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Cleanup process gets DOD support

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Oct. 20, 2003) -- The Air Force gained Department of Defense support in October for an environmental-cleanup approach that may accelerate progress at as many as 24 Air Force sites.

The new method involves merging land-use control actions into records of decision, said Maureen Koetz, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for environment, safety and occupational health.

The record is a document that explains how service officials intend to clean up contaminants in the environment, Koetz said. It is essentially the conclusion of a series of studies and investigations that often takes more than a decade to complete.

"What the Air Force is planning to do is incorporate (its) performance actions for maintaining land-use controls right into the record of decision -- an enforceable document under the law," Koetz said.

Nevertheless, the record is not the final step before actually cleaning a site.

As part of a cleanup, Air Force officials agree with regulators in many cases as to land-use controls. These controls specify what restrictions, if any, will be placed on a site during and/or after it is cleaned.

By merging land-use controls into the record of decision, Koetz said, the Air Force is bringing its environmental cleanup process more in step with the White House administrator’s results-oriented approach to government. Instead of focusing on administrative processes, the service can begin to focus on performance and achieving results.

"We would prefer to have our agreement with environmental regulators right up front and come to terms with exactly what it is we are expected to do to fulfill our responsibilities," Koetz said. "This is really where the major transformation is taking place.”

Officials want to take the focus away from submitting documents, Koetz said. They want to make the objectives, and actions required to meet them, to be the main responsibility.

The Air Force has had success working with Environmental Protection Agency officials to combine the land-use controls and record of decision at two cleanup sites: Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and Hanscom AFB, Mass. Officials now hope to apply that same process to as many as 24 records of decision that until now have been delayed because of differences with regulators and DOD.