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). Section 2714 of title 10, United States Code codifies the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Task Force and identifies its members and goals.

The PFAS Task Force is focused on five goals (clicking on each goal below will expand the 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:

  • Funding efforts to research, identify, and qualify an effective fluorine-free firefighting alternative for procurement
  • 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
  • Expanding PFAS related public outreach
  • Supporting research efforts related to PFAS cleanup and treatment technologies and ensuring findings are publicly available

The PFAS 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 Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF)

One of the Department’s priorities is to eliminate the use of AFFF at military installations. DoD has stopped using AFFF for land-based testing or training unless it can be completely contained and disposed. Additionally, DoD is investing significant resources in research to identify PFAS-free substitutes for AFFF that meet the military’s stringent firefighting performance criteria. The NDAA for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Section 322 requires DoD to cease use of AFFF no later than October 1, 2024, unless the Secretary of Defense submits a one-year waiver. This waiver may be requested for two one-year periods until October 1, 2026. The Military Departments – Army, Navy, and Air Force – are evaluating available technologies, in addition to alternative foams, to replace AFFF systems in facilities.

The Department of the Navy led the creation of the new military specification (MILSPEC) to provide a direct replacement for AFFF used in existing DoD firefighting systems. The creation of the MILSPEC involved major stakeholders from across the DoD and included a broad technical review by other federal agencies, state governments, representatives of the firefighting foam manufacturing industry, civil aviation stakeholders, research scientists from industry and academia, private consultants, and professional organizations from the firefighting community. The resultant Military Performance-based Specification (MIL-PRF) -32725 “FIRE EXTINGUISHING AGENT, FLUORINE-FREE FOAM (F3) LIQUID CONCENTRATE, FOR LAND-BASED, FRESH WATER APPLICATIONS” was published on January 6, 2023.

On September 12, 2023, the Department qualified the first F3 product for procurement. This met the requirement established by the FY 2020 NDAA to have F3 concentrate available for procurement by the October 2023 deadline. Additional F3 products that meet the specification requirements are in the process of being qualified and approved for use by the Military Departments. The Military Departments have begun this transition process.

Fulfilling Our Cleanup Responsibility Related to PFAS

Addressing DoD’s PFAS releases is at the core of the Department’s commitment to protect the health and safety of its Service members, their families, the DoD civilian workforce, and the communities in which DoD serves. The DoD PFAS Task Force has developed policy and direction to ensure DoD’s actions are consistent across the military departments in fulfilling its PFAS cleanup responsibility. These policies provide guidance for addressing releases to the environment from DoD activities as required by the Federal cleanup law (i.e., the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA)).

DoD fully investigates a potential release and determines the appropriate cleanup actions based on risk and prioritizes cleanup in communities with the highest risk of exposure. There are currently more than 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. The PA/SI is the first phase of the cleanup process and may take one to three years to complete. See the progress and status of PFAS investigations here.

With support from the Task Force, DoD recently issued guidance to the military departments to expedite cleanup actions by implementing interim actions to address PFAS migration from DoD installations and National Guard facilities. Examples of interim cleanup actions include removal of soil “hot spots” and installation of groundwater extraction systems to mitigate further PFAS plume migration or impacts to groundwater from an on-base PFAS source area.

PFAS in Drinking Water Off-base: DoD conducts sampling of drinking water off-base to ensure the Department identifies potential impacts of PFAS resulting from DoD activities. Off-base drinking water includes non-DoD drinking water systems and private wells located outside the installation boundary. Where DoD is the known source of PFAS, and testing results show PFOS and PFOA, individually or combined, above 70 parts per trillion (ppt), DoD takes immediate action to address it. DoD’s actions include treatment of drinking water or providing alternative water supplies, such as bottled water, implementing a whole-house filtration system, or connecting residents served by private wells to public drinking water systems.

DoD is providing the final testing results for off-base drinking water located in “covered areas” in accordance with Section 345 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. Covered areas, as defined by Section 345, are locations in the United States that are adjacent to and down gradient from a military installation, Formerly Used Defense Site, or National Guard facility. DoD’s final testing results are posted here. As of the end of second quarter of FY 2023, DoD has posted 337 final drinking water reports. These reports included over 7,000 sampling results. Additional information on DoD’s efforts to monitor and address PFAS in drinking water can be found here.

