William Joiner Institute

for the study of war and social consequences

August 12, 2022
by joinerinstitute

Operation Consequence-Puerto Rico Case Study

The operations of military installations have various effects on the local community and environment. In the case of Vieques, Puerto Rico has shown that the lack of consideration for military operations can cause negative social consequences to the area.  

The U.S Navy had a presence and operated on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico from 1941 to 2003, during that time period the U.S Navy used the island as a military testing site for live fire exercises and various other operation projects. After protests and pressure from the local community, the U.S Navy withdrew from Vieques in May 2003. The use of the island as a military testing site and its lasting impact on the environment and community after the withdrawal of the U.S Navy. Problems such as high cancer rates, contaminated water systems, violence against the community, environmental degradation, and the need for the importation of food and water because the water on the island is contaminated. These issues still continued today.  

UMB professor Dr. Estrada-Martinez is currently involved in a public health research project regarding the situation in Vieques. In her conversation with the WJI, she discussed approaching her project at a macro level. Her project strives to find out, through testing and talking to local residents,  what contaminants were found in the environment and how they impacted the health of the community. She also just put in a proposal for EPA-funded research on the effect of climate change on these leftover contaminants. For example: in cases like Hurricane Maria, and their possibilities of bringing up and uncovering buried explosives. Dr. Estrada-Martinez stressed the tension that occurs between different governmental agencies such as the DOD, DOI, and EPA had made the clean-up project more difficult. As a Puerto Rican herself, she does her best to maintain the reputation and relations of the scientists and local communities to get better collaboration with ongoing research projects.   

The conversation with Dr. Estrada-Martinez and the case of Vieques, Puerto Rico, brought to light the importance of factoring in the surrounding community and local environment during military operations to avoid negative social consequences.  

The views expressed on this blog, are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of The William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences or UMass Boston. 


Estrada-Martinez, Lorena. Interview. By Ayla Rich, YuYing Chen. November 19, 2021 

May 18, 2022
by joinerinstitute

Black Start Exercise

As climate change continues to worsen, more frequent and severe weather events exacerbate threats to our energy security. One of the small, veteran-owned businesses working to strengthen the energy infrastructure is Converge Strategies. Converge Strategies is a consulting company founded in Boston, MA back in 2017. They mainly focused on the intersection of advanced energy, resilience, and national security. With the mission to work within three areas of opportunity to strengthen America’s prosperity and energy security, Converge Strategies helps build partnerships between private companies, state and local government, and the military to develop and deploy new energy resilience technologies, create policies and programs that support energy assurance, and assess and secure critical civilian infrastructure. Since 2017, they’ve expanded to the District of Colombia working closely with the Department of Defense (DoD) to assess its energy infrastructure and ways to make the energy systems more resilient to the effects of climate change.  

The DoD established its Energy Resilient program back in 2012, where they collaborated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory (MITLL) for their energy assessment. They completed their first black start exercise in 2018 in collaboration with MITLL and Converge Strategies. The black start exercise is a, “Tabletop exercise that investigates responses and capabilities during an extended simulated outage,” which, “…provides awareness of actual system capabilities during a real outage”(Castillo, 2020). Ever since then, the DoD has been consistently conducting black start exercises on various military installations across the country. According to the DoD more than 30 energy resilience base assessments and exercises had been completed between 2012 and 2020.  

David Sandalow (2012), the secretary of energy, delivered remarks at the Columbia University Energy Symposium back in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy caused detrimental effects along the East coast, “… modern society depends on energy services… without electricity, many grocers can’t sell food, traffic lights don’t work, hospitals can’t treat patients, refineries can’t operate, without a steady supply of petroleum, today’s transportation system cannot function.” (Sandalow, 2012). By conducting these black start exercises, the military will gain a better understanding of what the infrastructure weaknesses and capabilities are under an energy blackout event. With this better understanding and where possible, military installations can strengthen and reinforce energy infrastructure but also adapt to identified weaknesses or gaps through subsequent contingency planning.  This will help support thousands of people residing and working in surrounding communities by making the community itself more energy resilient as a result of their adjacency to the military base and these capabilities.  

Castillo, Ariel. “DoD Installation Energy Resilience.” Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment. 6 Apr. 2022.https://www.acq.osd.mil/eie/Downloads/IE/MERC%2028%20Oct%20Panel%20IER%20v2.pdf 

Black Start Exercise Train the Trainer T3_CSO_r1 – Opportunity.pdf https://www.ll.mit.edu/sites/default/files/2020-07/Black%20Start%20Exercise%20Train%20the%20Trainer%20%20T3_CSO_r1%20-%20Opportunity.pdf 

David Sandalow’s remarks as delivered at the Columbia University Energy Symposium, Hurricane Sandy and Our Energy Infrastructure, Nov. 2012, https://www.energy.gov/articles/hurricane-sandy-and-our-energy-infrastructure

May 4, 2022
by joinerinstitute

VSO Project

In addition to the Environmental Assessment project, the William Joiner Institute (WJI) also has recently conducted research pertaining to the challenges and successes of Veteran Service Officers (VSOs) working in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (MA).  This project was led by Steve Medeiros and Benjamin Nguyen, both are VA work-study students at UMass Boston.  

