Washington, DC–Civilian specialists who report environmental problems on military bases risk the loss of their careers, according to congressional testimony delivered today by Dan Meyer, General Counsel to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Officers in charge of natural and cultural resource programs at military bases frequently lack training, have no career incentives for environmental compliance and are often hostile to the civilian staff who raise environmental issues, employees report.
In a PEER survey of natural and cultural resource specialists at military facilities, nearly one third of all respondents reported that they “have been directed to overlook resource violations or circumvent resource laws and regulations.” These resource specialists constitute the biggest source of whistleblower complaints at PEER, an employee protection organization, accounting for one third of PEER’s personnel cases.
Adding to those job pressures, two thirds of all such specialists are targeted for replacement by private consultants in violation of statutory prohibitions that have been recently upheld in a PEER lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force.
“As its inventory of natural resource assets and needs grows, the individual Services’ capacity to protect wildlife is diminishing,” stated Meyer, a former Naval gunnery officer and veteran of the first Gulf War. “Environmental management in Defense agencies is essentially voluntary; unless some teeth are put into the system, military standards are not appropriate replacements for civilian natural resource management laws.”
Meyer’s testimony before the House Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans comes at a time when the Pentagon is seeking to exempt itself from several environmental laws on the basis that the Department of Defense’s own stewardship is sufficient to protect natural resources and public health. The hearing concerned the proposed reauthorization of the Sikes Act, the basic law governing military conservation, which is being offered by the Pentagon as a substitute for key provisions of the Endangered Species Act.