Department of Defense environmental cleanup activities are complicated.
Close collaboration is required between the federal government and state agencies to review and comment on environmental documents, participate in meetings, conference calls, site visits and participate in public outreach.
The Environmental and Munitions Center of Expertise, U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville has a program available to keep this process as streamlined and focused as possible: a virtual team comprised of representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers serves as liaison between states and components.
In 1986, pursuant to Section 211 (B) of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act, the Department of Defense State Memorandum of Agreement (DSMOA) program was established in order to support DOD Components in the execution of the Defense Environmental Restoration Program (DERP) and Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program.
The goal of the DSMOA program is to expedite environmental restoration at DOD installations through partnerships with states, territories and the District of Columbia via a DSMOA.
A DSMOA between the DOD and a state serves as a framework for partnership at specified DOD installations. Title 10 U.S.C. section 2701(d) authorizes the Secretary of Defense to enter into agreements on a reimbursable or other basis for services provided by state agencies to assist the Secretary in carrying out the secretary’s responsibilities that arise under the DERP.
Through this framework, relationships are cultivated which results in improved communication, and cooperation between states and DOD components. While a DSMOA is the foundation for partnerships, the actual agreed upon work and funding is achieved through a Cooperative Agreement (CA).
Every two years a state submits a CA application. It is the CA that serves as the vehicle in which funding and installations are identified and may receive financial reimbursement from DOD for eligible services. Development of the CA is almost exclusively accomplished through a web-based DSMOA Portal.
The DSMOA Portal is a secure, restricted DOD website available only to registered users participating in the DSMOA Program. The DSMOA community utilizes the DSMOA Portal to facilitate communication and conduct official DSMOA business. Moreover, the DSMOA Portal serves as a one-stop shop for everything DSMOA-related.
Developing CAs requires continuous planning between a state and the Component from initiation of the installation cleanup through site closeout between the DoD Components and a state. In order to facilitate information exchange and CA development, the USACE team has developed and implemented a “Six Step Process” to encourage consistency, increase transparency, create efficiencies, ensure compliance with grant regulations and streamline the CA application process.
This process creates a common vision of the cleanup and ensures that CAs reflect actual cleanup and program activities at installations through the creation of installation-specific Joint Execution Plans (JEPs), which are at the very heart of the DSMOA program.
JEPs define the anticipated installation work plan and associated state activities for each installation. Moreover, a JEP establishes a scope of services agreed upon by installation and state regulators.
In addition, a DSMOA Steering Committee was formed in 2009 to promote top-level understanding and cooperation. Facilitated by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment and comprised of representatives from states, territories and DOD components, the DSMOA Steering Committee works together on program-level initiatives and policy issues.
For example, as one of its initiatives, the DSMOA Steering Committee elected to review and revise the DSMOA CA Guide, titled “Working Together to Achieve. Cleanup: A Guide to the Cooperative Agreement Process”.
The purpose of this DSMOA CA Guide revision was to capture the current DSMOA business practices and to serve as a reference for successful participation in the DSMOA Program. To date, the CA Guide serves as an excellent resource providing program consistency and clarity. This initiative and others continually reinforces the DSMOA community relationships and strengthens resiliency as challenges arise.
Environmental restorations and clean ups are challenging, however, through programs such as DSMOA, these challenges become opportunities to work together to achieve the shared mission of protection of health and the human environment.