Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
Society of American Engineers
Nov. 20, 1996
Last month, I visited the Little Star Shipyard in Archangel,
Russia. What in the world is a Secretary of Defense doing
visiting the Little Star Shipyard in Archangel? I went there to
observe the dismantlement of a nuclear submarine. A few years
ago, that submarine was out on patrol, carrying enough nuclear
missiles to destroy dozens of American cities. Now it is being
dismantled by some of the same Russian workers who built it,
using equipment provided by the United States Department of
The waters around the Little Star shipyard are packed with
old Russian nuclear submarines. These submarines no longer
threaten the world with a nuclear holocaust; however, they still
are a major environmental hazard to the Arctic region. By
helping Russia dismantle these subs, we are creating a win-win-
It's a win for America -- the submarine we saw being
dismantled will never again threaten American cities. It's a win
for the Russians -- the workers doing the dismantlement were
previously unemployed because of the decrease in orders for
nuclear submarines. And it's a win for the environment -- the
submarine's nuclear fuel will be disposed of safely; and the
sub's components are being recycled into materials that can be
used to produce commercial products.
To use defense resources to destroy weapons that once
threatened us makes good sense on its face. Indeed, that's what
we call it defense by other means. But to use defense
resources to protect and preserve the environment may seem
Each year, Congress gives the DoD environmental budget a
special working-over. The critics wonder why we are spending
scarce defense resources on what seems to be a non-defense
activity. They say, Focus on a strong defense and leave the
environment to others.
They are wrong. A say that a strong environmental program
is an integral component of a strong defense -- and a strong
Department of Defense.
The Defense Department must have an environmental program
that protects our troops and families; that manages our training
and living areas carefully; that fulfills our obligation to be
good citizens to the community in which we live; and that sets a
good example to other militaries around the world. Let me take
these one at a time.
First, let's be clear that defense environmental protection
is critical to military readiness and to military quality of
life. Our military personnel live, train, and work in the same
location...in the same environment. We must not expose our
forces, their families and military communities to environmental
health and safety hazards. So we take care to limit their
exposure to hazardous materials in the work place. And we take
great care to keep our base communities informed of what we are
doing on base, and involve local citizens in making environmental
clean-up decisions. These are people who work on our bases; who
support our troops; and who are key members of our effort to
maintain a quality force.
A second point is that defense environmental protection is
good management, because as any good business manager knows, if
you pollute today you pay tomorrow. We are paying the price
right now, because years ago the Defense Department like many
industrial organizations, we did not invest enough attention or
resources in environmental protection. As a result, today our
military installations contain about 10,000 contaminated sites.
That's land we cannot use for training and operations. And on
bases we're closing, that's land we must restore at great cost,
before we can turn it over to local communities for reuse.
Cleaning up these sites is costing us more than $2 billion a
year, which is nearly half of our overall defense environmental
budget. We don't want to make these mistakes again.
A third reason for an emphasis on environment is that taking
care of the environment is good citizenship. The Defense
Department is the steward for over 25 million acres of public
land. These lands include some of America's most pristine
landscapes and precious resources; including rare and endangered
species, national historic places and Native American burial
sites. Many of our bases are part of civilian communities in
close proximity to residential neighborhoods and schools.
Military activities can have a significant impact on the quality
of the land, air and water that we all use.
We protect a beautiful nation, and we must do our part to
keep it beautiful. For all these reasons, environmental
protection is a key task for every military manager. But it is
also a fact that defense environmental protection is not an
option. We in the Defense Department face the same local, state
and federal environmental laws and regulations that apply to
every organization and institution in this country.
We take these laws and regulations seriously. Indeed we
take our environmental responsibilities seriously. That is why,
three years ago, we created the Office of Environmental Security
at the Pentagon, and appointed Sherri Goodman to coordinate and
lead our efforts at the highest levels. That is why the Services
have each appointed a flag officer to lead environmental, safety
and occupational health activities in the ranks. That is why,
over the past several years, we have worked hard to reduce our
damage to the environment. And it is paying off.
