The activities of the Department of Defense (DOD) and its contractors in manufacturing, testing, maintaining, and disposing of military equipment make up a significant portion of the industrial processes conducted in the United States. As is the case with the commercial industries, some of these activities, such as metal plating, have resulted in industrial pollution and environmental contamination. With increasing environmental regulation of such processes in recent decades, defense facilities have been faced with growing compliance issues. Department of Defense efforts to manage, correct, and prevent these problems have included the establishment of the National Defense Center for Environmental Excellence (NDCEE) under the management of the U.S. Army Industrial Ecology Center (IEC).
The National Research Council’s Committee to Evaluate Transfer of Pollution Prevention Technology for the U.S. Army was formed to identify major barriers to the transfer of pollution prevention technologies and to recommend pathways to success. To address the study objectives, the committee (1) reviewed the NDCEE’s technology transfer activities, (2) examined efforts to transfer technology in four areas, two of which were identified at the outset by the NDCEE as successful and two of which were identified as unsuccessful, and (3) identified opportunities for improving the transfer of pollution prevention technologies to maintenance and rework facilities in the Department of Defense and to industrial manufacturing facilities performing defense-related operations.
To facilitate the evaluation, four case studies of technology transfer were chosen that were representative of major industrial pollution programs in the Industrial Ecology Center and the Department of Defense. Two of these technologies, electrocoat and powder coating, are methods for applying coatings. The third technology, ion beam surface modification, is a method for improving coatings and surface condition, and the fourth, ultrahigh-pressure waterjet technology, is used for coatings removal and surface preparation. These technologies are within the purview of the NDCEE, which the Industrial Ecology Center managed from 1993 through 2000. The NDCEE’s thrust areas are not limited to coatings, but these four areas were selected because they constitute a definitive and substantial part of the IEC’s program. This report describes activities that occurred in the period from the NDCEE’s inception until September 30, 2000.
APPROPRIATENESS OF TECHNOLOGIES
Military maintenance depots carry out a wide range of functions to refurbish and distribute materiel. Given this broad responsibility, certain technologies may be more appropriate than others in meeting an operation’s needs. The complex requirements that coating technologies must satisfy encompass process reliability, throughput, and product performance as well as environmental impact.
One technology addressed early in the NDCEE program was electrocoat processing. For various reasons, electrocoat was not found by the committee to be appropriate for depot refinishing applications. It is a highly capital-intensive process and is suited almost exclusively to original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, applications. For the few specialized cases where electrocoat may be appropriate, commercial suppliers can readily fill the testing and demonstration needs.
Recommendation. To better utilize technology transfer resources, the NDCEE should shut down its current electrocoat bath. In the event that any future demonstration of electrocoat technology is considered appropriate, the NDCEE should utilize the demonstration facilities of commercial suppliers of materials and process suppliers.
Also, ion beam technology, which has tremendous potential for application in surface modification, was not considered to be at an appropriate state of maturity for the investments made by the NDCEE. The NDCEE can maintain competency in the area in preparation for the future by establishing closer ties with research laboratories in the United States, both inside and outside the Department of Defense, and overseas that are actively and successfully engaged in ion beam surface modification research.
Recommendation. No further effort or expenditure should be devoted to either utilizing or improving the existing ion beam equipment at the NDCEE, as this technology is still evolving. The
NDCEE’s objective should be to develop and maintain an awareness of the potential for technology transfer to the U.S. military services, and to prepare to aid in implementation when the technology matures.
Transfer of powder coating technologies was similarly unsuccessful, and the NDCEE’s documentation showed very limited evidence of implementation at Department of Defense facilities. While powder coating may result in improved performance and associated cost savings, the savings are unlikely to be large enough to offset the costs incurred by NDCEE for the overall development effort. Indirect costs, including those for permitting, monitoring, reporting, penalties, or damages, must be considered when evaluating the costs of implementing such new technologies.
Recommendation. The NDCEE should conduct a balanced assessment of alternative coating technologies to select the most appropriate approach for each defense application. The NDCEE must consider the trade-offs between direct environmental cost avoidance, indirect environmental improvements, and the cost of the technical effort needed to develop and implement powder coating technology or any pollution prevention technology.
