Washington, DC — The U.S. Army has done an about-face on plans to severely reduce anti-pollution and wildlife protection spending, according to an internal memo released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). One day after PEER released an earlier directive to all Army base commanders to cut environmental programs, the Army issued a new order countermanding it.
On May 11, citing mid-year fiscal shortages due to “fighting a war on several fronts,” Major General Anders Aadland, head of the Army’s new Installation Management Activity (IMA) command, sent a memo to garrison commanders worldwide ordering immediate cutbacks in “discretionary” spending on items including personnel, travel and training, as well as the environment. As for environmental protection, Gen. Aadland directed —
“Take additional risk in environmental programs; terminate environmental contracts and delay all non-statutory enforcement actions to FY05.”
In the new memo, issued on May 27, Gen. Aadland announced the Army Budget Office has “afforded limited funding relief for some critical areas of concern.” Those areas include environmental protection. Commanders are now ordered to “proceed with all programs as funded prior to [the May 11 order]; do not reduce or defer environmental projects as [previously] called for…”
“What an amazing coincidence that the Army reversed course within hours of its decision to cut environmental protection becoming public knowledge,” marveled PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Despite this change of plans, the Army still apparently regards protecting America’s land, air and water as a discretionary matter that it can abandon when budgetary pressures return.”
Congress is now reviewing Pentagon requests for exemptions from the Clean Air Act and federal toxic control laws. “This episode illustrates precisely why the Pentagon should not be allowed to self-certify environmental compliance,” Ruch commented.
The office issuing these orders, the Installation Management command, was recently created to simplify and flatten the chain-of-command for Army garrisons. “IMA has fattened not flattened the lines of communication,” Ruch concluded.