From 1986 to 1992, we cut our hazardous wastes in half. Our
goal is to cut it in half again by 1999. Cutting waste not only
improves environmental quality, it also quite obviously reduces
disposal costs. Pollution prevention is a classic good
investment. And it saves money that can be used for other
All of this sounds like a good idea whose time has come.
But over the longer term, we must deal with the problem of
environmental pollution at its source. So we are designing
environmental responsibility into our new weapons systems; by
reducing hazardous emissions in the building of new systems; and
by reducing the need for hazardous materials in the operation and
maintenance of these systems.
For example, 20 years ago there were about 3,000
requirements for ozone-depleting chemicals when we built the C-5
cargo plane. As we build the new F-22 fighter plane, we will use
just one. The Navy has reduced the number of hazardous materials
needed to maintain and operate its new attack submarine. Over
its life cycle, that submarine will generate 90 percent less
hazardous waste than current submarines.
So the Defense Department has learned a lot about how to
conduct the military mission while protecting the environment.
We've gotten ringing praise from the unlikeliest sources. Last
year, a group of six national environmental groups signed a
letter which said, and I quote: Almost unnoticed, U.S.
military personnel have become major players in the battle to
clean up and protect our environment.
Well, As Secretary of Defense, I am proud of this growing
record. The military services -- and all of you here today --
should be proud too. And when you are proud of something, you
want to share it with others. Indeed, the US military has a
wealth of experience and expertise that it can share with the
militaries of other nations. Our defense environmental programs
are becoming another important tool in which to engage the
militaries of new democracies. In doing so, we can make a small
contribution to a better global environment; and have a positive
influence on their approach to defense and the way they manage
We are doing this, for example, with the Russians in the
Arctic. Just two months ago, I signed a unique agreement with
Russia and Norway in which our forces will work together to
ensure that their military activities do not harm the Arctic
environment. I have been to the Arctic twice this year. I will
never forget the pristine landscape, the crystal waters and the
sharp fresh air. Anybody who has seen the Arctic knows why we
must preserve this raw and fragile environment. Geographically,
the Arctic is the closest route between the United States and
Russia. So it is fitting that in preserving this route, we bring
our nations closer together.
We are also working with the Russians to use our
intelligence capabilities to map out environmental contamination.
Earlier this year, Vice President Gore and Russian Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin exchanged maps that vividly depicted environmental
conditions over Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and Yeysk Air
Base in Russia. This exchange was unique because the United
States produced the map of the Russian base, and the Russians
produced the map of the American base.
These bilateral exchanges not only provide us with important
environmental science data; they are also another way we are
overcoming a half century of mistrust by working closely together
on common pursuits.
All over the world, the US military is helping to spread the
word on how armed forces can protect the environment. It is part
of the curriculum when military officers from Eastern and Central
Europe come to our military schools. They have exactly the same
concerns we do about protecting their troop living areas and
training facilities. We helped the Polish military organize its
own environmental office; and now Hungary, the Czech Republic and
several other nations in the region are also expanding their
defense environmental operations.
In September, we spread the word on the other side of the
globe by joining with Australia and Canada to host the first Asia-
Pacific Defense Environmental Conference, which drew delegates
from 32 nations. We will use that conference as a model for a
similar conference we are hosting for the 34 democracies from
North, Central and South America.
There is a great benefit when militaries of the world do
their part to protect and preserve their environments. There is
a greater benefit when they do this by working together. Not
only are we making the world a cleaner and safer place; we are
also bridging old chasms and building new security relationships
based on trust, cooperation and warmth. That makes the world a
more peaceful place.
Thomas Jefferson once said, The earth is given as a common
stock for man to labor and live on. All nations own shares of
that common stock. And all nations share a common obligation to
preserve it so that our common stock provides the capital for the
labor and lives of future generations. I am proud that the U.S.
military is playing a positive role; and you all should be proud
too of the role that you're playing to make the U.S. military a
leader in environmental security in the world.
Thank you very much.
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questions and answers which followed these remarks.)