for approaches and take-offs--results that lead to unrealistic and negative training. …

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