A soldier in a formal uniform carries his rifle in the snow.Soldiers assigned to the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as "The Old Guard," didn't let a little snow keep them from their duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.

It was the first significant snow of the season

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The Pentagon in Washington, March 27, 2008.

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department will install solar panels on the Pentagon, part of the Biden administration's plan to promote clean energy[1] and “reestablish the federal government as a sustainability leader.”

The Pentagon is one of 31 government sites that are receiving $104 million in Energy Department grants that are expected to double the amount of carbon-free electricity at federal facilities and create 27 megawatts of clean-energy capacity while leveraging more than $361 million in private investment, the Energy Department said.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, announced the projects Wednesday at the Pentagon.

The solar panels are among several improvements set for the Pentagon, which also will install a heat pump system and solar thermal panels to reduce reliance on natural gas and fuel oil combustion systems

Brendan Owens, assistant secretary of Defense for energy, installations and environment, said the projects will improve energy resilience and reliability at the Pentagon and other military sites in the U.S. and Germany. He called energy use "central to everything we do.''

Solar panels will provide "an uninterrupted power source'' at the Pentagon in case of a cyberattack or other outage to the bulk grid, as well as reduce strain on the building's power load, Owens said in an interview.

Because of the Pentagon's “relatively congested air space” outside Washington, solar panels were the best option for clean energy, he said. The building is a nationally registered historic landmark, so officials will work with local officials to ensure the panels meet all requirements.

The grant program also includes energy upgrades at Naval bases in Georgia and Washington state, as well as the Naval Support Activity Mid-South in Tennessee.

In addition to the Defense Department, projects also include installation of thermally efficient windows at the Energy Department headquarters in Washington, as well as efficiency upgrades to the Commerce and Transportation departments.

Other agencies selected for projects include the Interior and Veterans Affairs departments, as well as the General Services Administration, Office of Personnel Management and Social Security Administration.

The program also will make the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii a net-zero emissions facility. The site run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ceased all measurements and radio transmissions in late November after a lava eruption of the Mauna Loa volcano[2] cut the power line and buried over a mile of the access road to the observatory. Since November, access to the site has been limited to costly weekly visits by helicopter to collect limited atmospheric data, officials said.

The grant program will install solar panels and batteries at the observatory to make the facility a net-zero site for carbon emissions, bring atmospheric science instrumentation back online and significantly improve the site’s climate resiliency, officials said.

“As the observatory is considered the definitive source for documenting the increased atmospheric burden of fossil fuel emissions, this project has the unique ability to eliminate 100% of the combustion of fossil-fueled electrical power to make those critical measurements,'' the Energy Department said.

The funding announced Wednesday is the first of three disbursements expected from the Assisting Federal Facilities with Energy Conservation Technologies[3] or AFFECT program included in the 2021 infrastructure law. A total of $250 million was awarded to the program, which was established in 1992 to help agencies cut energy consumption.

The projects align with Biden’s 2021 executive order[4] that called for a 65% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from federal operations by 2030 and a net-zero building portfolio by 2045.

The projects also include installation of solar panels at the U.S. Army Garrison in Wiesbaden, Germany, as well as energy and water efficiency improvements and solar panels at the Maui Air Traffic Control Tower in Kahului, Hawaii.

© Copyright 2024 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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The White House

Under the Trump administration, the White House Medical Unit -- a joint Defense Department team that provides medical care for the president, vice president and family members and also manages health services for certain high-level officials -- sent ineligible staff members to military hospitals for specialty care and surgeries, the DoD inspector general has found.

The medical unit also dispensed hundreds of free prescriptions, including controlled substances, to people in the White House, the DoD inspector general said in a report released Jan. 8[1].

The federal watchdog determined that the unit, comprised of military medical personnel and DoD civilians and led by an officer with a paygrade of O-6, had received little to no oversight from the Defense Health Agency or the military services for years despite having its own pharmacy and referring White House staff for care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, Fort Belvoir[2] Community Hospital in Virginia, and elsewhere.

