US Army Releases First Annual Sustainability Report

US Army Soldier marching in formation[social_buttons]Is sustainability a national security issue? Politicians, policy makers and academics may be willing to argue sides of that question, but for the U.S. Army, the answer seems to be “Yes, sir!” Following up on earlier announcements of solar arrays and emission reduction goals, the Army released its first annual sustainability report on Friday. Covering the period of FY 2004-2007, the report notes a number of encouraging trends:

  • Sixteen Army installations with comprehensive Installation Sustainability Plans in place.
  • 78% (301) of FY07 ArmyMilitary Construction projects designed to at least U.S. Green Building Council’s LEEDยฎ new construction certification standards.
  • 100% (161) installations with an Environmental Management System (EMS) in place with 31% in conformance to ISO14001
  • 8.4% reduction in facility energy useintensity (KBtu/gross square foot/per year, since FY03)

Challenges still exist, of course. Among them:

  • 35% increase in Hazardous Waste (HW) generation as reported for CY03 to CY06 and an 8% increase in pounds HWgenerated per $1000 net Army cost of operations.
  • 11% increase in absolute Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) releases as reported for CY03 to CY06, but a 13% decrease in pounds TRI released per $1000 net Army cost of operations.

As this is the Army’s first attempt at such a report, it used the Global Reporting Initiative’s sustainability reporting framework, the standard for corporate sustainability reports (and the first use ever of the GRI framework by a branch of the federal government). Additionally, the Army adapted other sustainability concepts to fit its mission: the corporate “triple bottom line” of profit, people and planet became “triple bottom line — plus” of “Mission, Environment, Community, plus the economic benefits that sustainability provides by reducing costs and impacts, and accelerating innovation.”

While the report notes that traditional notions of national security will remain paramount, environmental concerns, such as access to resources, has become an integral part of its mission.ย  It also notes that future conflicts may well arise from competition for scarcer resources. We won’t look for uniforms made from hemp, or tipis as housing anytime soon, but it’s good to see that the US military not only recognizes the role the environment and ecological systems play in maintaining national well-being, but that reducing it’s own “bootprint” could (in theory, anyway) play a small part in lowering global environmental stress… and the conflicts that arise from that stress.

via Environmental Leader

Image Credit: Isidro Reyna at Army.mil

  1. Milkweed

    Hmmm. Well, considering that the US military is the biggest single polluter in the world, they have a loooong way to go.

    Here’s a snip from a great article that was on Common Dreams a few years ago (full article at http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0327-21.htm) “The U.S. Department of Defense is the largest polluter in the world, producing more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined.”

    And then of course there is the inherent non-sustainability of flying US troops all over the world to promote US “interests” rather than supporting local initiatives for true security….food security, strong communities, social justice, literacy, self-sufficiency….you get the drift.

    I am glad to see that some green awareness and good intentions are there though, and hopefully this will be the first step of a longer, deeper process….don’t mean to be a TOTAL wet army-issued blanket!

  2. Bobby B.

    “…the US military is the biggest single polluter in the world, they have a loooong way to go.”

    That’s a bold statement. The piece that you referenced makes no effort to compare the US military to any of the world’s other militaries. Are we to believe that all of the other militaries do their “thing” pollution free?

    BTW, the purpose of the military has never had much to do with food security, social justice, etc. Their job has always been to protect US interests, whatever the Congress and the President deem those interests to be.

  3. Jack T

    Milkweed – before you make such a vague and uneducated comment, you might read up on the mission of the armed services. You might also want to read up on the Posse Comitatus Act as well…

  4. Milkweed

    Perhaps a startling statement, but not really that bold because it’s been well-documented over many years.

    For about 20 years, the US military budget hovered between 40 and 50 percent of total world military spending. Now, according to most estimates (here’s one: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/spending.htm) US military spending has surpassed the total of the whole rest of the world combined.

    That gives you an idea of the total impact of our military (environmental and otherwise) compared to the rest of the world’s. Which is why it’s a big deal that the US Army is even LOOKING at sustainability issues.

    There has also been some interesting research done on the toxin release issues that Jeff raises in his post. If you look at the very useful stat that Jeff’s citing, pounds of hazardous waste per $1000 net cost of operations, you’ll see that the US again far outpaces the rest of the world in the production of military waste (including the highly toxic depleted uranium).

    I am not suggesting that the military should be engaged in food security (though the image of soldiers planting a community garden with civilians in Iraq is a nice one) – I’m suggesting that our federal spending priorities are skewed toward the military rather than other programs that promote true sustainability.

