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For Immediate Release: Apr 14, 2005
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

PENTAGON PARES BACK ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES

New Policy Drops Cleanup and Resource Conservation Duties


Washington, DC — In a significant policy shift, the Pentagon has sharply reduced its environmental duties, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). A new directive signed by outgoing Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz on March 19, 2005 confines Pentagon anti-pollution work only to activities that directly “sustain the national defense mission.”

This new “Department of Defense Directive” cancels a Clinton-era directive on “Environmental Security.” The new Directive trims a listing of Pentagon policy elements by eliminating provisions for —

  • “Reducing risk to human health and the environment by identifying, evaluating, and where necessary, remediating contamination resulting from past DoD activities”;
  • “Protecting, preserving, and, when required, restoring, and enhancing the quality of the environment”; and
  • “Conserving, and restoring where necessary, the natural and cultural heritage represented on DoD installations within the United States.”

In an apparent concession to criticisms leveled when PEER posted a draft of the new policy in December, the final version was changed to add as policy “to protect DoD personnel from accidental death, injury or occupational illness” and “to protect the public from risk of death, injury, illness, or property damage because of DoD activities.”

“These changes show that protecting the public and even their own personnel from environmental threats is an afterthought,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “One additional change to the final policy is opening ‘dialogue’ on environmental issues, which is ironic coming in a document that was developed in secret in the utter absence of dialogue.”

The new policy also significantly cuts Pentagon compliance with anti-pollution rules by dropping requirements that it obey “regulations, Executive orders, binding international agreements” and other federal “environmental, safety, occupational health, explosives safety, fire and emergency services, and pest management policies.” In its place, the Pentagon would pledge to only abide by “applicable law and DoD policy.”

In stripping away promises to improve or protect the environment, the new Directive instead says that the Pentagon “will evaluate all activities…and make prudent investments in initiatives that support mission accomplishment, enhance readiness, reduce future funding needs, prevent pollution, ensure cost effective compliance, and maximize the existing resource capability.”

“Despite having the worst pollution record on the planet, the Pentagon promises to self-regulate its environmental performance,” added Ruch, pointing to the Pentagon’s continuing efforts to exempt itself from an array of environmental laws. “This new policy says that Pentagon agencies will do only the minimum pollution prevention and clean-up as required by its logistical and facility management needs.”

Department of Defense directives define the agency’s mission and responsibilities. By its terms, this Directive covers all “DoD operations, activities, and installations worldwide, including Government-owned/contractor-operated facilities.”

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Read the new Pentagon “Directive on Environment, Safety and Occupational Health”

See the former Clinton-era DoD Directive

Look at the draft of the new policy posted by PEER in December 2004

Review the Pentagon’s Five-Year Plan to Exempt Itself from Environmental Laws