Auburn University, Fort Benning agree to $18 million, 10-year environmental services partnership

Agreement paves way for expansion of multidisciplinary research opportunities

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Auburn University and Fort Benning have agreed to a 10-year partnership for the university’s Department of Risk Management & Safety to assume management of the Georgia Army base’s environmental services.

The Intergovernmental Support Agreement, or IGSA, connects the university and military base—which are located just 40 miles apart—in a long-term partnership that will expand research opportunities for Auburn’s colleges and units. The university’s Department of Risk Management & Safety, or RMS, will support Fort Benning’s environmental compliance program needs for the next decade as part of the $18 million deal, which begins in April.

Auburn RMS operates with a mission to “protect people, the environment, property, financial and other resources in support of Auburn University’s teaching, research, outreach and student services.” RMS also will help the base adhere to state and federal Clean Air Acts and Clean Water Acts and hazardous waste regulations, oversee staffing needs and expand research opportunities for Auburn’s colleges and units.

The partnership marks a significant advancement in the collaboration between Auburn and Fort Benning.

“This long-term partnership between Auburn University and Fort Benning is a welcomed joint venture that will link our two great neighboring institutions for years to come,” said Lt. Gen. (ret.) Ron Burgess, Auburn’s executive vice president and a 38-year U.S. Army veteran. “Auburn has long been a friend to the military and veterans, and this collaboration will strengthen that bond as we help the Army manage the base’s environmental needs through our Department of Risk Management & Safety. The potential for faculty research opportunities through this agreement will be a profound boost across campus, and we look forward to a long alliance with Fort Benning.”

For the base, the deal represents an opportunity to streamline operations, maximize efficacy and partner with a major land-grant institution.

“The Intergovernmental Service Agreement model has been successful across the Army and has been a great tool to work with surrounding communities to create mutually beneficial partnerships,” said Maj. Gen.

Patrick J. Donahoe, commanding general, Fort Benning and the Maneuver Center of Excellence. “We are excited to build on those lessons learned and apply them here at home.”

The partnership was initially conceptualized by College of Sciences and Mathematics Interim Dean Edward Thomas Jr., who views the collaboration as a mechanism for additional research funding at Auburn.

“I am excited for this opportunity to have Auburn faculty work in conjunction with Fort Benning to conduct research and help solve problems that have real-world applications,” Thomas said. “This partnership will spark new innovations and help Auburn work on long-term projects with the United States Army.”

As part of the partnership, Auburn’s various colleges, faculty and campus units can apply for research funding for projects relevant to Fort Benning missions. The university will form an advisory board to process funding applications, consider new projects related to the Army base and communicate opportunities for faculty to consider during their research.

“Fort Benning relies on our partnerships and contracts to support our operations,” said Brandon Cockrell, deputy to the Garrison Commander, Fort Benning. “Intergovernmental service agreements like this allow us to reduce the administrative costs and focus on the partnership and our mission.”

Auburn RMS will manage many of the same environmental compliance responsibilities for Fort Benning that it does for the university, including chemical waste management, stormwater pollution prevention, spill response and personnel training.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Auburn University and Fort Benning to work together in this first of its kind partnership,” Auburn Department of Risk Management & Safety Executive Director Chris O’Gwynn said. “Through this agreement Auburn University Risk Management & Safety will be providing Fort Benning with singular oversight of environmental compliance including Hazardous Waste Management, Clean Water Act compliance, Clean Air Act compliance and a variety of environmental education and training services. Our goal is to help them create more efficient processes and improved coordination of personnel, on-site inspections, and tracking of materials.

“Our Environmental Health & Safety team does an outstanding job for the university, and the opportunity to work with Fort Benning to provide the same exceptional level of support is very exciting. Additionally, Auburn University will have the opportunity to establish new types of educational, research and professional development opportunities for its faculty, staff and students. We are looking forward to a long, collaborative partnership.”

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