Report | Nov. 4, 2021

Evaluation of Department of Defense Compliance at Sites Conducting Open Burning or Open Detonation of Waste Military Munitions in the United States (DODIG-2022-013)

Evaluation

Publicly Released: November 8, 2021

 

Objective

The objective of this evaluation was to determine whether the DoD complied with relevant environmental and related laws, agreements, and DoD and Military Services policies at sites where the DoD conducts, or has conducted, open burning or open detonation of waste military munitions in the United States. We also evaluated the DoD’s oversight of contractors performing open burning operations at those sites.

 

Background

The DoD Office of Inspector General (DoD OIG) initiated this evaluation after receiving concerns from a member of Congress about the danger to public health posed by the DoD’s disposal of excess conventional munitions and unexploded expressed ordnance by open burning.

As of March 2019, the DoD had 34 sites in 20 states and the U.S. territory of Guam with open burning and open detonation permits. Of those 34 sites, 5 are Government-owned, contractor-operated sites. We visited 14 of the 34 DoD sites with open burning and open detonation permits.

The DoD uses open burning and open detonation to treat or destroy waste military munitions that are damaged, past their useful life span, or are excess inventory when there are no viable resource recovery and recycling or contained disposal options. The Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Environment is responsible for oversight of these operations. The DoD installations with open burning and open detonation sites treated or destroyed over 17 million pounds of waste military munitions per year from 2013 to 2017.

 

Findings

Based on information provided by the DoD installations, state environmental agencies, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), open burning and open detonation operations for the 14 sites we visited generally complied with the requirements of their Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subpart X permits, which were issued by states authorized by the EPA to issue RCRA Subpart X permits or by EPA regional offices. The 14 sites conducted over 9,400 open burning and open detonation events between 2013 and 2017. During that same time period, the authorized states or EPA regional offices cited 10 RCRA Subpart X permit violations at five of the sites. We reviewed the state inspection reports for the sites and supporting documentation and determined installation officials at the five sites corrected the 10 violations while the inspections were ongoing, or within 90 days. For the remaining nine sites, we did not identify any RCRA Subpart X permit violations reported by the state environmental agencies or EPA related to open burning and open detonation operations during that 5-year period. Since there were a small number of violations at the 14 sites we visited and they were reported as corrected, we did not make a recommendation related to permit violations.

However, we determined that the Joint Munitions Command did not perform adequate surveillance of contractors responsible for open burning operations at the five Government-owned, contractor-operated sites we reviewed. Specifically, administrative contracting officers relied on unappointed technical experts from various DoD installation organizations to perform surveillance functions of contractor open burning rather than appointing contracting officer representatives, as required by DoD Instruction 5000.72. This occurred because administrative contracting officers had historically relied upon the unappointed DoD technical experts to review the contractors’ overall facility maintenance and use operations.

Additionally, contracting officials did not include open burning requirements in performance work statements and quality assurance surveillance plans. Without performance work statement requirements and quality assurance surveillance plans related to open burning, the administrative contracting officers did not have clear guidance regarding how to evaluate the performance of the contractors that were conducting open burning. According to Joint Munitions Command and Army Contracting Command-Rock Island personnel, specific performance work statement requirements and quality assurance plan elements related to open burning are a routine function for the contractors.

As a result, there is an increased risk that the Army did not know whether contractors at the five Government‑owned, contractor-operated sites performed open burning in accordance with the terms of the contract. Instead, the administrative contracting officers relied on state regulators and the EPA to perform recurring inspections of the Government‑owned, contractor-operated sites. The administrative contracting officers also relied on contractors to self-report violations and unappointed technical experts from various DoD installation organizations to identify any potential environmental violations that resulted from the open burn operations at the sites.

 

Recommendations

We recommend that the Commander of Joint Munitions Command nominate contracting officer representatives to provide oversight of contractor open burning.

We recommend that the Senior Contracting Official of Army Contracting Command-Rock Island appoint the contracting officer representatives that are nominated by the Commander of Joint Munitions Command.

We recommend that the Commander of Joint Munitions Command submit clear requirements to the Commander of Army Contracting Command-Rock Island for use when developing performance work statement requirements and quality assurance surveillance plans to evaluate contractor open burning of waste munitions and waste munition items.

We recommend that the Senior Contracting Official of Army Contracting Command-Rock Island modify the existing applicable munitions performance work statements to clearly include specific requirements for evaluating contractor open burning of waste munitions and waste munition items.

Finally, we recommend that the Senior Contracting Official of Army Contracting Command-Rock Island and the Joint Munitions Command contracting officers and contracting officer’s representatives develop quality assurance surveillance plans for all existing and future munitions contracts that detail how and when the appointed Army personnel will survey, observe, test, sample, evaluate, and document contractor performance of open burning.

 

Management Comments and Our Response

The Commander of Army Contracting CommandRock Island agreed with the recommendations to appoint trained contracting officer’s representatives that are nominated by the Commander of Joint Munitions Command, and to modify the existing applicable munitions performance work statements to clearly include specific requirements for evaluating contractor open burning of waste munitions and waste munition items.

The Commanders of the Army Contracting Command Rock Island and the Joint Munitions Command agreed to develop quality assurance surveillance plans for all existing and future munitions contracts that detail how and when the appointed Army personnel will survey, observe, test, sample, evaluate, and document contractor performance of open burning.

The Commander of Joint Munitions Command agreed to submit clear requirements to the Commander of Army Contracting Command-Rock Island for use when developing performance work statement requirements and quality assurance surveillance plans to evaluate contractor open burning of waste munitions and waste munition items.

Planned completion dates for implementation of the recommendations are not later than the end of FY 2022. These recommendations are resolved but will remain open until we are provided with documentation showing that all agreed-upon actions to implement the five recommendations are completed.

However, the Commander of Joint Munitions Command did not agree with the recommendation to nominate contracting officer’s representatives to provide oversight of contractor open burning at the Government owned, contractor operated facilities. The Commander stated that, according to DoD Instruction 5000.72, 3b, the contracting officer may, but is not required to, designate a contracting officer’s representative for service contracts.

Comments from the Commander of Joint Munitions Command regarding appointment of contracting officer’s representatives did not address the specifics of the recommendation. Therefore, the recommendation is unresolved and will remain open. We request additional comments from the Commander of Joint Munitions Command, in conjunction with the Commander of Army Contracting Command-Rock Island, regarding the nomination of contracting officer’s representatives by December 3, 2021.

 

This report is the result of Proj. No. D2018-D00SPO-0178.000.