Environmental Protection:

Status of Defense Initiatives for Cleanup, Technology, and Compliance

NSIAD-97-126: Published: May 29, 1997. Publicly Released: Jun 30, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed selected aspects of the Department of Defense's (DOD) environmental mission, focusing on: (1) the time lag between obligations and expenditures for environmental cleanup and its impact on achieving actual cleanup; (2) the basis for funding overseas cleanup; (3) DOD's proposal to enter into multistate cooperative agreements for technology certification; and (4) DOD's need for and efforts toward uniform tracking and management of programs involving compliance with environmental laws and regulations.

GAO noted that: (1) of the $1.413 billion made available for environmental cleanup through the fiscal year (FY) 1996 Defense Environmental Restoration Account, DOD reported that it obligated $1.409 billion by the end of that fiscal year, and expended $385 million; (2) as a result, reported expenditures for actual cleanup have not proceeded as rapidly as the obligations shown in DOD's annual cleanup report to Congress; (3) the primary reasons cited by the defense components for cleaning up overseas sites have been responses to concerns about U.S. personnel health and safety, and compliance with host nation laws or agreements and U.S. standards; (4) Defense components reported that $102 million had been obligated for overseas cleanup during fiscal years 1993-96; (5) DOD told GAO that it plans to enter into cooperative agreements with states and local governments regarding the certification of environmental technologies; (6) DOD identified candidate technologies for such agreements and expects to sign the first agreement by the end of FY 1997; (7) DOD officials have not estimated the costs for expected cooperative agreements in fiscal years 1997 or 1998 because they do not view the use of these agreements as a separate program and they expect cost savings to offset expenditures; (8) DOD compliance project and cost data, as reported in the 1996 Environmental Quality Annual Report to Congress, are not complete or accurate; (9) the DOD-wide funding totals for environmental compliance did not account for all funds or major projects; (10) the report omitted about $250 million in funding and failed to include some major Navy projects; (11) also, compliance activities with widely varying characteristics are now being combined in DOD's classification categories; (12) projects with compliance milestones in the year 2000 and beyond are now included with installations already out of compliance; (13) thus, DOD, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Congress lack the data for environmental compliance they need to conduct oversight functions; and (14) because DOD has indicated a reluctance to take the necessary actions to correct the problems noted in the report, GAO is suggesting that Congress may wish to consider requiring DOD to ensure that the problems are addressed.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matter for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider requiring DOD to issue guidance for environmental compliance funding. As stated in GAO recommendations, the guidance should address: (1) the milestones and time frames needed for obtaining environmental compliance funding estimates, obligations, and expenditures, including project-level data; and (2) changes to DOD's compliance class definitions that are more consistent with governmentwide reporting to EPA.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Senate Armed Services Committee report on the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998 (Report 105-29, June 17, 1997) directed DOD to clarify the Class I and II definitions and to eliminate the overlap. The House National Security Committee report on the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998 (Report 105-32, June 16, 1997) directed DOD to develop standardized data on such things as contracts, projects and installations to permit the tracking of compliance funding from budget request to expenditure.

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force to establish milestones and time frames for providing environmental compliance funding estimates, obligations, and expenditures, including data at the project level.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD officials have identified appropriation type and environmental area (e.g., compliance or pollution prevention) in the fiscal year 1996 annual environmental quality report to Congress. DOD has stated that its regulation 7000.14R (the financial management regulation) requires more thorough documentation of environmental compliance budget data than ever before, including prior-year execution data at the summary level. Milestones for that data are provided in annual comptroller guidance to the components. In addition, the Environmental Security staff is working with the components to improve the timeliness of the annual environmental quality report to Congress, which supplements the President's budget submission.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Environmental Security to reconsider changes in compliance class definitions so that the data permit better oversight and are more consistent with governmentwide reporting to EPA.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD made minor modifications to its compliance class definitions, but the definitions are still too broad to make meaningful funding decisions, and there is still potential for overlap when defining the different project types. For example, under EPA's definition a class I project is out of compliance. Under DOD's definition, a project could be classified as class I even if it is not out of compliance for 2 or more years.

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