Although there are times when the U.S. Army must operate with reduced personnel resources and budget constraints, the mission can't and won't suffer. For installation environmental staffs, accomplishing the mission under these conditions calls for ingenuity and a unified approach to mission accomplishment.

Partnering with agencies and organizations that can assist with mission accomplishment is a proven strategy for success, as illustrated by the decision of many throughout the environmental enterprise to take advantage of the program known as ORISE, the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education.

ORISE is an asset of the U.S. Department of Energy, managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities, a nonprofit corporation composed more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting academic institutions. ORISE was established in 1992 by the DOE and since then has been dedicated to enabling critical scientific, research and health initiatives by providing world-class expertise in science, technology, engineering and math workforce development; scientific and technical reviews; and the evaluation of radiation exposure and environmental contamination.

For example, when an installation has short-term scientific or technical requirements and doesn't have sufficient resources, the ORISE program can help the installation gain temporary assets to complete those requirements.

ORISE participants are acquired through interagency agreements, which identify an installation's environmental program as an ORISE program sponsor and opens the door to scientific and technical assistance. While the focus of the ORISE program is on the education and training of the participants, who are not government employees, the participants nevertheless often work hand-in-hand with the installation team, so it's a win-win scenario.

ORISE participants gain knowledge, experience and education related to their fields of study, while the sponsoring unit, in addition to assistance with scientific and technical requirements, shares the organization's knowledge and function with the broader academic community, and supports the nation's overall commitment to environmental science education.

One Army garrison that has taken advantage of this program is West Point Military Academy, which has been a partner in the ORISE program since 1996. The West Point directorate of public works team has mentored 23 participants, who over the years have completed projects in environmental compliance, natural resources, energy management and conservation, urban planning, public education on environmental topics, and emergency planning.

For West Point, the ORISE program has been an invaluable asset, one that provided an opportunity to build mentor/mentee relationships, identify and develop skills, and promote opportunities for networking. To date, 12 of those ORISE participants went on to become Department of the Army civilian employees, working in various areas throughout the West Point DPW footprint.


Haywood J. Perkins III is environmental data systems program manager in the G4 Environmental Division of Installation Management Command.