3 April 2004
Range Report-Clean air, H20 encroach on 'military readiness'
Lenny Siegel

In February, 2004, the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) submitted a report to Congress: "Implementation of the Department of Defense [DoD or DOD] Training Range Comprehensive Plan: Ensuring Training Ranges Support Training Requirements." The report provides a general description of the military training and testing ranges, and it explains how they are managed by the armed services. The appendices provide lists of military ranges and their functions.  But for those on either side of the debate over the Pentagon's  Readiness and Ranges Preservation Initiative, it provides no new ammunition.

Once DOD makes the document available on the Web, we will post the link.

The report reports the fundamental challenge of "encroachment":

"Today, the Department faces a paradox when it comes to the air, land, water, and electromagnetic spectrum required to support realistic training. On one hand, our platforms, weapons, and systems are growing ever more capable, which, when combined with the attendant  advancements in doctrine and tactics, create requirements for more training space.

Aircraft and vehicles travel farther and faster. Sensors detect at longer distances. Platforms deliver weapons accurately at greater distances. Unmanned vehicles provide invaluable intelligence. Communications systems carry more data to provide unprecedented intelligence and enable extensive coordination. These changes have brought about not only an overall increase in our military capabilities, but also a vast increase in the size of the battlespace within which we operate, and, therefore, within which we must train.

"On the other hand, encroachment reduces the size of the area that is available for military training - sometimes markedly so. Urban and regional development have brought communities near or next to once remote installation boundaries, bringing residents with concerns about noise and safety, and forcing species, endangered and otherwise, to seek refuge in the only natural terrain available nearby - the very terrain that military forces need for realistic training.

Environmental regulations limit training across the spectrum of military activities, from amphibious assaults to anti-submarine warfare, from maneuver on land to low level flight. Commercial air traffic competes for the SUA needed for military training. Developers want to build new communities below airspace used historically for military training. A host of new commercial communications products compete for portions of the electromagnetic spectrum currently or formerly used by the military.

"In short, our requirements for training space are increasing, but the air, land, water, and spectrum resources we need to conduct training are shrinking." (p. 10/p. 14 PDF)

The report summarizes the Defense Department view of the negative impacts of environmental regulations on readiness in the following three paragraphs.

"3.3.2. UXO and Munitions

Ranges and training areas are critical to DoD's ability to conduct realistic, live-fire training and weapon systems testing. Live-fire is, and will remain, the cornerstone of Service training and testing. Military live-fire training and testing activities by necessity deposit unexploded ordnance (UXO) and munitions constituents onto military lands. CERCLA [Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or Superfund law], RCRA [Resource  Conservation and Recovery Act], the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the Safe Drinking Water Act have implications for the use of military munitions, to include UXO and munitions constituents on operational ranges. There is a growing recognition that the application of these environmental laws in ways unanticipated or unintended when first enacted can reduce range access, availability, capacity, and capability. Restrictions on training and testing can increase the extent to which military readiness is compromised. Furthermore, uncertain application and inconsistent enforcement of legislation and regulation limit DoD's ability to plan, program, and budget for UXO
and munitions compliance.

3.3.6. Air Quality

Readiness limitations can arise due to application of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to emissions generated on military installation and ranges. The two most common concerns are opacity rules and air conformity requirements. Opacity rules can restrict or prohibit some training and testing activities such as smoke and mounted manoeuvre training and can limit prescribed fires to manage vegetation. Opacity is a sensitive issue with the public, especially near parks and designated wilderness areas. Further, the 'general conformity' requirements of the Clean Air Act, applicable only to federal agencies, threatens the Department's ability to deploy new weapons systems and relocate existing ones, despite the fact that only minor levels of emissions are involved. Therefore, opacity and conformity standards may restrict certain training and testing operations, as well as re-stationing or deploying new weapons systems in non-attainment areas.

3.3.10. Clean Water

Water quality is an environmentally sensitive issue for all stakeholders on and near military training and testing ranges. The CWA, the legislation that regulates discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States, gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to implement pollution control programs such as setting wastewater and water quality standards. Private litigants have alleged the CWA applies to military lands where munitions constituents released
during the course of testing and training may discharge into water sources. If these litigants prevail on this theory, the act of using munitions during the course of testing and training on operational ranges could be subject to CWA permitting requirements and, depending on the regulatory controls imposed, could significantly interfere with training and testing." (pp. 32-35/pp. 36-39 PDF)"

The statement on UXO and munitions describes those laws that DOD seeks partial exemptions from - RCRA and CERCLA - in the same breath as the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). EPA has ordered the National Guard to stop training with high explosives at the Massachusetts Military Reservation, invoking SDWA, but DOD doesn't propose to change that  law. Instead, it has reportedly received White House clearance to submit once again proposed changes to RCRA and CERCLA - which have not impeded and do not interfere with readiness. The report offers no  evidence in support of this paragraph or the proposed language.

I also find it disingenuous that the Defense Department is complaining about the "uncertain application and inconsistent enforcement of legislation and regulation." Regulatory requirements are uneven because the military consistently tries to escape them, sometimes with success. It would be more reasonable to warn that cleanup up the mess on munitions ranges would cost a lot of money.

Nor is the argument on Clean Air backed with concrete information. The Defense Department wants to deploy new weapons systems - such as aircraft - and relocate existing systems without considering their impact on air quality. The issue isn't really whether such systems can be fielded, but where. I have never heard the Department explain why protecting our air shouldn't be a consideration in deciding where to locate polluting planes and other vehicles.

Perhaps the most interesting data on readiness lies in the last appendix #K), a summary of the Marine Corps' Commanding Officers Readiness Reporting System results. For each of 15 major Marine installations, commanding officers have rated both the Quality and Quantity of five types of facilities. It appears to be a fairly objective evaluation of each facility, not designed to promote legislative changes. Unfortunately the summary doesn't list the particular deficiencies or reasons for them.

With C1 "readiest" and C4 worst, the combined evaluation of Marine Corps facilities is:

   Quality   Quantity
Training Buildings  C3  C1
Simulation Facilities  C2    C1
Training Support Facilities C3  C2
Training Ranges C3 C1
Training Facilities Other  C2 C1
Than Buildings    

Clearly, factors other than encroachment are contributing to reported readiness deficiencies, since the Commanders reported degraded readiness in all categories.

Furthermore, one foreign range - Iwakuni, Japan - is included among the 15. Even though U.S. environmental laws generally do not apply there, it reported Range Quality of C3, the same level reported by five domestic installations.


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