Read Next: Army Veteran Who Wielded Ax Handle During Capitol Riot Gets over 4 Years in Prison[3]

According to the report, from 2017 through 2020, the Defense Department "funded and resourced care for an average of 6 to 20" non-DoD beneficiary patients per week at no cost to them -- medical appointments and services that then were unavailable to active-duty military personnel, their family members or retirees.

The DoD IG launched the investigation in May 2018 after receiving complaints that the White House Medical Unit's senior military medical officer, who is not named, engaged in improper medical practices, and that the pharmaceutical practices at the White House and referrals for ineligible patients to DoD facilities were questionable.

The watchdog subsequently launched a review of the Defense Department's Washington, D.C., area executive medicine facilities, which provide concierge-level medical care for flag and general officers, but also to VIPs such as the president and, on occasion, members of Congress and Cabinet members.

In addition for being responsible for care for the president and family, the White House Military Unit is charged with overseeing the acute medical needs of those who work on the White House grounds.

The review found that the White House Medical Unit's pharmacy, which operates outside the military health system, maintained practices that could have led to prescription errors and patient harm.

According to the report, unit staff kept poor prescription records, including those for controlled substances like opioids and sleep medications, and distributed medications like Ambien in unmarked pill bottles with no instructions or recordkeeping.

Staff members also routinely prescribed brand-name medications instead of trying a generic alternative first, a practice known as step therapy that is required under the military's health program, Tricare[4], according to the report.

"Without oversight from qualified pharmacy staff, the White House Medical Unit's pharmaceutical management practices may have been subject to prescribing errors and inadequate medication management, increasing the risk to the health and safety of patients treated within the unit," the IG wrote.

Providers told investigators that they had concerns about the practices, including sending non-eligible persons to military treatment facilities, but feared that if they didn't provide referrals to high-ranking administration officials, their careers would be affected.

"We feared mostly, you know, for evaluations, for follow‑on assignments, for credibility as a professional in our own branches and specialties," a staff member told the IG.

As a result of the practice, the Pentagon paid for medical care for those non‑DoD beneficiaries, according to the report.

The investigation also found that across the Washington, D.C., area, more than half of those who utilize the Defense Department's executive medicine services are military retirees or their family members and not on active-duty.

The DoD investigators said that, given the imbalance, the department runs the risk of "expanding resources outside its primary mission" to provide medical care to the active-duty population.

The services' executive medicine programs initially were established to ensure that senior military leaders had quick access to medical care and any treatment they received did not disrupt care and services at regular clinics within the military hospital system.

But that mission has expanded, often to include treating members of Congress and the senior executive service.

Top-level care at Walter Reed has been in the news recently with the hospitalization of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who underwent surgery for prostate cancer in December but returned to the facility on Jan. 1 after developing an infection.

Defense officials did not disclose Austin’s hospitalization until Jan. 5, sparking a backlash from members of Congress and the press over the lack of transparency over the health of a Cabinet member.

As a retired general, Austin has access to the facility’s executive medicine suite, and it is likely that his primary care provider is assigned to Walter Reed's executive medicine staff.

The DoD IG made a number of recommendations to the Defense Health Agency and the military services regarding their executive medicine programs and the White House Medical Unit, which falls under the White House Military Office. Those recommendations included that the DHA develop policies to manage prescriptions at the White House Medical Unit and develop a pharmacy oversight plan; establish controls to determine White House patient eligibility; and improve oversight of executive medicine services.

It also recommended the DHA bill for outpatient medical services that are provided by the DoD to non-military senior officials.

The White House Military Office received a draft of the report in May 2020 for review and held it until July 2023.

In response, DoD Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Lester Martinez-Lopez said the DoD concurred with all recommendations.

Related: Austin Is Released from Hospital After Complications from Prostate Cancer Surgery He Kept Secret[5]

© Copyright 2024 Military.com. All rights reserved. This article may not be republished, rebroadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without written permission. To reprint or license this article or any content from Military.com, please submit your request here[6].

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