Military Bases

Environmental Impact at Closing Installations Gao ID: NSIAD-95-70 February 23, 1995

Since 1988, the Defense Department (DOD) has been closing and realigning military installations. A major problem is the billions of dollars it will cost to clean up hazardous waste at these bases. The estimated cost for cleaning up environmental problems at closing military bases has risen to $5.4 billion, a figure that GAO believes is understated. Meanwhile, the full extent of cleanup actions may not be known for years, and installations may not be cleaned up by the time they close. Delays in addressing groundwater pollution, landfill contamination, and unexploded ordnance are hindering the transfer of property to nonfederal users.

GAO found that: (1) despite DOD actions to resolve environmental cleanup issues at bases slated for closure or realignment, problems remain with determining accurate cleanup costs, timing appropriations with cleanup needs, prioritizing available cleanup funds, and protecting the government's interests when leasing or transferring property; (2) cleanup costs will probably exceed the current DOD estimate of $5.4 billion because of additional cleanup needs and longer cleanup periods; (3) DOD could postpone clean up of some bases until after closure, since they will remain federal property or be under long-term lease to nonfederal users; (4) cleanup progress has been limited, since DOD is still studying the most contaminated sites; (5) the full extent of DOD cleanup actions may not be known for years; (6) some bases may not be cleaned up by the time they close, partly due to the need to develop new technology to cleanup groundwater, landfills, and unexploded ordnance sites; and (7) DOD has developed a fast track cleanup program to accelerate base cleanups, but it needs to improve program implementation.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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