Hammer Award Recognizes DoD, Texas Environmental Teamwork
By Sgt. Len Butler
Special to American Forces Press Service
AUSTIN, Texas, May. 20, 1999 The Texas Army National Guard and a coalition of Army, Navy and Air Force installations were among the agencies honored here May 3 with a Hammer Award for excellence in environmental conservation.
The Texas Guard and DoD installations in Texas are members of the Texas Pollution Prevention Partnership, created in 1996 and chartered in 1997. Other state and federal partner agencies include the Defense Logistics Agency, EPA, NASA and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. The partnership brings communities, businesses and government together to prevent pollution within the state.
The Hammer Award was initiated as a way for the federal government to recognize state- and federal-level teams and agencies for significant contributions in "reinventing government" by reducing waste, cutting red tape and putting customers first. The award namesake is a $600 hammer the federal government purchased in the 1980s.
"You are now part of an elite corps of reinventors who make government work better, cost less and get results," said John Kamensky of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government in a speech to the award recipients and their guests.
This Hammer Award is the Texas Army Guard's second and is among more than 30 other national and state awards it has received for excellence in environmental conservation.
Texas National Guard Environmental Program Manager Valerie I. Stein said the partnership was a result of the creation of a pollution prevention division in the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. Because of the reorganization, state officials realized the importance of DoD organizations in preventing pollution.
Effectively working together toward a shared goal was no easy task, Stein said. The agencies spent nearly a year getting to know each other.
"It started out as a sort of experiment. You had these organizations that at first were cynical of each other's motives," she said. "It took a lot of team building and establishing trust -- these are agencies that compete against one another for budget dollars."
The formal alliance was the first of its type in the country and quickly declared a success. In 1998 alone, site visits to several DoD facilities across the state resulted in more than 400 pollution prevention opportunities, saving taxpayers $2.7 million in managing waste, emissions and water and energy use.
DoD Region 6 Environmental Coordinator Thomas Rennie said a key ingredient in the success of the partnership is that decisions are made by consensus, not majority vote. "We're doing the old 'thumbs up or sideways' approach," he said. "We are all in the same boat. In doing this, everyone is a winner."
Texas' success led other states to begin using the partnership as their model. David N. Boucher, environmental compliance project officer of the Texas Army National Guard, said it was not uncommon to see environmental representatives from other states attending partnership meetings. And while representatives of the other states attended meetings to gather ideas, they weren't always there just to listen quietly.
"Sure they got ideas from us, but at the same time, we were getting some ideas from them," Boucher said. "We have started new projects with ideas the other states have come up with. They shared some ideas with us that we hadn't even thought of."
Texas' ideas on pollution prevention have even crossed "the big pond." The Texas Guard environmental branch helped the Maryland National Guard last year on a pollution prevention project for its State Partnership Program with Estonia, which was ecologically ravaged by pollution at Soviet military bases there during the Cold War. Assistance has also been provided to the Baltic nations of Latvia and Lithuania.
Texas plans to make pollution prevention part of the standard operating procedures for all military installations. "We want pollution prevention in everyone's way of thinking," Stein said. "At the very beginning of a project or operation, we want people thinking prevention. That's our goal."
"It's just like safety campaigns of preaching 'safety first,'" Boucher added. "If you preach safety, you save lives. By preaching pollution prevention, we prevent creating a mess and save money from the beginning."
For more information on the Texas partnership and its programs, visit its Web site at www.afcee.brooks.af.mil/txp3.
[Sgt. Len Butler is a military journalist assigned to the Texas National Guard Public Affairs Office. Austin, Texas.]