SAN ANTONIO – The U.S. Army Environmental Command has implemented several practices that streamline the National Environmental Policy Act process including placing staff in direct contact with program managers in the acquisition community, installation staff, and Army capability managers who develop the training requirements for new weapons systems.
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 impact 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 Damon Cardenas, USAEC chief of Acquisition and Technology.
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.”
USAEC’s synchronized support to Army Modernization across multiple lines of effort helps ensure the Army has well-trained Soldiers with modern weapon systems and sufficient capacity to win in any conflict, on any battlefield, anywhere in the world.