Among the technologies examined, ultrahigh-pressure waterjet cleaning was the most appropriate for the NDCEE and offers numerous possibilities for pollution prevention across the services. Although the NDCEE has achieved some degree of success in transferring this technology, the limitations of the facility at the NDCEE must be overcome before the potential for this technology can be achieved.
Recommendation. The NCDEE should expand its efforts to transfer ultrahigh-pressure waterjet technology to additional types of applications. To support this effort, the NDCEE should configure the waterjet system at Johnstown for both in-house and field use to demonstrate technical applications. The NDCEE should also work more closely with commercial vendors of waterjet equipment and services and should purchase or lease field portable equipment as needed.
CRITERIA FOR SUCCESS IN TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER AT NDCEE
Successful technology transfer occurs when the organization receiving a technology assumes the cost of using the technology as part of its normal operating expenses. Successful technology transfer requires implementation of new technologies, not simply demonstration or implementation only after extremely long delays. Although technology awareness is raised by demonstrations, appropriate planning for technology transfer must identify the specific regulatory, organizational, and technical barriers to implementation from the beginning of the process.
The NDCEE’s technology demonstration activities are substantial. However, results demonstrating cost-effective implementation of new processes have not been quantified. Planned program milestones could ensure visibility for the technologies across a broader array of potential users and help to establish government-industry implementation teams.
Implementing new technologies imposes costs on the user, on the organizations required to evaluate and approve the technology, and on the transferring organization. Consideration must be given to funding the efforts needed to test, approve, and implement the technologies demonstrated by the NDCEE at the Department of Defense system commands and the receiving depots. These depots are essential contributors to the success of any technology transfer.
Recommendation. The NDCEE should clarify in a mission statement the goals for all its programs along with stated interim and ending milestones. The NDCEE should provide this information and the background analysis to the potential recipient of a technology. Each program should set goals, for example, for the amount of pollution prevention to be achieved as a result of NDCEE efforts. These goals should be coordinated with NDCEE’s technology partners, including original equipment manufacturers, DOD command organizations, DOD equipment depots, technology suppliers, technical consultants, and internal staff. An independent program oversight panel should regularly review and publish the NDCEE’s quantifiable performance toward achieving these milestones.
Some specific coating technologies were selected for implementation at a very early stage in the NDCEE’s operations. These coating technologies were identified as solutions to environmental problems at user facilities before the specifics of the situation were fully analyzed. For example, powder
coat and electrocoat appear to have been applied where more in-depth consideration would have led instead to the use of high-solids or aqueous spray systems. These alternatives would offer improved environmental performance combined with easier implementation. Because the NDCEE chose the more complex technologies, power coat and electrocoat only reached the demonstration phase. As a result, pollution prevention technologies have not yet been implemented at many sites where they are needed.
Prior to accepting any projects, the NDCEE should perform a market survey of the site to assess the need to change or add technology. This assessment should include an economic analysis of any proposed process changes. The alternatives must be shown to offer improved environmental performance combined with easier implementation.
Recommendation. The NDCEE should perform system-level cost-benefit analyses for planned projects as well as for ongoing activities. These analyses should be conducted in light of NDCEE mission objectives and in close cooperation with all stakeholders and should include a market survey and a comparative assessment of all potentially useful technologies to determine the most appropriate approach to address user needs.
Both the establishment of the NDCEE and the concept of providing technical and financial support during the later stages of technology transfer for pollution prevention are appropriate uses of government funding. An intermediary with the means to develop technological capabilities and the mandate to work through the organizational and technical barriers to adoption of pollution prevention technology has the potential to be a very effective agent for positive change.
Any intermediary such as the NDCEE that seeks to transfer technologies in a large, diverse organization such as the Department of Defense must bridge various organizational and cultural gaps. No matter what the environmental benefit, managers are understandably resistant to change in many defense systems, especially when lives depend on their successful operation. This cautious approach necessitates that the military system commands and the original equipment manufacturers be the primary arbiters of a technology transfer program’s success.
The NDCEE appears to function at its best in support of organizations such as the Joint Group on Pollution Prevention and the Army’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command. In these efforts, the NDCEE is integrated with the overall Department of Defense operation and has an organizational connection with the commands that can approve implementation of process changes.
