Research Paper: U.S. Military and Environmental Law

Pages: 23 (6165 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Transportation - Environmental Issues  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] 3). Actually, "pollution from aircraft is currently less than 3% of the total environmental pollution" ("online guide," 2006). The Pentagon has been accused of creating five times more toxins that produced by the five major chemical companies in the U.S. ("sustainable development," 2002, p.3). The U.S. Military has been described s the largest single source of environmental pollution in the United States. In the decade following the publication of these statements, climate change has become a prominent issue with the potential to impact military operations. The armed forces have all released energy and environmental statements, established Websites, and participated in summits focused on the environment. Yet, as recently as 2008, as the Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative FY 2008 Defense Authorization proposal was released, the stance of the DOD was clearly one of protecting and extending existing exemptions to environmental laws.

The types of waste produced by military are various, as are the methods of disposal. A great many of the military installations closed by DOD and transferred out of their jurisdiction are part of the Superfund cleanup efforts. Not all Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) installations are subject to Superfund cleanup. There are currently 34 BRAC installations listed on the Superfund National Priority List (NPL) where extensive site cleanup is occurring. "Many areas of contamination at these installations are the result of decades of Department of Defense (DoD) use and operation. Principle types of contaminants includes: heavy metals, solvents, volatile organic compounds, and military munitions" ("FAQ about BRAC," 2006).

The immediate and long-term environmental effects of a military base in the surrounding area are dependent on the presence and degree of contamination. When a military BRAC property is closed and transferred by a DOD service, any remaining solid waste or groundwater contaminant fall under the EPA's Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). According to the CERCLA, solid waste left on military property after is has been designated as not operational, and assuming the use of the property has been duly restricted, a review must be conducted. Every five years, the cleanup review will be carried out to determine if the cleanup remedy has been adequate to protect the environment and human health ("FAQ about BRAC," 2006).

Once a BRAC installation has been cleaned up, the property may remain restricted with regard to future use. The ultimate goal of the cleanup of an installation includes the possibility of reasonable future reuse and development of the BRAC property. However, there may be restrictions regarding specific activities or kinds of purpose-built structures due to the potential for remaining contamination. The term for these restrictions of property use is institutional. The environmental indicators for BRAC properties listed on the NPL are human exposures or ground water migration pathways ("FAQ about BRAC," 2006).

The issue of future reuse or development hinges on these environmental indicators being under control and not posing a hazard to surrounding areas outside the BRAC designations. When a BRAC installation has been added to the NPL, it is an indicator that all immediate hazards and threats to human health and ground water migration pathways have been addressed. In fact, the environmental indicator that refers to human exposure includes both actual, current pathways for human exposure and potential, future pathways for human exposure. This same standard holds true for ground water migration pathway measures. Until every potential exposure pathway has been addressed, a BRAC property will carry the designation "not under control." This means that the "not under control" designation does not necessarily indicate that an actual, current exposure is exists on the BRAC facility. Rather, it means that there may still be potential exposure pathways that have not yet been addressed or are in the process of being addressed, but the process is not yet complete. An example of this situation would be "a ground water treatment or containment system is being installed, but it is not yet operational" ("FAQ about BRAC," 2006).

Why War is a Special Case

References made to the Persian Gulf War of 1991, use the term environmental warfare as though something new was being declared, but environmental warfare is not new (Dutch, 2010). There is a certain mutuality about war and environment that is often pushed to the background. However, the environment in which war is carried out strongly influences -- and often dictates -- how impactful military activity will be within that environment. Dutch (2010) suggests reference to "mountain warfare, jungle warfare, winter warfare," all of which identify the unit of analysis. The discussion that follows will utilize the conceptual framework developed by Dutch (2010) to describe both the intent and the impact of military action. The categories outlining the discussion below are Duke's.

Collateral damage. There is no direct intention to affect the environment in collateral damage. The environment is impacted indirectly, but the effects can be widespread and enduring. Collateral damage includes emissions and physical damage through vehicle usage, cratering (bombturbation) of the ground, vandalism, injury to animals, plants, and ecosystems, chemical contamination and nuclear accidents (Dutch, 2010). The war in Iraq and Afghanistan contemporizes this collateral damage section by adding the issue of burning pits that are common down range. The burning pits certainly contribute to air, surface, and ground water migration pathway pollution, and their use poses a direct hazard to warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan (Kurera, 2010).

Collateral protection. The environment is sometimes protected by the military. Most commonly, this occurs on military installations that include large tracts of land to be used in realistic training exercises, and land designated as operational by the military, for which the encroachment of human and development is not desirable. Camp Pendleton, for instance, is unique in its status as a large protected area of open land in the otherwise densely settled areas of California. Other examples include the World War II Siegfried Line and former East European frontiers where tracts of land have been preserved undisturbed for decade after decade.

Recently, the Army has pursued the establishment and development of Army Compatible Use Buffers, which effectively create the equivalent of green belts around military bases for improved training effectiveness, less interaction between military and civilian communications systems, and less impact on civilian neighborhoods and wildlife (USAEC, 2011).

Operational modifications. Nearly all military construction can be included in this category, from foxholes to strategic highways to dams. Most environmental modifications that are made to facilitate military operations are small in scale. Quickly changing conditions and resource constraints generally impede large efforts. The Maginot Line is one notable exception as it extended from Switzerland to Luxembourg. Canal cutting was common in the U.S. Civil War. Road building is somewhat more common with two notable extensive projects occurring during World War II. The Burma Road connected China -- where the Japanese were occupying the coast -- and Burma across the rugged mountains, permitting supplies to reach China without flying the dangerous route over the Himalayas. In Vietnam, defoliation operations using Agent Orange were used to eliminate the foliage that provided cover to the Vietnamese Communist forces.

Modifications to impede the enemy. As Duke points out in his taxonomy, it is easier to destroy or disturb environmental features during time of war, so changes to the environment designed to impede enemy forces are common. These modifications include trenches and fortifications, destruction of food supplies and growing fields, diversion of waterways, and chemical warfare.

Strategic modifications. Massive projects all into this category, most of which involve engineering, are intended to serve both military and civilian purposes over the long-term, and are constructed on domestic, friendly, or secure territory. The many attempts to clear the Red River would be placed here, as would the construction of strategic highway systems and canals. Since railway systems in the U.S. could not meet the logistical needs of the Army in World War I, truck convoys were employed to move soldiers, supplies, and munitions. In 1919, the first truck convey slowly made its way across the continental United States. Eventually, President Eisenhower signed the Act that created the Interstate and Defense Highway… [END OF PREVIEW]

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U.S. Military and Environmental Law.  (2011, April 27).  Retrieved August 20, 2019, from

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"U.S. Military and Environmental Law."  April 27, 2011.  Accessed August 20, 2019.