Should the Military be Exempt from Environmental Regulations?

Shouldthe Military be Exempt from Environmental Regulations?


Themilitary is largely exempt from environmental protection regulations.They are exempt from laws on broad areas such as informationdisclosure, use of toxic chemicals and habitat conservation. Wheneverthese laws conflict with the military’s mission of protecting thecountry, the military will always have its way. The military appearsto be in a constant conflict with environmental protection agenciesand organizations. There is, therefore, a difficult line to drawbetween protecting the environment from degradation and protectingthe country through the military.

Theargument put forward by the U.S government is that environmentalprotection regulations interfere with the training and preparednessof the military. This is an unacceptable proposition because climatechange through environmental degradation is the most serious threatto the security and sovereignty of any country. I believe themilitary should be answerable to environmental protection laws, justlike every other private and public institution.


Energyuse is the leading cause of environmental degradation, especially inthe developed world. Bearing this in mind, the Department of Defenseconsumes more energy as a single unit than any other consumers in theUnited States. The military has a huge carbon footprint because ofthe huge energy requirements throughout their training and othermilitary incursions. With such vast energy needs, the military needsto come up with environmentally friendly military hardware to replacethe existing ones. However, exempting the military from environmentalprotection laws relieves them the pressure of developing hardwarethat is more efficient. If we are to realize any serious discussionson developing efficient military hardware, then it is paramount thatenvironmental protection laws bind the military. In 2010, there wereabout 1100 attacks on U.S military convoys, mostly transporting fuelto the troops. The war in Afghanistan claimed about 3000 personneltasked with resupplying fuel to the forces (, 76).This shows exactly the vastness of the military’s energyrequirements, and by extent, the amount of pollution.

TheDOD receives one of the highest revenue allocations from the federalgovernment and other private partners. Lack of enough financialresources is the biggest impediment to the development of greenenergy and technology. With the huge financial allocations, themilitary has no excuse as to why it should not be more sensitive toenvironmental protection. The military should be more accountable tothe taxpayers by using the revenue allocations to innovate militaryhardware that does not pollute the environment where the taxpayerslive. The natural habitat is the source of all our wealth, therefore,violating laws that conserve the habitat in abuse from the military.Environmental protection laws should govern military procurement. Inthis way, suppliers will be more conscious of the dangers of theirmilitary merchandise to the environment.

Overthe years, the military has provided the world with the greatestlife-changing innovations. Some of the inventions that were initiallyintended for military use include mobile phones, semiconductors,computers, aircraft, the internet, and GPS. Such inventionsdemonstrate that the military has the power to influence the world ina positive manner. The military, therefore, should be allowed toexercise its global influence by restricting it from abusing theenvironment. Just like all other inventions, the military is likelyto come up with energy-efficient machines and green energy solutionsthat will transform the world.

Anotherargument against excluding the military from environmental laws isthat the military has significant collaborations with the privatesector. These environmental protection laws bind the members of theprivate sector. Therefore, the private sector colluding with themilitary to disregard the very laws that bind them is very ironical.There is likelihood that private sector companies working with themilitary will abuse environmental protection laws and hide in themilitary’s banner. How then do we differentiate between the actionsof private companies and those of the military? Therefore, exemptingthe military from these laws also exempts the private partners fromthe same laws. This is likely to lead to vicious cycles of impunityand total disregard for environmental protection.

Thegovernment is the regulator of environmental protection throughgovernment agencies. On the other hand, the military is anestablishment of the government and controlled by the government. Itis difficult to assess how the government will regulate environmentalprotection and at the same time sanction a government establishmentto violate the laws that it regulates. The double standards, in thiscase, derail the debate on the importance of environmentalprotection. The military is a fast mover in the adoption of thelatest communication and combat technologies. However, energyefficiency takes a very small percentage of the military’s overallbudget. Excluding the military from laws that protect the environmentallows them to allocate such insignificant proportions of revenue inpursuing environmental protection.

Militaryequipment developed by the United States Army is used by otherfriendly nations across the world. Therefore, their impact on theenvironment is not just limited to the jurisdiction of the UnitedStates. This has an effect on the global environment, consideringthat the United States is a global leader in technology. The U.Sshould continue to offer leadership in important aspects of humanlife, including environmental conservation. Additionally, the UnitedStates has training bases in other parts of the world includingAfrica. Some of the countries have weak environmental protectionlaws. Therefore, the military might take advantage of the weakregulatory environment in these countries by polluting theenvironment. These countries need protection from environmentalpollution just like the United States itself.

Thedepartment of defense should realize that climate change couldaccelerate conflict and threaten the national security of the nation.A good example is the recent reports that the Russian Navy waspatrolling the newly opened waterways in the Arctic. This is alreadyan issue of conflict between the U.S and Russia. Moreover, climatechange will lead to increased competition for resources such as waterand arable land. This will result to animosity between countries andwithin countries. Therefore, the U.S should realize that allowing themilitary to abuse environmental protection laws would simply lead tothe emergence of new areas of conflict, the opposite of what thecountry seeks to achieve by exempting them from the laws.

Onecannot quantify the effect of pollution on human health. The use ofdangerous chemicals affects not only human health but also the healthof endangered species. The U.S military operates and owns more than25 million hectares of land. It is obvious that the natural habitatin the 25 million hectares will never be the same. Citizens breathethe air and drink the water near military establishments. Forexample, of the 3912 contaminated sites in California, the DODformally owned 441 of them (, 133).


Themilitary stands at a unique position to act as the most importantdomestic player in the development and adoption of greenertechnologies. The military has played a huge role in improving thequality of life through inventions such as the mobile phone and theinternet. It is only logical that the military continues to lead theway in bettering the lives of Americans and the entire world throughenvironmental conservation. The risk posed by climate change is realand continues to grow each day. The exemption of the military fromenvironmental protection laws is an unfortunate mistake, and therecannot be any satisfactory justification for the move. There is acomplex interconnectedness between the military and the privatesector. Therefore, the military has the finances and the rightpartnerships to develop clean energy and efficient military hardware.

Themilitary should be accountable to every aspect of environmentalprotection law if we are to avoid escalations in environmentalimpunity. Even though there are no substantive laws that direct thedepartment of defense to reduce their carbon emissions, the DODcontinues to channel significant efforts in developing greentechnologies. Therefore, even the military itself realizes theimportance of respecting a law that does not bind it. The Congressshould continue to pressure the military to be more sensitive to theenvironment through sourcing green energy and developing energyefficient hardware.


Corn,Geoffrey S., Rachel E. VanLandingham, and Shane R. Reeve.&nbspU.S.military operations : law, policy, and practice.Oxford, UK New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016. Print.