A THAAD interceptor is launched from the Reagan Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, during Flight Test THAAD-23.
A THAAD interceptor is launched from the Reagan Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, during Flight Test THAAD-23. (Photo Credit: Missile Defense Agency) VIEW ORIGINAL

SAN ANTONIO -- The Army Modernization Strategy addresses six key priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, the network, air and missile defense and Soldier lethality.

For the Army’s modernization strategy to be successful, ideas must be turned into actions through continuous efforts to validate and demonstrate new technologies, address how new technologies will impact the environment, safety and occupational health, and meet the requirements of laws and regulations intended to safeguard the natural environment and the ecosystems in which we live.

The U.S. Army Environmental Command’s support to the strategy broadly focuses on three program areas; management of the National Defense Center for Energy and Environment, acquisition support for new technologies, and support to National Environmental Policy Act analyses.

“The Army Modernization Strategy Framework uses a deliberate, synchronized approach that addresses how we fight, what we fight with and who we are,” said Damon Cardenas, USAEC chief of Acquisition and Technology. “The USAEC enables these three approaches to provide Army Modernization with environmental expertise, program management and project management across a broad array of technical specialties necessary to deliver cost-effective, efficient environmental solutions that can be applied to the Total Army's transformation into a multi-domain force.”

A new system, which could be anything from an armored vehicle to small electronics, goes through an arduous defense acquisition process from idea to conception, followed by production, fielding and use, and ultimately demilitarization and disposal.

“The entire acquisition process is complicated, but my role could be viewed as a very thin line across the spectrum that just focuses on environmental impacts,” said Charles Serafini, USAEC Acquisition Support.

An example would be the Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle that went into service in 2002 to assist Soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“When it was being conceived, the combat developers had to create a Capability Requirements Document that outlined the basic principle of the vehicle and what they wanted it to do,” said Serafini. “It addressed things like wheels versus tracks, the type of armor, the type of engine, etc. I had to determine if any part of the system would have adverse impacts on the environment over the course of its lifetime.”

After reviewing the CRD, Serafini noted several potential environmental impacts and submitted the document to a USAEC NEPA expert to review and use as part of the analyses for the Environmental Impact Statement.

NEPA requires identification and assessment of a reasonable range of alternatives as well as a no action alternative for each environmental assessment. The decision-maker is provided with information on each alternative and on its potential impacts on environmental resources and identifies potential mitigation measures to reduce impacts if needed.

In the case of the Stryker ICV, the engineering team determined that an eight-wheeled vehicle would have significantly less environmental impact than a tracked system, both in combat and on training grounds. Additionally, a variety of metals were proposed for the armor. Engineers ultimately decided to go with a solution more environmentally friendly throughout the lifecycle of the system. Next generation combat vehicles are being conceptualized now and will go through the same process as the Stryker ICV; however, that process must be accomplished in a shorter time frame to ensure the Army is able to maintain dominance in multi-domain operations.

USAEC has implemented several practices that streamline the process including placing USAEC NEPA staff in direct contact with program managers in the acquisition community, installation staff, and Army capability managers who develop the training requirements. This change enables the USAEC NEPA team to more accurately describe the potential installation environment where the systems may be used and how the system(s) may affect those installations.

“We are concentrating our efforts on streamlining Army Modernization processes, pushing key systems through some choke points such as demonstrating and validating concepts, efficiently and effectively informing Army planners and decision-makers how to integrate environmental considerations into the decision-making process and providing environmental expertise to help ensure acquisition compliance with environment, safety and occupational health requirements,” said Cardenas.

Another important step in the process is public input. By presenting the proposed system and its capabilities, the public can see firsthand how it may impact the training ground in their community and its potential effects on their lives. Minimally, the public has 30 days to review and provide comments to the assessment, and provided no significant environment impacts are detected, then a signed Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) results.

USAEC’s support streamlines the Army’s modernization efforts by overcoming bureaucratic inertia and stove-piping that can affect the acquisition process. It will allow the Army to generate prototype concepts on a continuous basis with carefully considered and planned systems that address the environmental impacts prior to or early on in the process and potentially speed up production.

The speed of this process is particularly critical when it comes to training and equipping Soldiers to fight and win the nation’s wars. Prioritizing Soldier lethality ensures they have a decisive advantage over prospective adversaries and their units can survive and operate in any environment.

“The single most important aspect of my work is to facilitate and enable mission readiness,” said Jenny Lechuga, USAEC biologist. “Our work at USAEC is designed to support the installations receiving these new technologies by helping them meet regulatory requirements prior to implementing the action. Not doing so could present significant time delays that impact mission readiness.”

Some examples include the MQ9 Reaper Drone, the Laser Avenger and the IM-SHORAD, which stands for Initial Maneuver Short Range Air Defense. These weapons give U.S. troops the advantage on any battlefield in the world. Some of these weapons have been around for several years but were recently modified, and some are still in production.

The IM-SHORAD action alternative includes analysis of impacts at six possible locations, although currently only three locations are under consideration for initial fielding. The analysis can be applied, if required, to additional fielding; however, information supplementation would be likely. Despite this, the IM-SHORAD Programmatic EA would still shorten and facilitate future NEPA compliance needs if the system is fielded at additional locations.

One of the biggest challenges that USAEC staff face is balancing and safeguarding operational security protocols with providing sufficient descriptions of the system’s capabilities. Providing too much detail could expose critical information that adversaries might use to discern vulnerabilities of U.S. Soldiers or the tactics, techniques and procedures they plan to use during a conflict.

“There is a fine line between the information needed to describe an action the Army is analyzing the environmental impacts of while avoiding disclosure of critical information,” said Roger Paugh, USAEC physical scientist. “Close coordination is required with program managers in the acquisition community, Army capability managers who develop the training requirements, and installation staff to identify the critical information and ensure it is not in the publicly available NEPA documents.”

The Army recently showed its commitment to the six priorities identified for Army modernization by realigning $33 million over the next five years to ensure adequate funding for the NDCEE program. The NDCEE was established to help DOD installations, ranges, weapon systems, and the warfighter achieve performance advantages, enhance efficiency and cost effectiveness, and comply with regulations.

“All of the projects that NDCEE funds help to support environmental, energy, safety and occupational health challenges currently facing the DOD,” said Jennifer Rawlings, USAEC NDCEE program manager. “These projects not only provide energy cost savings, but they also prevent pollution from entering the environment or create alternatives that improve safety.”

One example of a demonstration/validation project funded by NDCEE is the Honey Badger 50 (HB50) Wearable Fuel Cell. This lightweight, Soldier-borne power system is designed to meet the increased energy demand from Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team initiatives.

The system frees up dismounted squads and platoons from the need to either carry additional batteries or rely on battery resupply to meet their power and energy demands in the field.

Soldiers on extended missions equipped with the HB50 experience a significant reduction in load because they need to carry only additional fuel for their mission energy needs.

“The HB50 system incorporates key innovations that sets it apart from other fuel cell systems’” said Rawlings. “For instance, the HB50 has been demonstrated to operate on liquid fuel already available in unit inventories avoiding the need to add a new fuel into the DOD inventory, simplifying logistics and minimizing the impact on the environment.”

USAEC’s synchronized support to Army Modernization across multiple lines of effort helps ensure the Army has well-trained Soldiers, organized into effective warfighting formations with modern weapon systems and sufficient capacity to win in any conflict, on any battlefield, anywhere in the world.