SAN ANTONIO -- The Army Modernization Strategy relies on devoted U.S. Army Environmental Command employees to ensure the Army is able to maintain dominance in multi-domain operations while meeting the requirements of laws and regulations intended to safeguard the natural environment and the ecosystems in which we live.
A critical aspect of that process is a cradle to grave analysis of environmental impacts from new technologies.
A new technology, 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 National Environmental Policy Act expert to review and use as part of the analyses for an 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 more quickly to ensure the Army is able to maintain dominance in multi-domain operations.
“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 Damon Cardenas, USAEC chief of Acquisition and Technology.