The Department of Defense’s (DoD) ranges are among its most valuable assets. They provide the essential foundation for troops to train in realistic circumstance at appropriate scales. Live fire training, maneuver exercises, flight operations and myriad other training activities provide hands-on experience critical to support national security objectives and to ensure a high state of military readiness. Test ranges serve critical functions in the development and testing of new weapons systems.
DoD resource managers must balance many competing demands. Numerous military activities on installations affect the environment and adjacent communities with noise, dust, and other air emissions. Environmental contamination and safety hazards associated with unexploded ordnance can result from the use of munitions. In addition, military installations are home to many threatened and endangered species and, in some cases, provide their last remaining critical habitat.
The sustainable management of military ranges is critical to DoD’s ability to continue use of its assets in perpetuity while complying with the nation’s environmental laws. SERDP and ESTCP invest in a broad range of environmental issues that address the most pressing needs of range managers.
Military activities generate a variety of air emissions, which are subject to regulatory control. Dust emissions are generated by mechanical disturbance and by wind erosion of surface materials, especially in areas where the ground surface is disturbed on a regular basis. Military engines, weapons and munitions emit air pollutants that may be regulated. Research focuses on developing scientific understanding and demonstrating technologies for the active management of air quality impacts. Read more about the ongoing Fugitive Dust Initiative.
Threatened, Endangered and At-Risk Species Management
Military installations are a safe haven for hundreds of listed and at-risk species and encompass a variety of ecological systems that contribute to the nation’s biological diversity. DoD lands have limited access and are largely undeveloped. Many installations are surrounded by lands that once provided essential habitat to listed and at-risk species. In recent years, increasing development pressure has subsumed the habitat on these lands. In many cases, military installations are now the main host to many listed and at-risk species. As a result, required protections for these species can lead to limits on training and testing activities, which can affect troop readiness. Researchers develop the science and demonstrate the tools enabling range managers to make decisions that protect listed and at-risk species, while maintaining the military mission. Read more about recent successes with the red-cockaded woodpecker on DoD installations in the Southeast.
Military testing and training require the firing of live ammunition, which leaves toxic metals and residual contamination of munitions constituents, the energetic chemicals that power the munitions. If these chemicals are transported to the groundwater and migrate off base, live-fire training and testing activities may be curtailed. It is DoD policy to conduct an operational range assessment program to determine where such releases may occur. Test and training ranges present unique challenges for characterization, control, and treatment technologies. These ranges often encompass thousands of acres, have limited historical records, and are subject to continued use. Research for managing munitions constituents on ranges include identifying and characterizing the sources of contamination, protecting groundwater resources, predicting fate and transport, and assessing potential ecological impacts. Read more about the spectrum of munitions constituents investments and emerging solutions.
Military installations are constantly undergoing changes, from the reconfiguration of training ranges to the construction of new buildings and roads. Oftentimes in the course of these activities, installation managers encounter unexploded ordnance, requiring clearance or construction support activities. On older installations, UXO can be encountered even in areas where it is not expected. As tens of thousands of personnel are moved with Base Realignment and Closure, the pace of installation modifications is expected to grow. Researchers have developed and demonstrated munitions response technologies for site characterization and subsurface detection that support planning or clearance of UXO-contaminated sites. Learn more about munitions response technologies.
Technology Needs for DoD Operational Range Assessment and Management (2007)