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Research Questions

  1. What is the state of environmental practice within DoD acquisition?
  2. What types of knowledge and tools are available to the DoD workforce?
  3. What types of policy or guidance are needed for the acquisition workforce to effectively incorporate environmental considerations into DoD acquisition processes?

The impacts of climate change and environmental threats have wide-ranging implications for the acquisition and sustainment of weapon systems and combat support systems, and the acquisition of goods and services. These impacts are increasingly perceived by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) as a national security threat, and mitigating and adapting to such threats is increasingly emphasized in national security policy.

In light of these challenges, RAND researchers assess the knowledge, tools, and capabilities needed by the acquisition workforce to infuse environmental considerations into DoD requirements, acquisition, and resource allocation decisionmaking. The research included a policy and literature review, along with discussions with subject-matter experts to understand the current state of environmental practice in DoD acquisition.

Key Findings

  • DoD's acquisition workforce appears to have the knowledge and tools to incorporate environmental considerations into acquisition planning, practice, and decisionmaking for both weapon systems and goods and services. Tools include myriad resources accessible to the acquisition workforce via DoD, other federal agency, and partner organization websites.
  • DoD has long-standing policy and guidance in many areas related to environmental compliance and impact; however, there is a potential gap in environmentally specific functional policy and guidance as applied to acquisition. These policies demonstrate awareness of the knowledge and tools needed to incorporate environmental considerations into acquisition planning and practice.
  • For weapon systems, environmental considerations are incorporated in the systems engineering, design interface, and product support processes and treated like any other performance or compliance requirement.
  • Policy on sustainability and Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 23 include rules and guidance for incorporating environmentally friendly preferences in the procurement of goods and services, including the source selection process. DoD leverages commercial and industry standards, which eliminates the need for DoD to separately verify the environmental performance of commercially available items.
  • Participation in internal DoD forums (e.g., the Climate Working Group) and interagency forums enables the DoD acquisition community to be aware of and leverage knowledge and tools within DoD and other federal agencies. Participation in these forums also facilitates consistency in the application of environmental practices to acquisition.
  • The DoD acquisition workforce has access to a variety of educational options and professional development to improve workforce knowledge of incorporating environmental considerations in acquisition.


  • Create a working-level environmental advisor function to assist in the procurement of environmentally preferred goods and services. This would increase the visibility of DoD environmental policy and help achieve DoD's environmental goals. For weapon systems, this function already exists at the system command level. For procurement of goods and services, the function could reside at the contracting office level.
  • Create and maintain an environmental guidebook as a resource for requirements developers, program managers, contracting officers, and others in the acquisition community. The intent is not to replace the guidance in existing functional policy and guidebooks but rather to bring together the knowledge and lessons of environmental management as applied in acquisition processes. Functional guidance is also easier to update than policy in response to changes in technology or environmental impacts that require changes in environmental practice.
  • Continue and enhance collaboration and information-sharing across DoD and with other federal, state, local, and industry organizations. This could include establishing a central repository of environmental performance data and other information, including lessons from past and ongoing initiatives and technology demonstrations.
  • Build on existing practices in the General Services Administration and other federal contracting organizations by establishing task order general contract vehicles with prequalified firms for select environmentally preferred goods and services. Threshold levels of environmental performance can be set to reflect other federal agencies' environmental performance levels or could be unique to DoD when appropriate.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (OUSD[A&S]) and conducted within the Acquisition and Technology Policy Program of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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