2009 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lennysiegel@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 15 Jan 2009 20:57:53 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] MUNITIONS: Jefferson Proving Ground (IN) non-emergency support
The former Jefferson Proving Ground (JPG), in southern Indiana, was closed under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process in the early 1990s. Its 50,000-acre artillery testing range contains some of the densest unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination in the country. Most of it was turned over (under a renewable real estate permit) to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) about nine years ago. FWS's Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge opens up small portions of the property to hunters, hikers, and schoolchildren – all of whom go through a UXO education program before being allowed into the range buffer zone.

The original estimate for cleaning up the range was several billion dollars, so sometime in the late 1990s, someone in Army management decided not to spend any money conducting munitions response above the firing line. (The Army did extensive remediation in the smaller cantonment area.)

In 2000 the Army, the FWS, and the Air Force – which uses a central part of the range as a bombing target – signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) – defining the reuse of the JPG range and ratifying the decision not to fund munitions response there with BRAC cleanup money. Instead, the Army (or Army Reserve or National Guard) was supposed to provide non-emergency UXO support by Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel.

This was never a good idea, because EOD is NOT the same as munitions response, which is normally conducted by contractors with the proper tools and training. Today, with EOD teams fully occupied in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is out of the question.

In May 2008, FWS requested that the Army live up to the MOA by removing munitions piles and clearing ordnance from roads, the site of a planned visitors' center, and other areas. This request appears to be a reasonable, cost-effective way to enable limited, but substantial public use of a valuable natural resource.

The Army responded in July, pointing out that the FWS had agreed to limit use of the refuge "consistent with existing conditions." It said that it would not be able to provide the non-emergency support, and instead it recommended that the "FWS seek the funding required to allow these projects to be supported by the US Army Corps of Engineers or one of a number of UXO contractor ..."

At other BRAC ranges, the Army BRAC cleanup fund would cover such a response. No one is proposing the multi-billion-dollar effort originally estimated, so it would not break the bank. Still, because of the MOA, Congress needs to solve the problem.

The purpose of BRAC was not just to reduce unnecessary military operations expenditures, but to make military land and other resources available for reasonable reuse. Either Congress should fund the FWS for the munitions response or add money to the Army BRAC fund with instructions to overturn the 1990s policy decision and the unworkable MOA.


Lenny Siegel
Executive Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
a project of the Pacific Studies Center
278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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