WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden praised winners of the 2009 Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards today for leading the way in environmental stewardship as they lead the way in the nation's defense.
Biden joined Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III in the Pentagon auditorium to recognize installations and teams he said are excelling in an area most people in the general public would never expect.
"This is an outfit that does it all," Biden said. "When I look at the accomplishments of the teams we honor today, I am genuinely impressed by how our nation's armed forces, while fighting two wars overseas and many other contingencies across the globe, can still lead the fight for effective environmental stewardship."
Biden noted that the Defense Department, as the United States' largest employer, land owner and energy consumer, is making "a gigantic impact" in committing to environmental protection.
Today's winners have stood above the rest in protecting wetlands, promoting recycling programs and preserving archeological sites through "innovation, improvising as well as simple, plain hard work," he said. "But they don't stand alone," he said, pointing to the extensive environmental focus throughout the department.
"You have also demonstrated that in our military, you don't need to wear a green beret to be proud of being green," he said.
The $4.3 billion proposed for the department's environmental programs in fiscal 2010 will continue this effort, Biden said. "It's a big deal what you are doing, and we have a shot at doing so much more," he said.
Lynn lauded the commitment this year's awardees have demonstrated to environmental preservation. "They developed and implemented innovative techniques to eliminate waste production, use green alternatives in weapons systems development, reduce pollution and the consumption of energy and natural resources," he said.
"Since the Department of Defense is the single-largest consumer of energy in United States, it is important that we also be a leader in efficiency and in using renewable fuels," he said.
Ashton B. Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, opened today's ceremony noting the lasting impact the awardees' "extraordinary contributions" will have.
"The men and women we honor today are committed to maintaining and restoring our natural resources, not only to address the complex security challenges of today, but to ensure that generations to come will benefit from our nation's unquantifiable richness," he said.
The following environmental award winners were honored today:
- Camp Ripley Maneuver and Training Center, a Minnesota Army National Guard facility, was the winner in the Large Installation Natural Resources Conservation category. With more than 19 miles of Mississippi River frontage, it was recognized for its role in protecting the river and its delicate ecosystem.
- Fort Drum Cultural Resources Team, Fort Drum,, N.Y., won in the Team/Individual Cultural Resources Management category. The team was honored for its role in protecting more than 240 prehistoric and 700 historic archeological sites, as well as six districts on the National Register of Historic Places.
- U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg, Germany, won in the Overseas Installation Environmental Quality category. The post was honored for its environmental management system that promotes pollution prevention, recycling, public health, and conservation.
- Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., won in the Non-Industrial Installation Pollution Prevention category. The base was recognized for its combined pollution prevention efforts credited with reducing hazardous waste, solid waste, air and water contaminants and other pollutants.
- Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., won in the Installation Cultural Resources Management category. The base was honored for implementing an integrated cultural resources management plan that protects and preserves more than 1,600 irreplaceable archeological resources and historic properties, 14 rock art sites and other cultural assets.
- Environmental Management Division, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, won in the Industrial Installation Environmental Quality category. The division was recognized for environmental excellence in managing nearly 1 million acres of the Utah Test and Training Range as it supported five wings and about 40 tenant units.
- The 14th Civil Engineer Squadron Pollution Prevention Team, Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., won in the Team/Individual Pollution Prevention category. The team was honored for its environmental program management efforts that include an innovative glass recycling program, increased use of biodiesel and other alternative energy sources and Earth Day-related education outreach.
- Defense Depot Memphis, Tenn., won in the Installation Environmental Restoration category. The facility, which closed in 1997 under a Base Realignment and Closure program, was cited for applying innovation and forward thinking to speed clean-up operations and successful land reuse.
The secretary of defense has been recognizing installations, teams and individuals for outstanding achievement in environmental management each year since 1962. A panel of experts representing federal and state agencies, academia, and the public selected this year's winners.