The US Army: Who Knew that it Actually Tried to be Sustainable and Protect the Environment?
What sort of efforts does the US Army undertake to protect and manage its impacts on the environment? Perhaps surprisingly to some, the legislative muscle behind existing Army programs (and the push to expand those programs) to protect the environment is actually quite robust.
To begin with, the Army Strategy for the Environment, was developed to serve as a policy guidance document leading the Army to “establish a long-range vision that enables the Army to meet its mission today and into the future.” Their motto? “Sustain the Mission – Secure the Future.” Some may find it trite, but without a vision and goals, it’s hard to get anywhere.
There is also the Army Environmental Policy Institute, which “assists the Army Secretariat in developing policies and strategies to improve or resolve environmental policy issues that may have significant short or long-term impacts on the Army.” It works towards the Army’s triple bottom line of Mission, Environment, and Community.
- Increasing alternative fuel consumption at least 10% annually.
- Reducing energy intensity by 3 % annually through 2015 or by 30% by 2015.
- At least 50% of current renewable energy purchases must come from new renewable sources.
- Construction or renovation of buildings in accordance with sustainability strategies, including resource conservation, reduction, and use; siting; and indoor environmental quality.
- Reducing water consumption intensity by 2% annually through 2015.
- Annually, 95% of electronic products purchased must meet Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool standards where applicable;
- enable Energy Star® features on 100% of computers and monitors;
- reuse, donate, sell, or recycle 100% of electronic products using environmentally sound management practices.
- Implement EMS at all appropriate organizational levels to ensure use of EMS as the primary management approach for addressing environmental aspects of internal agency operations and activities.
If the United States Department of Defense were a country, it would be ranked as the world’s 38th largest consumer of oil. The M1 Abrams battle tank puts SUVs to shame with its 0.56 mpg fuel efficiency. In 2007, the US military spent $12.61 billion US on fuel alone.
Reducing fuel consumption is a similar mission to the Army’s efforts to reduce water consumption, and its benefits in the battlefield as well as the Army’s pocketbook. Any fuel demand that is reduced increases the effectiveness of battlefield units, as well as reducing resupply demands (which can have a significant impact on preventing IED attacks on supply convoys).
Don’t take my word for it though. In August 2006, no less a personage than Marine Corps Major General Richard Zilmer said in remarks about fuel efficiency and renewable energy systems that
Reducing the military’s dependence on fuel for power generation could reduce the number of road-bound convoys. Without this solution, personnel loss rates are likely to continue at their current rate. Continued casualty accumulation exhibits potential to jeopardize mission success…
The Energy Policy Act of 2005, demanded of all federal departments (including the Army) to undertake a host of energy efficiency and energy reduction activities that would affect the military, including electric metering (a simple, yet effective method to monitor facility energy use) and energy reduction goals.
Executive Order 13123: Greening the Government through Efficient Energy Management, requires government departments to achieve significant greenhouse gas reductions through energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy purchases. Additionally, strengthening previously mentioned Executive Order 123423, agencies are encouraged to select Energy-Star products where “life-cycle cost effective.”
The US Army Energy and Water Campaign for Installations encourages the Army to pursue the following 5 goals:
- Eliminate energy waste in existing facilities
- Increase energy efficiency in new construction and renovations
- Reduce dependence on fossil fuels
- Conserve water resources
- Improve energy security
The Army also seems to be making a push for LEED certification, as about 78% of new construction in 2007 was designed to LEED standard.
The Clean Air Act, which banned Class 1 ozone depleting substances that include military-use fire suppression and refrigerants, is a key piece of legislation affecting the armed forces in general, including the Army. The Army has publicly come out in support of efforts to respect and promote the Clean Air Act, and since 1992 has eliminated 99% of its use of Class 1 solvents, 98% of CFC refrigerant use, 92% of halon fire suppressant use on installations, and 80% of halon use in legacy weapon systems. Other services have achieved, or are attempting to achieve similar results. However, the DoD has built a strategic reserve, which is being used to supplement existing systems in cases where it is not feasible to retrofit or redesign systems with non-ozone depleting substances.
Discussed above, the Army Energy and Water Campaign for Installations is part of the Army’s strategy of reducing its dependence on water. Especially in battlefield conditions (for example, Iraq or Afghanistan), any reduction in base and facility use of water is going to have an impact on the Army’s ability to function effectively.
Beyond helping the Army do its job better, reducing water consumption will also save money:
There is considerable cost-effective and untapped potential for saving potable water through minimizing water conservation practices, water needs to be as highly valued as energy at Army installations wasteful practices, water conservation and re-use at Army installations.
The Army and the Environment
No one has ever claimed that waging war and preparing for war are good for the environment. They’re not. But, if reducing the Army’s energy, water, and fuel demands means that soldiers are more effective on the battlefield, and reducing facility impacts on the environment can have significant cost benefits, then protecting the environment seems like a good idea.
Image: 081020-A-3715G-278 via Flickr’s Media Commons