Environmental Protection

RAND Study: Environmental Management Can Boost Army Mission

By better managing environmental issues during deployments, U.S. Army units can gain tactical and strategic advantages that will help in combat and post-conflict operations, and boost overall mission success, according to a RAND Corporation study issued Sept. 23.

The study finds that commanders have not usually given environmental concerns high priority during planning, despite the effect environmental conditions can have on troop health, safety, and security, and the importance they have for the local population.

Researchers recommend that Army leaders give more weight to strategic, operational, and tactical aspects of environmental considerations during planning and operations, and develop comprehensive standards and best practices to address environmental issues during contingencies.

This is consistent with the Army's new counterinsurgency doctrine, which highlights the importance of environmental improvements (especially sewage, water, and trash) to gain support of the local population.

U.S. experience in Iraq suggests that providing clean water, electricity, sewage, and trash management can tip the balance between the local residents supporting the U.S. mission or the insurgency, according to the study. Public opinion surveys suggest that Iraqis care about these issues almost as much as security.

Environmental considerations encompass anything related to the environment that affects the planning and execution of military operations or is affected by those operations. They include (but are not limited to) clean water, sewage-related infrastructure, soldier health, compliance with environmental laws, sustainability, protection of historical and cultural sites, and management of agricultural and natural resources.

"Perhaps the most underappreciated aspect of environmental considerations is the role that they can play in achieving U.S. national objectives in counterinsurgency and stability operations," said report co-author David Mosher, a researcher at RAND, a non-profit research organization.

In countries where environmental conditions and infrastructure are severely degraded, clean drinking water, effective sewage and trash systems, and viable farmland are crucial to local inhabitants. Providing these things can influence whether inhabitants support the local government and U.S. goals and objectives.

"Commanders and planners can take steps in the combat phase to preserve existing environmental infrastructure and resources that will be vital once combat has ended," Mosher said. "Determining what to preserve will demand that leaders and planners take a strategic view of the operation, including what the end result ought to be."

The Army also can have a positive influence on the environment. In operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans, U.S. soldiers have helped to build wells, sewage treatment plants and other water infrastructure systems, which were beneficial to both U.S. soldiers and local communities, said report co-author Beth Lachman.

The authors make several recommendations, including:

• Improve policy and guidance for environmental considerations in contingency operations.

• Work with the Department of Defense to develop guidance that would clarify the need to anticipate and address environmental issues in contingency operations.

• Encourage an environmental ethic throughout the Army that extends to contingency operations.

• Better incorporate environmental considerations into planning, particularly those that relate to achieving U.S. strategic objectives and to base camps.

Other authors of the study are Michael D. Greenberg, Tiffany Nichols, Brian Rosen, Henry H. Willis. The report, "Green Warriors: Environmental Considerations in Army Contingency Operations," is available at www.rand.org.

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