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The presence of unexploded ordnance (UXO) on military bases makes base closure difficult and complex. Technological limitations, cost uncertainties, regulatory disputes, environmental issues, and public safety concerns plague the transfer of bases to civilian control. Rules for cleanup have not yet been decided upon; without such rules there is no certainty over what process and standards will ultimately be required for UXO sites. Decisions to transfer more military land back to the public should consider whether trying to use UXO-contaminated land for civilian purposes makes sense, or whether the land should remain under military oversight until better cleanup technologies become available. In addition, some government agency must have long-term responsibility for enforcing land-use restrictions to protect the public. To make progress in the UXO cleanup area, the Bush administration and Congress must clarify lines of authority and specify end goals for UXO clearance.

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Originally published in: Environmental Science & Technology, v. 35, no. 17, September 1, 2001, pp. 372A-376A.

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