PFAS Task Force

Goals & Objectives

In July 2019, the Secretary of Defense stood up a Task Force to ensure a coordinated approach on DoD-wide efforts to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The Task Force is focused on four goals (clicking on the goals below will expand it's content area at the bottom of the page).

DoD’s PFAS Task Force is working to address PFAS issues in a cohesive, consistent manner while coordinating and communicating with external stakeholders. The Task Force is working on these efforts in coordination with other Federal agencies to ensure a consistent approach to this national issue. The Task Force has made significant progress toward:

  • limiting the Department’s use of AFFF and researching fluorine-free alternatives to AFFF;
  • establishing policies to address DoD’s PFAS releases consistently across the Department and collecting data to track PFAS cleanup progress and costs;
  • monitoring and communicating information about the health effects of human exposure to PFAS; and
  • expanding PFAS related public outreach.

The Task Force will continue to identify and provide DoD with the tools needed to address the effects of its PFAS releases, and to ensure that the Department continues to protect the health of its Service Members, their families, the DoD civilian workforce, and the communities in which DoD serves.

Mitigating and Eliminating the Use of the Current AFFF

One of the Department’s priorities is finding an effective PFAS-free firefighting solution that meets the life-saving performance standards of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) and does not adversely affect human or ecological health. DoD is investing significant resources in research to develop PFAS-free substitutes for AFFF that meet the military’s stringent performance criteria. Our efforts toward a PFAS-free alternative for AFFF include three major lines of effort.

AFFF in DoD Facilities and Airports

DoD no longer uses AFFF for testing and training unless it can be completely contained and properly disposed. When DoD uses AFFF for emergencies or when it is accidentally released, the Military Departments treat it as a spill and notify the Office of the Secretary of Defense of uses or spills above certain levels within 24 hours. The Department is implementing a comprehensive, methodical process to evaluate and determine the most appropriate and feasible alternatives to replace fluorinated AFFF in our facilities, such as aircraft hangars and bulk fuel facilities. The Department is also, in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, ensuring incident responses at its over 200 bases with joint or shared use airports are maintaining current protection levels for passengers, crews, and equipment.

More information on DoD’s efforts to minimize the use of AFFF and R&D of AFFF alternatives can be found here.

Fulfilling Our Cleanup Responsibility Related to PFAS

Addressing concerns with exposure to PFAS is at the core of the Department’s commitment to the health and safety of its Service members, their families, the DoD civilian workforce, and the communities in which DoD serves. In furtherance of this commitment, the Task Force is fulfilling DoD’s PFAS cleanup responsibility by mitigating perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in the drinking water it supplies, as well as addressing releases to the environment under the federal cleanup law (i.e., the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)) that are the direct result of DoD’s AFFF use. DoD fully investigates a potential release and determines the appropriate cleanup actions based on risk. There are currently 700 installations* where DoD or the National Guard may have used or potentially released PFAS. DoD is performing Preliminary Assessments/Site Inspections (PA/SIs) at these installations, which is the first phase of the cleanup process and may take two to three years to complete. Immediate actions to address off-site drinking water are taken during the PA/SI.

DoD updates the progress status of PFAS investigations at all 700 installations as well as those locations that have moved forward to the next phase of the cleanup process (i.e. Remedial Investigation[RI]). This information can be found on our Cleanup of PFAS webpage.

PFAS in Drinking Water:DoD’s priority is to quickly address PFOS and PFOA in drinking water above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) 2016 lifetime drinking water Health Advisories (HAs) where DoD is the known source. The Department is monitoring and providing alternative water in the communities surrounding the 53 installations where DoD has identified levels of PFOS and PFOA above the EPA HAs.

DoD tested its DoD-operated drinking water systems and took action at all locations that tested above EPA’s HAs to reduce levels below the HAs. DoD follows EPA’s recommended actions, which include:

  • Treatment of drinking water,
  • Closing drinking water wells and providing alternative water supplies, such as bottled water, and
  • Connecting private residents to public drinking water systems.