Recommendation. The NDCEE should plan and operate programs with the goal of gaining the confidence and cooperation of the organizations responsible for approving new technologies for integration into the ongoing mission operations.
The complex organizational structure of environmental programs in the Department of Defense also plays a part in the difficulty of implementing new technologies. Because programs such as the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program and the NDCEE operate substantially in parallel, it is difficult to develop an overall picture of these programs in order to understand their effectiveness.
Another structural barrier involves management of equipment depots. Depot managers take a short-term approach to return on investment in commercial applications, yet their focus may not be to optimize payback. Although life-cycle costing for a piece of equipment may make sense from a total organizational standpoint, an individual depot manager may have different incentives and criteria for success. An organization like the NDCEE can be invaluable in demonstrating the overarching benefits of implementing a new technology.
A more pervasive structural barrier to implementation of new pollution prevention technologies is the use of military specifications or outdated procedures. Some specifications require processes and test procedures that may be inappropriate or outdated, and that can lead to false estimations of product life and life-cycle costs. Also, some may be written so as to give preference to the use of a specific technology, excluding other promising alternatives.
Recommendation. The NDCEE should integrate its activities more closely with the larger Department of Defense environmental and coatings programs and should cooperate with military specification developers, commercial industry, and coating materials suppliers in bringing all defense product finishing specifications up to date in the area of performance testing.
COLLABORATION AND OPENNESS
Information that would allow interested parties to learn about the activities of the NDCEE is currently limited. The NDCEE has not emphasized publishing its project results in either refereed literature or industry magazines, and data concerning NDCEE projects on its World Wide Web site generally consists of one- or two-page project descriptions. Greater access to more complete information would aid greatly in technology transfer efforts—both directly by attracting customers to the NDCEE and indirectly by contributing to general knowledge about the technologies under consideration.
Recommendation. The NDCEE should focus more effort on dissemination of its results, whether positive or negative. NDCEE staff should present and publish more technical and overview papers in military and technology-specific journals, should participate more fully in scientific and technical organizations, and should focus specifically on submitting papers to peer-reviewed journals and applying for patents where appropriate. Such participation will create a more visible presence for the NDCEE in the technical areas within its purview and will enable potential customers to more efficiently identify needed expertise and services. Publicly available Web pages should also be used to disseminate results.
A related issue is the lack of highly specialized subject-matter experts in the various technologies considered for implementation. Given the great breadth of activities the NDCEE has been tasked with over its history, the use of specialized experts from a broad range of institutions is essential to ensure program success. Such experts would cut down the learning period for new technologies, as well as help to gain the respect of organizations ultimately responsible for approving implementation of NDCEE programs.
Recommendation. The NDCEE should assemble a cadre of personnel who can provide the necessary continuing support to technology adopters, including training in technology and management. These experts should be capable of responding to the total breadth of DOD’s environmental concerns and provide technical advice or conduct case-specific experimental analyses. This service could be added either through direct staffing at NDCEE or through cooperative work with academic and government research centers in the appropriate fields, other mission organizations within the Department of Defense, or brokered relationships with industrial technology suppliers.
Technology transfer is widely accepted as a difficult and costly challenge. The mission of the NDCEE toward this end is commendable, and the concept of establishing an intermediary organization to introduce and transfer new technologies for pollution prevention is certainly worthwhile. In practice at the NDCEE, unfortunately, this model has not been successfully demonstrated. The demonstration factory capabilities at the NDCEE investigated in this study are not a necessary or cost-effective means of demonstrating environmental technologies. Reliance on industrial facilities commonly used by the commercial users of coatings would be cost-effective and could lead to further collaboration with manufacturers.
Realization of several key elements of an effective intermediary strategy is necessary for success in transferring pollution prevention technology. These elements include (1) bridging the organizational gaps between the intermediary (the NDCEE), the technology users (the military system commands), and the technology suppliers (the original equipment manufacturers); (2) selecting and completing relevant projects with significant and quantifiable impacts; (3) supporting highly respected technical personnel both on staff and as external advisors; and (4) disseminating and publishing timely information on both successful and unsuccessful demonstrations.