“We are already altering how we do the engineering work to protect our facilities and our missions.” – Major General Timothy Green, Air Force Director of Civil Engineers
“Our goal is resiliency across the board.” – Hon. Lucian Niemeyer, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Energy, Installations & Environment)
On April 12, 2018, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs held an oversight hearing on the Fiscal Year 2019 military construction budget. During the hearing, Congressman Scott Taylor (R-VA), a former Navy SEAL who represents Naval Station Norfolk and the Hampton Roads region, raised the importance of preparing for climate change. He asked Assistant Secretary of Defense (Energy, Installations and Environment) Lucian Niemeyer whether the Department of Defense (DoD) was taking the necessary steps to ensure Norfolk and the other bases in his district were being made resilient to the effects of sea level rise.
Niemeyer’s response (full transcript below) was that of course they were, and that military engineers always had to take environmental conditions, to include likelihood of flooding, into account.
Taylor pressed the point, asking if the DoD was investing in future resiliency as opposed to simply reacting to current conditions. Niemeyer stated that the DoD was reviewing its engineering forecasts to see what planning could be done in advance. He emphasized that his bottom line was resiliency.
Major General Timothy Green, Air Force Director of Civil Engineers, jumped in to point out that the Air Force was leaning forward on this issue at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, also in Taylor’s district. He stated:
We’ve already raised the elevations of our new construction. We’ve already moved mechanical rooms and things like that from basements to higher elevations… We are already altering how we do the engineering work to protect our facilities and our missions.
See a video of the exchange here (begins at 59:50).
A full transcript of the exchange is below:
Congressman Scott Taylor: On the subject of resiliency, of course, we have sea level rise in Virginia that does affect our bases. Have there been studies, actions, requests for money to ensure resiliency around those bases?
Hon. Lucian Niemeyer, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Energy, Installations & Environment): That’s the key step here. Right now, we’re taking a look at what needs to be done… what has been done. We’ve always responded to flood conditions. It’s part of what we’ve done as military engineers while we look at preserving our military capabilities across the country. We’ll continue to do that in the Hampton Roads area, in Virginia Beach. Where we can make good decisions about how high we raise a dry dock or how high we raise a dam. Those are all engineering decisions that we make every day. And we’ll continue to make those as we see conditions change around the country.
Taylor: If I may, and specifically in the Hampton Roads area with sea level rise, not being reactionary but are we also looking at potentially investing in the future and understanding where we’re going to be years out?
Niemeyer: So we are looking at adjustments to what our engineering forecasts are and to what degree we can start planning now. And just making prudent engineering decisions across the board. To be able to make our facilities resilient to whatever may happen. It could be a lot of things that ultimately could affect environmental conditions and affect our facilities. The goal is resiliency across the board. Do you want to add?
Major General Timothy Green, Air Force Director of Civil Engineers: For Langley AFB which is in that same region, we’ve already raised the elevations of our new construction. We’ve already moved mechanical rooms and things like that from basements to higher elevations. So part of it’s just – as you said – prudent planning and I think that’s being done, both on the Navy side but certainly on the Air Force side. We are already altering how we do the engineering work to protect our facilities and our missions.
For more on sea level rise risks to the U.S. military, see the Center for Climate and Security’s “Military Expert Panel Report: Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission, 2nd Edition.”