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The ability to maintain the necessary level and duration of operational activity to achieve military objectives. Sustainability is a function of providing for and maintaining those levels of ready forces, materiel, and consumables necessary to support military effort.

General Information


Sustainability spans all defense acquisition functional communities, all phases of a weapon system’s life cycle, and includes designing for sustainability and energy efficiency, fielding sustainable systems, operating, as well as system retirement, demilitarization (DEMIL), reclamation, materiel disposition, and disposal planning and execution. In addition it also includes the critical areas of  Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health (ESOH) planning and execution, as well as Programmatic Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health Evaluation (PESHE) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Executive Order (EO) 12114 compliance.

Strategic Vision

According to the 2022 DoD Sustainability Plan, "the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) mission is to provide the military forces needed to deter war and ensure our Nation’s security. To successfully execute this mission, the Military Departments must have access to the energy, land, air, water and other natural resources necessary to develop, train, and operate – today, and in the future. The Department recognizes the reality of an emerging climate crisis that is impacting our installations, equipment, and forces. Effectively responding to the challenges of climate change requires both adaptation actions to prepare for the inevitable impacts from climate change, as well as mitigation measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and enhance military capability." 


Per DoD Instruction (DoDI) 5000.02, Operation of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework, paragraph 4.1.b.(6), "In consultation with the user representative, the PM [Program Manager] will determine which environment, safety, and occupational health risks must be eliminated or mitigated, and which risks can be accepted."

Per DoDI 5000.85Major Capability Acquisition, paragraph 3C.3.d.(2), "The PM is responsible for integrating ESOH considerations into the decision-making process."

  • Per paragraph 3D.2.b.(5)(a), "PMs will address programmatic environment, safety, and occupational health evaluation requirements throughout the program life cycle. PMs will manage hazardous materials in accordance with Aerospace Industries Association National Aerospace Standard [NAS] 411, and National Aerospace Standard 411-1, tailored if necessary to meet their program's needs."
  • Furthermore, paragraph 3D.3.c.(6) discusses the Programmatic ESOH Evaluation, or PESHE, annex to the Program Support Strategy (PSS). "This annex will explain how the program is executing the requirements in Paragraphs 3C.3.d.(2) and 3D.2.b.(5)(a) to manage ESOH risks and requirements across the life cycle. This annex will incorporate a summary of the current hazard tracking data with risk levels, prohibited and restricted hazardous materials usage and initiatives, and PL 91-190/Executive Order [E.O.] 12114 planning and compliance status, including military construction and installation management requirements." 

In addition, DoDI 5000.88, Engineering of Defense Systems, paragraph 3.6.e. on System Safety provides Lead Systems Engineer (LSE) responsibilities for the following

  • System Safety Engineering
  • NEPA and E.O. 12114,
  • Mishap Investigation Support,
  • System Safety in the Systems Engineering Plan (SEP)

The instruction directs the LSE to use the methodology in MIL-STD-882Systems Safety, to address ESOH risks associated with system-related hazards and the guidance identified in the DoD Joint Software Systems Safety Engineering Handbook to achieve an acceptable level of software system safety risk.

Other Related Terms

It should be noted that sustainability is not synonymous with the term “supportability” which is defined as a key component of availability. It includes design, technical support data, and maintenance procedures to facilitate detection, isolation, and timely repair and/or replacement of system anomalies. This includes factors such as diagnostics, prognostics, real time maintenance data collection, and Human System Integration (HSI) considerations. Supportability relates to the degree to which a system can be supported, both in terms of the inherent design characteristics of the prime mission-oriented components of the system and characteristics of the various elements of support (e.g. test equipment, supply support, etc.). It pertains to such characteristics as standardization, interchangeability, accessibility, diagnostics, compatibility among the elements of logistic support, and so on. The term is often used in a broad context, but does generally relate to the design characteristics of a system and there is some degree of overlap with other design characteristics such as Reliability and Maintainability (R&M).

Sustainability is also not synonymous with the term “sustainment”, which, from an operational perspective means the provision of logistics and personnel services to maintain operations through mission accomplishment and redeployment of the force. The sustainment function generally includes tasks to:

  • Coordinate the supply of food, operational energy (fuel and other energy requirements), arms, munitions, and equipment
  • Provide for maintenance of equipment
  • Coordinate and provide support for forces, including field services; personnel services support; health services; mortuary affairs; religious support (RS); postal support; morale, welfare, and recreational support; financial support; and legal services
  • Build and maintain contingency bases
  • Assess, repair, and maintain infrastructure
  • Acquire, manage, and distribute funds
  • Provide common-user logistics support to other government agencies, international organizations, NGOs, and other nations
  • Establish and coordinate movement services 
  • Establish large-scale detention compounds and sustain enduring detainee operations


DoD's priorities for continuing sustainability initiatives into the future include improving performance via energy resilience and water efficiency through a variety of measures ranging from performance-based contracting to innovative water conservation approaches. Additionally, DoD expects to improve affordability through cross cutting sustainable acquisition and electronics stewardship.

To see how the Department made progress toward sustainability initiatives, see the DoD Environment, Safety & Occupational Health Network and Information Exchange (DENIX) site on "Sustainability Success Stories."