    People have been talking about these issues for years, so don’t take my word for it — one source of more info is nationalprioritiesproject dot org.

    As I think most people who are reading this blog are aware, sustainability is more than LEED or solar panels or carbon footprint – though those are some great places to start! But the broader question of how we use our resources is certainly at the core of sustainability dialogue.

    I appreciate the forum for a deeper conversation about true sustainability that this post on the Army’s sustainability report has spurred. Thanks Jeff!

  5. silver

    If the mission of the armed services is to protect our national interests, why wouldn’t this include thing like food security; ending poverty; creating an economic system that works for all, that increases biodiversity (instead of destroying the webs of life)and social justice? After a few hundred years of using primarily dominationn and destruction as the means of protecting our national interests, maybe it’s time to try something else. What will bring us true security?

  6. Steven Earl Salmony

    Perhaps we can all agree that we live in a round and bounded {not flat and limitless} planetary home, one which is rapidly filling up with people and peoples’ products, including millions upon millions of gas guzzlers, other polluting machines and thousands upon thousands of smokestack factories. This is to simply say, absolute global human population numbers are projected to reach 9+ billion people and the leviathan-like global economy is expected to grow in a near-exponential way by many trillions of dollars in the next 42 years…..provided we keep choosing to keep doing what we are doing now.

    Please consider the following proposal as an alternative to what appears to be a soon to become unsustainable business-as-usual course of action. This idea for change results from the realization that we have to protect both the Earth’s ecology and the human community’s manmade economy.

    First, the Earth and its environs are to be spared further wanton dissipation and reckless degradation; and second, the global economy needs to be rescued from becoming patently unsustainable in the relatively small, evidently finite and noticeably frangible world we are blessed to inhabit.

    What could be accomplished if the human family determined to provide “stewardship incentives” to people who choose to protect the Earth and its environs, the same kind of incentives that are now routinely handed out in huge annual payouts to people who are supposed to be growing the global economy….. something the economic powerbrokers are clearly not doing now?

    Please note that billions of dollars are being proposed in financial bailouts for companies building unsustainable products and factories and that year-end bonuses are being directed to “wonder boys” in investment houses and banks who have been uneconomically growing humanity’s global economy by collusively creating dodgy financial instruments (e.g., credit default swaps) and fraudulent business models (e.g., Ponzi schemes). These self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe have ignored requirements of practical reality and turned a great economic system into a paltry gambling casino, making themselves the primary beneficiaries of pseudo-business activities along the way. In the light of such avaricious risk-taking and conspicuous hoarding behavior, they can no longer be called by any name other than “thieves of the highest order”.

    Perhaps reasonable and sensible people can agree that the greed of arrogant, self-serving tycoons and bankstas no longer is to be condoned, much less extolled as somehow good, and that the preservation of Earth and its environs needs to given some immediate attention in terms of funding substantial stewardship incentives equal in size to the financial rewards now directed to the economic powerbrokers.

    By redirecting wealth, my generation of elders can begin to put the global economy on a sustainable, more reality-based foundation as well as to more reasonably and sensibly fulfill our responsibilities as good enough stewards of the Earth.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001

  7. Bobby B.

    @ Milkweed – “US military spending has surpassed the total of the whole rest of the world combined”

    Might that be because the US provides the majority of the resources whenever we act independently or at the behest of some multi-national body? Also, is it wise to trust financial reports from unfriendly regimes?

    @Steven – You opened with a regurgitation of Ehrlich’s 40-year old theory, spent considerable time laying the blame at the feet of capitalism, and closed with the idea of “redirecting wealth” by government mandate. Why – given all of its past failures – is socialism still the only answer? Sure capitalism isn’t perfect, but it does provide opportunities to those who are creative and hard-working; as well as to those who are shrewd. Socialism crushes not only the economy but the very spirit of those trapped in its web. Socialism cannot exist in tandem with a free society. It has to regulate every aspect of one’s existence to “work” as designed. Why not restart capitalism by throwing the tycoons and bankstas who broke the laws in jail? Oh, and let’s not forget the politicians who forced the poor monetary policies on the financial institutions in return for millions in support? Economic downturns act as a natural CTRL-ALT-DEL reboot, but the reboots must occur more frequently when we continue to allow the lawbreakers and their political allies to run the system without proper oversight.

  8. Guillaume Foutry

    The US Army is one of the biggest polluter in the world, but a sustainability report coming from them shows that sustainability is now something taken into account in its strategy and could one day make a difference in a conflict (if you are able to recycle all your product and waste less, logistics becomes a minor problem).

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