Defense Infrastructure: DOD Efforts Regarding Net Zero Goals

GAO-16-153R Published: Jan 12, 2016. Publicly Released: Jan 12, 2016.
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What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) has not established an integrated net zero strategy or policy for achieving net zero. Achieving net zero within DOD generally means producing as much energy from renewable energy sources as is consumed by an installation, limiting the consumption of water in order to not deplete the local watershed, and reducing, reusing, and recovering waste streams to add zero waste to landfills. DOD officials stated that DOD has not established an integrated strategy because until recently there had been no statutory goals regarding net zero. As of September 2015, DOD officials stated that DOD is working on implementation guidance to address the net zero goals included in Executive Order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, issued March 19, 2015, and it expects to issue the guidance in January 2016. According to DOD officials, none of the military departments have established net zero as a funded program. The military departments have established broad net zero goals and the Army has a net zero program which it referred to as the Net Zero Initiative. Army officials described the Army’s net zero efforts, in part, as an awareness campaign intended to generate interest in conservation and sustainability at the installation level.

In addition, DOD has not fully identified the potential costs of implementing net zero initiatives. The only funding GAO identified that DOD has spent on net zero initiatives involved studies to establish baselines and assess the feasibility and costs of net zero at various DOD installations. Service officials told GAO they believe that fully achieving net zero is unrealistic and ultimately cost prohibitive. However, service officials also stated that net zero can help generate interest in conservation and sustainability, and successful sustainability and conservation projects help support net zero goals.

Why GAO Did This Study

House Report 114-102 accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 included a provision for GAO to review DOD’s progress and savings from net zero installation initiatives.

This report describes the extent to which DOD:

 1. developed policies and goals for an integrated net zero strategy for energy, water, and waste management at its military installations; and

 2. has identified the potential costs and benefits of implementing net zero initiatives.

GAO reviewed relevant federal mandates, statutes, and DOD and service-specific policies and reports to determine DOD’s net zero strategy and goals for energy, water, and waste management.  GAO also interviewed or requested information from relevant officials within DOD and the services about funding, monitoring, potential costs and benefits, and lessons learned. GAO visited Fort Carson, CO because it is one of two installations the Army identified as a pilot for energy, water, and waste managementand contacted a nongeneralizable sample of 10 Army installations, selected based on their progress toward meeting energy, water, and solid waste diversion goals in fiscal year 2014 to obtain information regarding policies, goals, potential costs, and benefits of implementing net zero initiatives.

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