The song "American Pie" by Don Mclean was on every radio, Mark Spitz won seven gold medals, and President Richard Nixon won reelection. The first scientific hand-held calculator was introduced (price $395, and Atari kicked off the video-game age with the release of PONG.
It was 1972, and in November, the Army established the Program Manager for Demilitarization of Chemical Materiel. PMDCM was initially established to manage the safe demilitarization of chemical weapons. Since then, PMDCM has evolved into the U.S. Army Environmental Command. As the command celebrates its 40th anniversary, it provides the environmental expertise the Army needs to ensure the sustainability of its installations and the continued ability to train its Soldiers.
Now headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, under the leadership of its 18th commander, Col. Mark A. Lee, USAEC serves as home to the Army's experts in environmental restoration and compliance, natural and cultural resources, pest management, threatened and endangered species, environmental management, geographic imaging systems and other disciplines, as well as new technology designed to address or prevent environmental issues.
"By 1975, USAEC was realigned under the U.S. Army Material Command and had responsibility for the Army's new installation restoration program," said Lee.
When the PMDCM's environmental responsibilities expanded in the late 1970s, it was renamed the U.S. Army Toxic and Hazardous Materials Agency and new duties, including research, testing and pollution-control technology were added. The organization took on the environmental compliance mission, in 1988.
"Today, our expanded missions include environmental compliance and working with installations to promote good environmental stewardship that ensure mission readiness while protecting and preserving the environment." Lee said. "All this is based on applying lessons we've learned from the past, while looking toward the future."
Whether garrison or installation commanders and staff are looking for the latest information on the impacts of endangered or threatened species, cultural resources, or the Sikes Act on their installation, USAEC is the place to call. The command also is there to answer questions regarding environmental concerns related to new weapons system or encroachment, and the steps to mitigate those concerns.
In 1993, to further centralize environmental program management, the Army made the renamed U.S. Army Environmental Center an Army Field Operating Agency, reporting directly to the newly established Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management.
In 2006, USAEC transitioned from a "Center" to a "Command," and was designated a Major Subordinate Command of the newly created Installation Management Command in 2010.
USAEC moved from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., to Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, between 2009 and 2011 as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure mandate. Now, firmly established in its new location, the command continues to be the Army's center of gravity for advice regarding environmental programs and initiatives. USAEC's efforts also enable Army training, operations and acquisition, while supporting efforts to build and maintain sustainable military communities.
According to Lee, at USAEC, the A-E-C stands for how the command serves the Army.
"We Acknowledge the Past by remediating Army lands to usable condition, and preserving and protecting cultural and historical resources; Engage the Present by meeting environmental standards, enabling Army operations, and protecting Soldiers, Civilians and Families, and Chart the Future by implementing best environmental practices, institutionalizing the use of technology and ensuring future environmental resiliency," Lee said.
USAEC's three technical sections - the Cleanup and Munitions Response Division, the Environmental Quality Programs Division and Environmental Technology and Technical Services Division - provide command-level subject matter expertise on environmental issues Army-wide. They assist anyone from staff level to garrison commanders with efforts to enhance installation readiness.
CLEANUP AND MUNITIONS RESPONSE DIVISION
"Our organization began managing the newly established installation restoration program in 1975, and addressed the worst contamination in the 80s and 90s," said Jim Daniel, chief of CMRD. "USAEC's program management scope entails both the Active Sites Cleanup Program and technical and program support to BRAC cleanup."
According to Daniel, the Army spent $8.3 billion on active installations from 1980 through 2010.
"We currently spend $300 to $350 million per year," Daniel said, "excluding BRAC, and expect to spend another $3.5 billion between now and the end of the program."
Since its inception, the cleanup program has completed responses at 10,902 of 12,272 identified sites, with the first priority always being the mitigation of all known risks to human health.
"We are now addressing the remaining areas of contamination and our munition response sites," Daniel said. "The goal is to be at 95-percent response complete by the end of fiscal year 2021. We are on track to beat that goal."
The Cleanup Program achievements have gone hand in hand with implementation of cost-saving initiatives such as performance-based contracts. The savings realized have allowed the Army to accelerate cleanup and, according to Daniel, is saving taxpayers $100 million per year.
ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY PROGRAMS DIVISION
"USAEC assists garrison commanders and installation managers in identifying, understanding and mitigating their environmental vulnerabilities so they can avoid operational and training impacts, as well as costly penalties for noncompliance with environmental laws," said Janet Kim, EQPD chief.
"For example, when national attention turned to Arlington National Cemetery, we deployed a team of environmental experts to evaluate ANC's environmental management practices, providing recommendations for improvements to help remove the risk of environmental noncompliance," Kim said.
According to Kim, EQPD also has National Environmental Policy Act experts who get involved before decisions are made to help Army leaders assess the potential environmental impacts related to each course of action. This avoids costly delays that result in discovery of environmental issues after the projects are underway.
"EQPD also manages the U.S. Army Environmental Performance Assessment System," Kim said. "EPAS is the toughest inspection regime in the Army today and USAEC teams annually conduct between 25-35 external assessments worldwide."
"We look at every installation on a three-year cycle," Kim said. "This ensures the installations remain vigilant and compliant."
ENVIRONMENTAL TECHNOLOGY AND TECHNICAL SERVICES DIVISION
ETTSD provides in-depth technical expertise in a host of environmental areas including hazardous waste, clean air, clean water, natural and cultural resources, geographic information systems, technology, munitions, as well as many other specialties.
"USAEC provides cultural resources project-support for a broad span of issues being faced by Army installations as priorities change, and hard decisions are required regarding their historic properties," said Mike Dette, chief of ETTSD's Technology Services Branch.
"Recently we also helped one of our garrisons develop an Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan for an endangered plant on the installation, saving the Army $60,000," Dette said. "The garrison didn't have the environmental staff or funding to meet U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requirements, but our actions provided the ability to meet its mission requirements, while achieving Fish and Wildlife Service approval."
ETTSD also help develop a template for a Bird/Wildlife Strike Hazard Program for use at more than 45 Army airfields and heliports.
"It is designed to control birds and wildlife and provide increased levels of safety during the critical phases of aircraft flight," said Dette.
These are just a few examples of how ETTSD's experts are helping the Army deal with past, present and future issues, says Dette.
"Our mission is to identify, develop and share best practices that will sustain our training lands and promote installation resiliency," Dette said. "We are looking toward the future and how to help installations identify and select the most efficient and effective technologies to meet their environmental requirements, achieve the Net Zero goals, and sustain their training missions going forward."
According to Lee, the achievements and future plans of all three of USAEC's divisions reflect the Army's commitment to environmental excellence.
"As we enter our fifth decade of service to the Army, USAEC remains steadfast to its mission," Lee said. "We continue to serve as the environmental experts providing loyal support to our Soldiers and Families by finding environmental solutions that enable mission readiness on resilient installations Army-wide.
"In addition to enhancing training land and reducing environmental constraints, we are seeing great cost savings and are helping protect our nation's natural resources." Lee said.
"Regardless of its name or the organization to which it reports, USAEC's scientists and engineers are here to address the Army's environmental needs by acknowledging the past, engaging the present and charting the future."
To contact USAEC, email USARMY.JBSA.AEC.MBX@mail.mil, call (210) 466-1590 or go on the web site at http://aec.army.mil/usaec