Back in 2020, the town of Natick commissioned WJI and the Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging, Gerontology Institute to, “…conduct an assessment of the current services provided by the Town and provide recommendations for how these valuable resources can be distributed more widely among residents”(Town of Natick Study, p. 3), with the intent of exploring ways VSOs can provide better help to Veterans and their families within the communities of MA.  

VSOs are state-funded roles that aim to assist the Veteran and their families with various needs post service. In many cases, they are the first point of contact to assist Veterans with their needs, with most Veterans reaching out for Education, Health, and Financial Benefits.   

In the Spring of 2021, Steve, a Army Veteran, and Benjamin, a Navy Veteran, took the initiative to further this study with the primary objectives to identify and share best practices and common challenges, and develop recommendations for expanding engagement and support of Veteran communities in Massachusetts. ​They designed and implemented a voluntary electronic pilot survey of 222 VSOs across Massachusetts. By August 2021, they completed this survey pilot project, with 70 VSOs responding, and 46 VSOs completing the entire survey.  

From this study, of the VSOs who responded, 83% reported they are a staff of one​, 40% served about 150 Veterans over the past year​, and less than 75% indicated they had no follow-up mechanism in place​. A majority shared that honest and frequent communications with town or district administrators were important, 48% reported little to no training before becoming a VSO, and 74% responded that VSOs had the training and skills to assist veterans. Additionally, VSOs identify with the following ages: 51+ (59%); 41-50 (21%); 31-40 (20%)​, ethnicities: 4% Hispanic or Latino​, races: White (89%); BAA (2%); Other (9%)​, and gender: Male (76%); Female (24%). 

Steve, Benjaman and co-directors, Tom and Ana, presented their findings of the VSOs pilot research study at the Eastern Sociological Society (ESS) conference in March 2022. This research is critical in providing efficient feedback about the roles of the VSOs, by looking at the feedback and findings of the research, and how communities, towns or cities might better support their VSOs to better assist our Veterans and their families.  A more in-depth, sanctioned survey is recommended to better canvas the entire VSO community inclusive of Veteran interviews, as well as exploring possible VSO training overlap, gaps, and processes. 

April 21, 2022
by joinerinstitute

Military Going Green

As the world continues to adapt to climate change, our militaries also work to continue to create and meet standards. The negative effects of climate change are not only related to melting sea ice and rising sea level, but also to more severe weather events, such as droughts, floods, stronger hurricanes, and increased forest fires. As the effects of climate change continue to worsen, the Department of Defense established its first plan for combating the changing climate in September of 2021 – the Department of Defense Climate Adaptation Plan.

In the Department of Defense (DOD) Climate Adaptation Plan, the DOD has established five priorities in adaptation actions: Climate informed decision making, training and equipping a climate-ready force, resilient built and natural installation infrastructure, supply chain resilience and innovation, and enhanced adaptation and resilience through collaboration.

For example, following the DOD Climate Adaptation Plan, the U.S. Army released its first Army Climate Strategy Plan. “The plan aims to slash the Army’s emissions in half by 2030; electrify all non-combat vehicles by 2035 and develop electric combat vehicles by 2050” (Washington Post, 2022).

With more focus being put on strategies to combat the effects of climate change, it will not only better prepare for unit readiness, but it could also have a positive impact on the communities surrounding military installations, as well as those areas/regions where military operations are being conducted. In the case of natural disasters caused by climate change, military installations may be climate-ready in providing resources, such as electricity, potable water, and habitats for surrounding communities. Overall the DOD Climate Adaptation Plan can also help the services get ahead of future potential social, environmental, or economic risks that otherwise might go undetected until it’s too late, i.e. the Honolulu water crisis.

Birnbaum, Michael, and Tik Root. “The U.S. Army Has Released Its First-Ever Climate Strategy. Here’s What That Means.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 19 Feb. 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2022/02/10/army-military-green-climate-strategy/.

Department of the Army, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.

February 2022. United States Army Climate Strategy. Washington, DC.


Department of Defense, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Acquisition and Sustainment). 2021.

Department of Defense Draft Climate Adaptation Plan. Report Submitted to National Climate Task Force

and Federal Chief Sustainability Officer. 1 September 2021.


