I just returned from a workshop on Munitions Classification, the use of advanced geophysics to distinguish buried non-hazardous metallic objects from munitions or munitions-like objects. This emerging technology is proving more reliable than anticipated, and where applicable it promises to reduce the number of excavations at munitions response sites by 70% or more. Among the advantages, it could double the acreage that can be remediated with the meager appropriations currently provided for munitions response, particularly at Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS).|
I am concerned, however, that the new efficiencies will be used to cut the FUDS budget. For Fiscal Year 2013, the President's proposed budget for FUDS is 15% below previous years' requests, and because of Congressional add-ons and a transfer from the Army's active installation account even further below actual expenditures. The Pentagon's Fiscal year 2013 request for munitions response at FUDS is only $87.6 million, and of the Congressional committees that review Defense budget proposals, only the Senate Appropriations Committee has not taken action. The other three committees has endorsed the President's number.
This would be a travesty. I am concerned that the funding for FUDS munitions response will be reduced permanently just as the Defense Department and its contractors are poised to move this remarkable technology from research, development, and demonstration out into the field. Without a significant outward funding commitment it's unrealistic to expect the private sector to invest in the equipment and training necessary to take advantage of the long-awaited technological breakthroughs.
The most recent published Cost-to-Complete estimate for munitions response at FUDS is $15.2 billion. This does not take into account cost savings resulting from Classification. At the $87.6 million annual rate, completing the program would take 174 years! Let's hope that the new technologies will be used to shorten the horizon and better protect the American people.
Executive Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
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