PFAS in Drinking Water On-base 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 70ppt. DoD has tested DoD-operated drinking water systems, and where on-base drinking water tested above 70ppt, DoD took action such as:

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

DoD has continued periodic testing of DoD-operated drinking water systems for certain PFAS, including PFOS and PFOA, and resamples these systems periodically based on the results as described in its July 2023 policy. In anticipation of EPA issuing a final drinking water regulation, the Department is evaluating its efforts to address PFAS in drinking water and what actions DoD can take to prepare to incorporate a final standard, including on-base drinking water systems. In addition, DoD is continuing to monitor drinking water it purchases for use on its installations to prevent and address exposure to certain PFAS per its July 2020 policy.

PFAS Destruction and Disposal Options: DoD issued PFAS interim disposal guidance to help DoD make informed decisions in the evaluation of existing PFAS destruction and disposal options. This DoD guidance applies only to DoD and identifies the considerations the DoD Components will follow before disposing of PFAS-containing materials. It directs the DoD Components to store, dispose of, or destroy PFAS in the safest, most effective, and technologically sound manner. DoD worked closely with EPA to incorporate the best currently available safeguards on disposal to ensure PFAS cleanup advances the Administration’s priorities on the environment, public health, and environmental justice. This guidance is interim because it will be updated annually based on developing PFAS destruction and disposal technologies, monitoring the effectiveness and potential environmental effects of all technologies, and collaborating Administration-wide on best practices. DoD needs a comprehensive destruction and disposal PFAS strategy because of the large volumes of PFAS-containing materials it generates from its cleanup program, its replacement of certain firefighting foam that contains PFAS, and its current emergency use and spill response to releases of this PFAS-containing firefighting foam. DoD has also issued guidance on “Incineration of Materials Containing Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances” that continues the temporary prohibition on incineration of DoD’s PFAS-containing materials.

Understanding the Impacts of PFAS on Human Health

The science on PFAS is evolving. There is extensive research being done to determine where PFAS exist and what impact they have on human health and the environment. DoD continues to monitor research efforts and health risk information to better understand potential health effects of PFAS exposure. DoD is supporting scientific health research and has provided $90 million to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to conduct a multi-site health study and exposure assessments in the communities around eight current and former military installations.

The DoD performs annual occupational exams that include offering PFAS blood testing to its Active-duty military, Reserves, and DoD civilian employee firefighters, and is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to determine whether career fields, beyond firefighters, may have occupational PFAS exposures. DoD issued policy and procedures for implementation of firefighter blood testing in September 2020 and PFAS blood testing is part of their annual exams.

DoD has also supported efforts to:

  • Help educate healthcare providers and their patients on PFAS exposure and potential health risks
  • Monitor PFAS exposure research and data
  • Collaborate with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, and other Federal agencies

Expanding PFAS-Related Public Outreach

The Task Force supports ongoing outreach activities that involve coordinating and collaborating with Federal agencies and communicating to the public, Congress, and other stakeholders about the Department’s efforts to find an alternative to Aqueous Film Forming Foam (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:

  • Maintaining the DoD PFAS website to provide PFAS-related information, including links to research efforts aimed at finding an alternative to AFFF.
  • Conducting Outreach Events hosted by DoD leaders to communicate the latest developments in DoD’s PFAS efforts and address questions and concerns regarding PFAS and DoD’s cleanup process.
  • In the fall of 2022, the Department implemented the Environmental Cleanup Communication and Outreach (ECCO) Initiative targeted at enhancing communication and outreach with stakeholders including Congress, the public, and communities across the country. Findings from this initiative are informing the development of communication products that will better explain DoD’s cleanup activities in a comprehensible and transparent manner.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Collaborating with installations and the local community through Community Involvement Plans (CIPs) and Restoration Advisory Boards (RABs).
  • Supporting Technical Assistance for Public Participation (TAPP) to strengthen the RABs understanding of the cleanup process and enhance participation in the process.

The Task Force is supporting these 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.

Supporting PFAS Research Efforts

The Department is focused on research to identify technologies that can be implemented to expedite the cleanup of DoD’s PFAS releases and an alternative to aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF). DoD’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) funded more than 170 projects since 2011 addressing the management of PFAS in the environment, as well as the development of PFAS-free alternatives to AFFF.

Overall, DoD supports over 200 technology development and demonstration projects, including studies about:

  • Commercially available F3 agents
  • Development of analytical methods for PFAS in media other than drinking water
  • Rapid, in-field analysis methods for mapping of impacted areas
  • Determination of pathways for PFAS migration in soil
  • A variety of destruction methods for PFAS

DoD has invested over $160 million through FY 2022 with another $60 million planned through Fiscal Year 2025 with SERDP and ESTCP to advance technologies to expedite the cleanup process. DoD publishes summaries of its ongoing PFAS projects and final reports on the SERDP and ESTCP website. Additionally, SERDP and ESTCP post summaries of their workshops and planning meetings as well as tools and trainings on the website.