April 7, 2022
by joinerinstitute

Honolulu Water Crisis

My area of interest is mainly focused on environmental studies; therefore, in most of the posts on this blog, I will be referencing topics of sustainability, effects on the environment, and climate change adaptation to the current events of military operations.  

For today’s post, I will be discussing a military operation that has caused an environmental and social consequence that was brought up by James Cerone in Episode 1 of the WJI podcast in December of 2021.  

In November of 2021, residents around the base of Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam in Hawaii were noticing issues with their water supply. Many residents noticed a gasoline-like odor from their tap water, and some were having health issues such as nausea, vomiting, and skin irritations from using their water.  After investigation, it was discovered that the underground fuel storage tank that was installed during the WWII era back in the 1940s, near the Red Hill Shaft watershed, was leaking into a Honolulu water source causing contamination to the drinking water that supplies thousands of residents from Pearl Harbor military housing as well as Honolulu residents. The Hawaii Department of Health called on the U.S. Navy to take action and responsibility to fix this issue as soon as possible. In the meantime, residents were being relocated to hotels and were provided with bottled water for their daily water usage.  

The Honolulu water crisis has demonstrated the importance for military bases to remain vigilant in maintaining their equipment and facilities on a schedule not only to prevent negative impacts on the local communities and environment but also to avoid significant costs related to mitigating the impacts. Based on an article from Federal News Network (2018), Jared Serbu mentioned, “Among the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, the package provided $9.9 billion in facilities sustainment, restoration and modernization (FSRM) funding for 2018”.   But even such a large fund is not enough to fix deteriorating buildings or avoid these kinds of incidents if preventive maintenance and infrastructure updates are not appropriately scheduled and completed. 

 An apprentice in the WJI, Ayla Rich, is creating an Operations Consequence Assessment Tool (OCAT), with guidance from faculty of the Coast Guard Academy and UMass Boston to assess the operating environment within the different bases across the country, and to further explore the different areas military operations can affect in the surrounding communities. Improved assessment of military operations and analysis of potential social, economic, or environmental risks to the surrounding communities can help avoid potentially costly results due to inattention. Not only that, but it may also work to sustain strong relationships with the local communities, bringing positive results and avoiding or mitigating potential social, environmental, or economic consequences as a whole. 

Alfonseca, Kiara. “Navy to Comply with Orders amid Hawaii Water Contamination Crisis.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 11 Jan. 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/US/navy-comply-orders-amid-water-contamination-crisis/story?id=82196196.

Serbu, Jared. “Congress Gives Dod Big Boost for Facility Upkeep, but Not Enough to Fix Deteriorating Buildings.” Federal News Network, 3 Apr. 2018, https://federalnewsnetwork.com/dod-reporters-notebook-jared-serbu/2018/04/congress-gives-dod-big-boost-for-facility-upkeep-but-not-nearly-enough-to-fix-deteriorating-buildings/.

March 22, 2022
by joinerinstitute


Hello everyone,

My name is YuYing, I’m currently a senior at the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB) and a Professional Apprenticeship Career Experience (PACE) apprentice for the office of William Joiner Institute (WJI). With different special and ongoing projects, the team is working on, I decided to do blog posts that further explore the different aspects of social consequences the William Joiner Institute can focus on, but also let you know more about what this institute is working on!

William(Bill) Gilbert Joiner Jr was an African American who served during the Vietnam era, and was also the first director of UMass Boston’s Veteran Affairs office. After coming back home from Vietnam, he noticed many Veterans having difficulties in transitioning back to the civilian sector. William Joiner’s commitment to helping Veterans transition really moved the community. The William Joiner Institute was then created to help further explore the problems our Veterans and communities are having, but also to look into how these factors affect society as a whole. Prior to William Joiner’s death, the William Joiner Institute was established on the 10th floor of the Healey Library in the year 1980 as a non-profit organization with a mission to “offers an inclusive setting to objectively facilitate the sharing of ideas, debating of concepts, and discussions of past, present and future topics related to conflicts, military service, and sacrifice.”

Being the director of Veteran Affairs at UMass Boston, he was able to help many Veterans overcome this difficult time. He worked at UMass Boston until 1981 when he passed away from liver cancer that was associated with Agent Orange- an herbicide chemical that was used clear out leaves and vegetation for the military operation. At the time, he was only 39 years old.

Currently, the office has several ongoing projects, including the Veteran Service Officer research project, Environmental Assessment project, WJI podcast “Speaking With the William Joiner Institute: Where Conversation is the Answer”, and lastly, the WJI blog post.

I am excited to be part of this team and hope to familiarize readers with the William Joiner Institute throughout the school year!

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