JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
The Department of the Air Force is soliciting input from local communities to determine if there is support for forming environmental Restoration Advisory Boards at more than 60 active and closed installations.
Restoration Advisory Boards, or RABs, provide a forum for two-way communication between the community and Air Force officials about environmental cleanup work on and around installations. RABs offer stakeholders access to the environmental restoration process and give members opportunities to review project progress, participate in dialogue, and provide comments and advice to the installation's decision makers concerning environmental restoration matters.
The Air Force Civil Engineer Center launched some of the assessments in March as part of a broad and aggressive effort to reach deeply into all segments of the communities to ensure every voice is heard, said Judy Lopez, AFCEC Environmental Management Director
“One of the key aspects of maintaining public trust and meeting our obligations under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program is to nurture effective relations with communities that surround installations where environmental restoration activities are occurring,” she said. “The Air Force values the input and collaboration of our communities as we work together to ensure success in these operations.”
The Department of the Air Force is using communication methods intended to reach a diverse audience throughout the interest assessment period. Outreach efforts including social media posts, newspaper ads, fliers, community center notifications, and door-to-door campaigns will all play a role as officials work to engage communities impacted by the Air Force environmental restoration mission.
The latest push for RAB participation and increased community input comes as Air Force officials continue to pledge their commitment to transparency in all elements of the environmental cleanup mission. Nancy Balkus, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Environment, Safety, Infrastructure), affirmed this commitment Aug. 1, 2022, during testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
“While the cleanup program is both legally and technically complex, its underlying purpose is simple: to address the releases attributable to the Air Force in a manner that transparently protects the American people,” she said. “We emphasize maximizing transparency, public participation, and collaboration in all our cleanup activities.”
Greg Gangnuss, chief of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program, oversees environmental cleanup operations at installations closed by federal legislation. The BRAC chief said closed bases offer unique challenges when it comes to connecting with the community and RABs give interested parties opportunities to play an important role in the restoration mission.
“The RABs are instrumental in helping us reach community members at our closed bases,” he said. “We have an inherent responsibility to provide information to our communities and we are committed to keeping these communication lines open.”
Coordinators are gathering RAB interest data throughout the spring and early summer and any required changes to existing programs are expected to be complete by Fall 2023. Those interested in learning more about their local RAB are asked to contact the Remedial Project Manager at active installations, the Base Environmental Coordinator at closed bases, or visit www.afcec.af.mil.
Community members interested in serving as a member of a RAB can express their interest via email at AFIMSC.PA.Workflow@us.af.mil or call 1-866-725-7617.