2002 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 26 Jul 2002 21:32:08 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Community Involvement at test and training ranges
On June 28, 2002, the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General's
office published an Evaluation Report on "DoD Environmental Community
Involvement Programs at Test and Training Ranges" (Report No.
D-2002-122). This internal DoD report strongly criticizes the
Department's current practices, but it has received a generally positive
response from Pentagon leadership. The official summary states:

"To enhance test and training range sustainability, DoD Needs to improve
community involvement efforts at the ranges. Encroachment caused by
external factors is an increasing threat to the ability of test and
training ranges to carry out live fire testing and training operations.
Community involvement in the decisionmaking process at test and training
ranges can help range officials make cost-effective decisions on
encroachment issues. However, community involvement efforts at the four
DoD test and training ranges visited lacked the necessary elements for a
comprehensive program or were disjointed. As a result, test and training
ranges have an increased risk for environmental civil liability,
negative impacts on operations and military readiness, and strained
relations with local communities. To improve community involvement
programs and practices, DoD needed to publish guidance on community
involvement programs and establish an advocacy office for the community
involvement function."

The Inspector General's (IG's) office, for starters, recognizes the
importance of two-way communications. It chose to use the term
"community involvement," because it found that communities perceive
"outreach" as a one-way information flow. It picked up on a term,
"decide, announce, defend," popularized by the Federal Facilities
Environmental Restoration Dialogue Committee (FFERDC), which in the
early-to-mid 1990s brought together diverse stakeholders to improve
federal cleanup programs: 

"The Federal Government has traditional provided information to the
public in a 'decide, announce, defend' fashion. Stakeholder opinions may
be solicited, but are often requested late in the decisionmaking process
after agencies have concluded investigatory work. In addition, Federal
agencies do not always include local government decisionmakers early
enough to ensure that local officials can identify issues of concern."

The IG team visited four military site and reviewed two other programs.
It identified numerous best practices, implying that many of the steps
required to improve community involvement at ranges won't be that
difficult to implement, once they are built into Departmental policy.

The authors reviewed DoD's draft Sustainable Ranges Outreach Plan,
finding several deficiencies. It found, "The policy does not incorporate:

"* senior management commitment by holding the range command accountable
for community involvement;

"* a single point of contact at ranges to coordinate community
involvement programs;

"* resources for planning, programming, and budgeting at all levels to
support a comprehensive community involvement program;

"* accountability by establishing roles and responsibilities to hold
range personnel responsible for community involvement; and

" * training programs for range personnel who are required to conduct
two-way community involvement."

In general, the Defense organizations responsible for range operations
concurred with the IG's recommendations, but they considered "too
specific and premature" the suggestion that DoD establish "a community
involvement function to coordinate DoD community involvement issues." 

Though the IG's office takes on communications issues, it barely touches
on the underlying issues that make community involvement important to
communities and which, in the final analysis, are the core of the
encroachment debate. It faults officials at the Massachusetts Military
Reservation (MMR) for initially failing to address public concerns, but
the fundamental problem at Camp Edwards, the range portion of MMR, was
that military activities polluted air, land, and groundwater. The
military's failure to communicate only made things worse.

If the military better informs the public about its training needs and
practices, that will help the military train and test the way it
believes is necessary. But it needs to listen to nearby (or other
affected) communities, not just to make people feel good that someone is
listening, but to learn how to improve its practices to minimize the
negative impact that military activities have on both the public and the
environment. One of the best practices identified in the IG's report,
the Sound Level Management Program at the Aberdeen Test Center in
Maryland, appears to do exactly that.

The IG's office also fails to learn one of the key lessons from the
Defense cleanup program: Starting about eight years ago - in response to
the recommendations of FFERDC -  the Defense Department, in cooperation
with U.S. EPA and state regulatory agencies, established restoration
advisory boards (RABs) at virtually every major - and many minor -
cleanup sites for which the Department is responsible. Today there are
about 300 RABs in operations. RABs have their weaknesses; no one ever
expected they would resolve all differences between the military cleanup
program and its external critics. But they clearly help the public
understand what is happening with hazardous waste contamination at
active and former military installations, and they give communities the
tools to identify and sometimes to rectify shortcomings in the official
cleanup program. The Defense Department has thus been in the leadership
of public involvement in the oversight of environmental cleanup.

In many cases, community involvement programs at ranges would benefit
from the same type of institutional arrangement. When community members
and the military meet regularly to discuss contentious issues, they
learn each others' concerns as well as the technical aspects of the
problems at hand. Ongoing discussions allow the parties to go beyond
challenging each others' actions and motives and move to the stage of
COOPERATIVE PROBLEM-SOLVING. And that's what the goal of community
involvement should be.


Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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