U.S. Military Services Expand Pollution Prevention Programs

By Kutner, Joshua A. | National Defense, March 2000 | Go to article overview

U.S. Military Services Expand Pollution Prevention Programs


Kutner, Joshua A., National Defense


Although the Defense Department spends a minuscule share of its budget on environmental programs, such projects receive high-level attention at the Pentagon. The reason largely has to do with the long-term contamination that weapon systems cause.

The fiscal year 2000 defense budget allocates $3.9 billion or 1.5 percent of its $267.2 billion pot to environmental security. That includes $1.67 billion for environmental compliance, $1.26 billion for cleanup, $360 million for base realignment and closure, $257 million for pollution prevention, $199 million for technology, and $121 million for conservation. Figures show a steady decline in environmental funding. just last year, the budget allotted $4.4 billion for environmental security. The pollution prevention account, in particular, has gone up by $23 million more than the previous year.

A decline in the overall environmental budget, however, is seen as good news by the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Environmental Security Sherri Goodman. As pollution prevention methods are instituted, less money is needed for actual cleanup, she noted in an interview early last year (National Defense, March 1999, p.28). "There will come a time still several decades away when we will be able to invest much less in this area," she said, "because we will have accomplished all this work."

In September 1998, President Clinton signed an executive order, which became part of a proposed amendment to federal acquisition regulations in September 1999. The executive order was designed to increase the government's use of recycled goods and environmentally preferable goods. Officials stressed that pollution prevention revolves around protecting the nation's natural resources such as drinking water and trees.

"As the nation's largest paper purchaser, the federal government has a special responsibility to lead the way in building markets for recycled goods," said Clinton, upon signing the bill. "... Through this single action, we will save up to half a million trees a year, reduce air and water pollution and curb emissions that contribute to global warming. We also will harness our tremendous purchasing power to spur the growing market for recycled products."

Officials also believe the government needs assistance from the contractor community in order to achieve its environmental goals.

Pentagon Strategy

The Defense Department Is current pollution prevention strategy has been successful in eliminating liabilities, said Bruce C. de Grazia, assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for environmental quality. By contracting cleanup efforts outside military installations, the Pentagon puts the responsibility and liability into the hands of the contractor.

De Grazia addressed the 4th Annual Joint Services Pollution Prevention/Hazardous Waste Management Conference and Exhibition, in San Antonio, last December. The event was hosted by the U.S. Air Force Headquarters Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence.

Since 1992, the department has reduced its hazardous waste by 44 percent, said de Grazia. It had a goal of reaching the 50 percent mark by the end of 1999. The department also has reduced its solid waste by 33 percent, but had a goal of 50 percent. The Pentagon must overcome its inefficient use of resources, deal with expiring metrics and meet the demands of new executive orders and policies, de Grazia told the conference.

To thwart these challenges and achieve the goals of its pollution prevention vision statement, the Defense Department has set up six initiatives:

Expand pollution prevention in all Defense Department activities and operations-including installations, logistics and acquisition/procurement. "We really should be assisting each other at the installation level," said de Grazia. To accomplish this initiative, he said, the Pentagon must consider environmental life-cycle costing in how it acquires systems and incorporate its pollution prevention policy into all aspects of logistics activities, especially in operating and supporting fielded weapon systems. …

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