U.S. Army Can Advance Mission Success by Greening Operations

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 3:18 PM PDT
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U.S. Army Can Advance Mission Success by Greening Operations

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SANTA MONICA, California, September 26, 2008 (ENS) - The U.S. Army has become increasingly involved with environmental issues in every operation and must be better prepared to deal with them, according to a new RAND Corporation study released this week. By better managing environmental issues during deployments, U.S. Army units can gain tactical and strategic advantages that will help in combat and post-conflict operations, and boost overall mission success, the study finds.

The report, "Green Warriors: Environmental Considerations in Army Contingency Operations," was prepared by the RAND Arroyo Center in Santa Monica, which provides analytic research on major policy concerns to leadership of the U.S. Army.

"Perhaps the most underappreciated aspect of environmental considerations is the role that they can play in achieving U.S. national objectives in counterinsurgency and stability operations," said report co-author David Mosher, a researcher at RAND.

The study finds that commanders have not usually given environmental concerns high priority during planning, despite the effect environmental conditions can have on troop health, safety and security, and the importance they have for the local population.

Environmental considerations include clean water, sewage-related infrastructure, soldier health, compliance with environmental laws, sustainability, protection of historical and cultural sites, and management of agricultural and natural resources.

Tad Davis, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for environment, safety and occupational health, told ENS in an email statement, "The Army takes its commitment to the environment very seriously."

He called the RAND report "timely" in view of actions the Army is taking "to improve how it addresses environmental issues in training, planning and conducting contingency operations in theater."

"It will prove to be an extremely useful tool for all the military services and the joint community for years to come," Davis said.

The report's findings are based on reviews of top-level policy and doctrine, analysis of operational experience, interviews with Army personnel, and a review of operational documentation and literature. From these sources, a database of 111 case studies was created.

The research showed that environmental concerns can have far-reaching and significant impacts on the Army, both direct and indirect, especially in terms of cost, current operations, soldier health, diplomatic relations, reconstruction activities, and the ultimate success of the operation or the broader mission.

The Army can have a positive influence on the environment, says report co-author Beth Lachman.

She points out that in operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans, U.S. soldiers have helped to build wells, sewage treatment plants and other water infrastructure systems, which were beneficial to both U.S. soldiers and local communities,

The authors recommend that Army leaders give more weight to strategic, operational and tactical aspects of environmental considerations during planning and operations, and develop comprehensive standards and best practices to address environmental issues during contingencies.

This is consistent with the Army's new counterinsurgency doctrine, which highlights the importance of environmental improvements, especially sewage, water and trash, to gain support of the local population.

U.S. experience in Iraq suggests that providing clean water, electricity, sewage and trash management can tip the balance between the local residents supporting the U.S. mission or the insurgency, according to the study.

Public opinion surveys suggest that Iraqis care about these issues almost as much as security.

In countries where environmental conditions and infrastructure are severely degraded, clean drinking water, effective sewage and trash systems, and viable farmland are crucial to local inhabitants. Providing these things can influence whether inhabitants support the local government and U.S. goals and objectives.

The study finds that base camps raise a host of environmental issues. Over the last 20 years, U.S. forces have remained in conflict locations much longer than expected, the report notes.

Hastily constructed base camps considered temporary have been occupied for many years and often have inadequate environmental systems and procedures, such as insufficient waste management.

Pollution from base camps can affect relations with locals, cause health problems for soldiers, and require costly cleanup efforts. The authors advise that Army leaders should anticipate longer stays and design and build base camps accordingly.

Operations that require less fuel, water and other resources, and produce less waste, will reduce the logistics burden. A well-designed, efficient base camp can reduce the resources required to sustain it and free logistics assets to support U.S. troops or reduce the number of convoys that must travel along dangerous roads, the report finds.

Environmental conditions can also extend beyond national borders because air and water pollution may travel great distances, affecting diplomatic relations with countries that could be crucial to the mission's success.

The RAND report recommends that the Army encourage an environmental ethic throughout its ranks that extends to contingency operations.

The Army should also use a sustainability model for planning for and managing environmental issues during contingency operations to reduce the logistic burdens and costs of base camps, decrease waste streams and lessen the need for cleanup.

Overall, the report's authors advise the Army to work with the Department of Defense to develop guidance that would clarify the need to anticipate and address environmental issues in contingency operations.

"Commanders and planners can take steps in the combat phase to preserve existing environmental infrastructure and resources that will be vital once combat has ended," Mosher said. "Determining what to preserve will demand that leaders and planners take a strategic view of the operation, including what the end result ought to be."

Deputy Assistant Secretary Davis said providing reliable sources of potable water, electricity and sanitation has "an important stabilizing effect" on the security of areas of conflict for joint forces and also for local populations.

"Recent Army documents, including the 2006 Counterinsurgency Field Manual (FM 3-24), the new Operations Field Manual (FM 3-0), and the new Joint Engineer Operations publication (JP 3-34), have taken steps to consider the value of these assets for stabilizing an area, and discuss incorporating environmental considerations into the planning process," Davis said.

The Army has been on a path toward sustainability for the last eight years, Davis said, pointing to the LEED Silver green buildings requirement for all new permanent buildings constructed starting in the 2008 Fiscal Year, the emphasis on the procurement of sustainable energy on installations, and the focus on hybrid technologies for non-tactical vehicles.

"In short," said Davis, "the Army is building green, buying green and going green."

{Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Victor Faggiano, left, patrols a field of trash using a metal detector to search for possible enemy caches in northern Ghazaliyah, Iraq. July 10, 2008. (Photo by Sgt. James Hunter courtesy U.S. Army)}

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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