DoD issued policies for continued periodic testing of DoD-operated drinking water systems for certain PFAS, including PFOS and PFOA, and for monitoring drinking water at DoD installations where DoD purchases water. DoD is ensuring a consistent approach to continued testing and monitoring of on-base drinking water across DoD to ensure no one on-base is exposed to PFOS or PFOA in drinking water above the EPA 2016 lifetime drinking water HAs. DoD has continued testing of DoD-operated drinking water systems, and resamples these systems periodically based on the results. Additionally, DoD is continuing to monitor drinking water it purchases for use on its installations to prevent and address exposure to certain PFAS. DoD is also funding research to develop technologies to quantify and clean up PFOS and PFOA and related PFAS chemicals. Additional information on DOD’s efforts to monitor and address PFAS in drinking water can be found here.

Understanding the Impacts of PFAS on Human Health

Addressing concerns with exposure to PFAS continues to be a priority of the Department, which is committed to protecting the health and safety of our Service members, their families, the DoD civilian workforce, and the communities in which DoD serves. In addition, DoD continues to monitor research efforts to better understand PFAS exposures and potential health effects of PFAS exposure and communicate evolving health risk information to healthcare providers and their patients. As directed by Congress the Department has provided $55 million to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to conduct exposure assessments in the communities around eight current and former military installations and a multi-site health study. The primary goal of the exposure assessments is to provide information to communities about the levels of PFAS in their bodies. This information will help inform future studies that evaluate the impact of PFAS exposure on human health.

The Task Force has focused on educating DoD healthcare providers and their patients; monitoring PFAS exposure research and data; collaborating with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, and other Federal agencies; and testing PFAS in DoD firefighters’ blood as required by Section 707 of the FY2020 NDAA. DoD issued policy and procedures for implementation of firefighter blood testing in September 2020 and PFAS blood testing is currently underway as part of their annual exams. Additional information on these efforts can be found here.

Expanding PFAS-Related Public Outreach

The Task Force recognizes the importance of achieving its goals in a transparent manner that promotes consistency not only within DoD but among all Federal agencies. To this end, the Task Force supports ongoing outreach activities that involve coordinating and collaborating with other Federal agencies and communicating to the public, Congress, and other stakeholders about the Department’s efforts to find an alternative to AFFF, understand and address the impacts to human health from PFAS, and clean up PFAS releases caused by past DoD activities. These outreach activities include:

  • Conducting Quarterly Outreach Events hosted at the highest leadership level to communicate the latest developments in DoD’s PFAS efforts and address questions and concerns regarding PFAS and the DoD’s cleanup process.
  • Establishing a DoD PFAS website for PFAS-related information, including links to progress on research efforts to find an alternative to AFFF;
  • Developing and maintaining PFAS information ;
  • Providing materials to Installation Commanders to help them understand and communicate about PFAS issues on and off their installations to Service members, their families, and the communities nearby;
  • Clarifying expectations for and requiring Installation Commanders to report local outreach efforts related to PFAS to ensure consistent and appropriate engagement with communities surrounding DoD installations and to gather community questions and/or concerns;
  • Conducting media roundtables and other media engagements to provide updates on the Task Force’s progress;
  • Exploring opportunities to engage with nongovernmental organizations, think tanks, and other groups interested in DoD’s efforts to address PFAS;
  • Engaging with members of Congress and staff concerned with PFAS-related issues including briefings to these offices when requested; and
  • Notifying Congress about Task Force media engagements and publications related to PFAS and Task Force activities; providing publications to congressional staff, including documents on the establishment and purpose of the Task Force, media roundtable transcripts, and the DoD PFAS website; and inviting congressional staff to a demonstration of commercially-available alternative foam; and
  • Expanding outreach and increasing communications and transparency in cleanup by improving Restoration Advisory Boards.

The Task Force is supporting these ongoing outreach activities to ensure open and consistent coordination and communication inside and outside DoD on its efforts to address PFAS. Additionally, the DoD Components continue to engage with the public, Congress, and other stakeholders on site-specific PFAS matters.