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Air Force eliminates paperwork, saves money

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Dec. 05, 2002) -- The Air Force is saving time and money by streamlining the paperwork involved in environmental cleanup efforts.

The Air Force has eliminated a document called the land use control plan by including its contents in another document, the record of decision, said Maureen Koetz, the deputy assistant secretary of environment, safety and occupational health for the service.

Like other federal agencies, the Air Force is held accountable for the chemicals, solvents, fuels, oils and other products it spills into the ground, Koetz said.

The process for cleaning up such spills involves a studies-and-investigations phase that is capped off with a record of decision, a report that is the culmination of all the studies, Koetz said. The record of decision explains the results of the initial studies and explains how the site will be cleaned up. The initial investigation phase can be lengthy.

"We do know that on average, from the initial preliminary assessment to the time of the record of decision, it is taking about 12 years in the Air Force," Koetz said. If the cleanup leaves residual amounts of contamination in place, federal regulators may require an additional set of documents. The documents, called land use control plans, describe what can and cannot be done with the land following a cleanup. The contents of the land use control plan, Koetz said, are legally enforceable and failure to comply with their contents is fineable.

According to Koetz, the development of a land use control plan is both costly and time consuming. The additional studies and the cost of the technical writers, regulators and scientists needed to produce the documents, must be paid for by the Air Force.

"What the EPA wanted was a very elaborate set of documents," Koetz said. "We said, 'Why don't you just say what needs to be done? Do you have to put a fence around it? Can you not dig? Tell us, EPA, what do we have to do? We will write it in the ROD, and we will make sure that is the case. We will memorialize things in documents that already exist.'"

Merging land-use stipulations from the land-use control plan into the ROD is an example of a performance-based initiative, she said. By concentrating on a result, instead of producing documentation, the Air Force has improved a process and saved both time and money.

A good example of how the practice benefited the Air Force can be seen at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., she said.

"We successfully negotiated the Travis record of decision and eliminated the need for a separate land use control plan," Koetz said. "We were able to come to this agreement on the phone in 15 minutes. Our goal is to go through the whole (cleanup) process and see where (performance management) can be useful."