Saturday, September 14, 2013

Roll Over, Ike!

The practice of open burning Munitions Constituents (MC) at military bases  is not unique to the Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RAAP). What is different at other Army Open Burning Grounds (OBG) is that they operate at  bases not subject to providing economic gains for their corporate overseers. These Government Owned, Government Operated (GOGO) Army bases have no "mixed allegiance" to contend with - they carry out their mission according to military standards. That's one reason that the OBG permit for the Tooele Army Base in Utah is a total of ten pages, whereas the one issued to RAAP by the Virginia DEQ has 9 Modules and 21 attachments that make a mockery of transparency. In the words of one environmental professional  who reviewed the RAAP OBG permit proposed for modification in 2011, "this is a joke." These comments submitted for the official record in that process details what is so wrong about the permit that the VA DEQ ultimately approved.

The handy map of GOGO and GOCO facilities nationwide provided in this presentation by the Tooele Army base helps identify where corporate profits and the U. S. Army have a symbiotic relationship. Some of the ammunition plants built in preparation for WWII and established as Government Owned, Corporately Operated (GOCO) facilities, included the DuPont run Charlestown Indiana plant and that of the company that they gave spawn to under the Sherman Antitrust Act, Hercules Chemical.  

As this short history  provided by the Army's Joint Munitions Command outlines, RAAP was originally operated by Hercules Chemical, a company that developed strong ties with Virginia Tech (VT) and even came to share executive management. Many graduates of VT have gone on to work at the Arsenal, typically in management jobs where they are not exposed to the same level of toxins and dangers that those without college degrees endure at RAAP on a daily basis. Perhaps the key alum in weaving the interests of Hercules Chemical with those of the public University less than ten miles away was "maverick" businessman, Al Giacco. 

After immigrating to America from Italy as a young boy, Mr. Giacco graduated with a degree in Chemistry from Virginia Tech. His 1941 thesis on smokeless powder so impressed Hercules, Inc., that he was invited to their Wilmington headquarters later that year to discuss employment. According to page 45 of his autobiography, "Maverick Management," he reported to work  after Pearl Harbor at the end of March 1942. Mr. Giacco became a very valuable employee who worked his way up to the position of CEO in 1977. He also continued a close relationship with VT, being appointed to the Board of Visitors in 1979, although he was living in Delaware. Even more importantly, he became the University Rector from 1984 to 1987, (a position tantamount to University President in terms of practical power in Virginia), one of only two public Universities with a military Corp of Cadets. (Texas A & M is the other.) This dual management of the ammunition plant and Virginia Tech sealed the relationship between the two entities like a resin, in a way that redounds to the present day. After Giacco retired from Hercules, the company established the Alexander F. Giacco Presidential Chair at Virginia Tech with a $1 million endowment.

Alas, it is a wide and complex web of business interests interwoven into academia and the mission of our military. General Eisenhower must be rolling in his grave.

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