Partnerships key in new Air Force environmental initiatives

  • Published
  • By Malcolm McClendon
  • AFCEC Public Affairs
Sustainable environmental goals require partnerships; one of the new initiatives the Air Force Civil Engineer Center is promoting to accomplish its mission.

In a summit held in northern New Mexico, AFCEC's environmental directorate brought state, regional and federal environmental regulators together to share new Air Force policy and procedures, and extend an open invitation for partnerships.

"There's been a big change in how the Air Force has done business," Kenny Johnson, director of AFCEC's legislative and regulatory engagement division, said. "For example, we don't have the same pot of money we used to and there are new processes we have to plan for to better handle our environmental goals."

As a result of sequestration and budget cuts, sharing that message has been difficult in the past. Travel was reduced meaning fewer opportunities to meet and foster partnerships with regulators, Johnson added.

"This summit is an effort to regenerate those relationships," he said. "Because it's our responsibility to meet and partner with regulators so that together we can be good stewards of the environment; we owe that to the community."

AFCEC invited environmental experts with the New Mexico Environment Department to speak at the summit and showcase what their partnership with the Air Force has been able to overcome and accomplish.
Thirteen years ago the Air Force discovered an aviation fuel plume underground at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque.

Without a concerted effort by the Air Force and local agencies to address the situation, residents and community groups feared that the spill would reach City of Albuquerque drinking water wells, Dennis McQuillan, NMED chief scientist said.

"There was a lot of public distrust toward the Air Force and the state at the time," he said. "However, through our partnership with AFCEC and other local and federal regulators, we have been able to bring our efforts together and begin the remediation necessary. Had it not been for the Air Force bringing in its A-team we would not be here telling you that we have this plume contained."

Kathryn Roberts, NMED resource protection division director, added that at both Canon and Holloman Air Force bases, the statuses of several remediation sites have been updated from 'corrective action needed' to 'corrective action completed.'

"Our partnership with the Air Force is clearly yielding positive results with remediation and site restoration at Air Force bases in this state," she said.

AFCEC and its environmental directorate hope to generate more partnerships and continue telling success stories like these.

The center will continue to host summits, such as the Eastern Environmental Restoration summit earlier this summer and the upcoming western summit in August; and facilitate a national summit between the Environmental Protection Agency and Air Force headquarters next year, Johnson said.

"We have great things happening all over the country because of our environmental partnering efforts, but we still have a lot more to do." he said. "We will continue to rekindle and create new partnerships so that together we can protect and sustain our natural resources."