Geophysical Classification for Munitions Response
Regulatory Fact Sheet - ITRC - October 2014
This fact sheet was developed by the Interstate Technology & Regulatory Council (ITRC) Geophysical
Classification for Munitions Response (GCMR) Team. It is the last of three fact sheets designed to provide basic
information about geophysical classification for munitions response. For more information about this ITRC team, please
For decades, the Department of Defense (DOD) has produced and used military munitions for live-fire testing and
training to prepare the U.S. military for combat operations. As a result, unexploded ordnance (UXO) and discarded
military munitions (DMM) may be present on former ranges and former munitions operating facilities (such as
production and disposal areas). Over 4,900 sites in the United States require a munitions response, with an estimated
cost to complete of $13 billion and completion date of 2100.
To identify munitions for removal at these sites, DOD and its contractors have historically used various types of
detection instruments to simply detect buried metal items. Consequently, on munitions response sites, most detected
items must be uncovered and examined to determine whether they are military munitions. Typically, highly-trained,
UXO-qualified personnel excavate hundreds of metal items for each munition recovered. Given the costs associated
with this inefficiency, only limited acreage can be addressed with existing resources and budgets.
Geophysical Classification Process Overview
DOD’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) and its research partners in academia and
industry have developed and demonstrated a new approach, using a process called geophysical classification, to
improve the efficiency of munitions response. As before, geophysicists use electromagnetic induction (EMI) sensors
during an initial survey to detect metal items beneath the ground surface. Then, advanced EMI sensors specifically
designed to support geophysical classification are used to collect additional data, which geophysical analysts can use to
estimate the depth, size, wall thickness, and shape of each buried item. Geophysical classification is the process of
using these data to make a principled decision as to whether a buried metal item is a potentially hazardous munition,
called a target of interest (TOI), or metal clutter, debris, or geology (non-TOI) that can be left in the ground. Use of the
geophysical classification process can focus a munitions response on excavating only those geophysical anomalies
identified as potential munitions. The use of this process, in combination with quality assurance (QA) investigations of
other anomalies, results in a more efficient, more rigorous, better understood, and better documented munitions
This fact sheet provides regulators responsible for munitions response sites with a source of information about
geophysical classification that clearly explains what geophysical classification is, its benefits and limitations, and, most
importantly, the information and data that regulators need to monitor and evaluate its use. This fact sheet also
emphasizes using a systematic planning process to develop upfront data acquisition and decision strategies.
Systematic approaches include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA’s) Data Quality Objectives (DQO)
process and the Uniform Federal Policy for Quality Assurance Project Plans (UFP-QAPP).