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Setting a Standard of Stewardship
Prepared remarks John P. White, deputy secretary of defense, Restoration Advisory Board, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., , Friday, March 08, 1996

Defense Issues: Volume 11, Number 19-- Setting a Standard of Stewardship NAS Patuxent River's environmental program is a role model for other installations striving to meet a new Defense Department mandate to incorporate the environment in all military decisions.


Volume 11, Number 19

Setting a Standard of Stewardship

Prepared remarks of John P. White, deputy secretary of defense, to the Restoration Advisory Board, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., March 11, 1996.

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. It's nice to be here on this beautiful day on this really pretty base. ... It is also nice to be at a place where you are doing such a good job of BRAC [base realignment and closure]. BRAC is a hard process for everyone involved. It causes a lot of disruption to communities, to the people and their families. But it's something that's necessary given where we are in the department, so I want to congratulate you on really managing what is always a difficult process and doing it with a human touch.

The real reason I'm here, of course, is to recognize and pay tribute to you as a facility in terms of what you've been doing with the environment. As you know, the administration -- the president and the secretary -- are committed to making environmental improvements. We take what chance we can to come to a place like this with a real success story so we can point out to people what really can be done with the proper leadership and also with the proper cooperation between the military and the local community, which I know here is terrific.

Three weeks ago, I signed the first-ever DoD directive for establishing a comprehensive policy on environmental security. We did that to ensure that we would incorporate environmental factors into all our decision-making processes to make sure that when we make decisions, which are obviously based on national security interests, that we don't forget the environment. And the Pax River, of course, is a real role model for other facilities in terms of recognizing the leadership that can be displayed in the environment while satisfying your overall mission.

You are a DoD leader in terms of the Chesapeake Bay -- ... a great many projects under way here and ... pages of awards going back to the early '80s, I think, or maybe the late '70s. And in 1995, you won the Secretary of Defense National Resource Conservation Award. Of course, it's been on CBS News because of your leadership in this area. So it is really quite a great example for the Navy and for other Navy communities.

My major responsibility can be put into three different areas: readiness and most importantly readiness; secondly, quality of life -- making sure that all of our folks in the military and civilian people committed to the Department of Defense have what they need and have the opportunities that they deserve; and third, equally important, is modernization. That is, making sure that going into the future we are providing the capabilities that are needed and the resources that are needed in order to modernize our forces and be assured that in the next century we continue to have a very strong military.

We do try to take care of these three fundamental, overarching efforts with the environment in mind, and I think it's very important that we do so. With respect to readiness, for example, we are dedicated to the principle that while we need the facilities that we have, and the land and sea and air that we use for our training, that we, in fact, do so as a steward and complement our training in a way to make sure that it is environmentally friendly.

The DoD has responsibility for some 25 million acres of diverse public land, and we need to make sure as we use that land for training that in fact we take care of the environment at the same time....

When we were coming down and getting ready for this, we were talking about what it is we are doing, and I was shown this piece of plastic -- this is from shipboard. As many of you know, in the old days aboard a ship what you did is throw it over the side. We don't do that anymore. Things that are not degradable, we bring back. This is a representation of items that are brought back, recycled, made into basic plastic and then sold again and used for park benches or whatever, so that, in fact, we can reuse the plastic that we used at sea. So, it's very, very important -- also very hard. So that's one example.

Let me give you another example of a different sort. We have to use sand to clean off paint -- off ships and aircraft and so on. We now use plastic. This is plastic that can be used in order to take the paint off and then can be scooped up and reused so that rather than have a runoff of a lot of sand and damage to the environment, we've done something smart in terms of making sure that we have something that's reusable. ... is cheaper and more efficient.

We're also substituting citrus-based cleaners for solvents -- lemon juice, I'm told, in that case. It makes you think when you drink your orange juice in the morning whether or not you're getting a little extra cleansing as well. We were worried about the same sorts of issues as we clean engine parts, for example, to make sure that we separate the petroleum from the water so that it can be collected and not seep into the ground.

We're using substitutes for the hard cleaners we used to use, to make sure that it's safer and cheaper. And we're finding that through this resource management, of course, that, in fact, it does not impede our readiness. In fact, in some ways it enhances our readiness and makes sure that we're being responsible at the same time.

That's also true with respect to quality of life. Quality of life for us means making sure in the long run that all our people have what they want. And we often talk about that in terms of direct compensation or in terms of housing or in terms of medical support and so on. One critical part of that is making sure that our people live in safe and hospitable environments, and that means we have to pay attention and do what has to be done to see that is, in fact, the case. So there's another very important aspect of what it is we're doing.

It's also reflected in the relationship we have to have with our communities. If we don't have a good relationship with the communities -- in many dimensions -- then we are not successful in terms of our overall mission. And in that case, ... we need to -- as we've shown here today with your Resource Advisory Board -- ... have a working relationship with people from the community who are committed to the environment; who recognize the military as a partner. And together we can improve what we're doing and expand our capabilities.

In this regard, last week, the DoD became the first federal agency to release its annual toxics release inventory. This provides ... us ... an identification of the toxic materials that we're using. It's part of the program that was talked about earlier. It provides the community with information on what we're doing. It has a certain standard in terms of making sure that we improve over time and are up-front in terms of these issues. We, of course, also do substantial recycling.

Finally, with respect to the future, as we acquire new systems, we are also particularly sensitive to the fact that we need to be environmentally responsible. We've adapted a commercial standard -- the National Aerospace Standard 411 -- to reduce or eliminate hazardous waste.

There was no government standard, so we decided that we would step up and accept the commercial standard. This gives contractors a framework for identifying, managing and minimizing or eliminating hazardous waste materials as they develop our equipment and capabilities.

In the old days, for example, on a C-5, we would have used as many as 3,000 ozone-depleting chemicals. On the new weapons system, the F-22, we used one. And so we've made great strides, and people are very proud of that success. That example has been mentioned to me several times over the last year as people have pointed out the kinds of activities that are important to us. In fact, one of our facilities in Louisville (Ky.) won a national award -- of a joint project from the Ford Foundation and Harvard -- as an innovator on just these kinds of ozone-depleting chemicals this last year, which was presented by Vice President Gore.

So in summary, we think our environmental security program is part-in-parcel, hand-in-hand with our overall efforts with respect to readiness, quality of life and force modernization. We're committed to preventing pollution; to being innovative in the way we utilize technologies; to complying with all federal laws and regulations; to conserving natural and cultural resources; to cleaning up toxic waste; to being a good partner with our communities and, therefore, being a leader in terms of environmental issues on into the future. ...


Published for internal information by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the internet via the World Wide Web at