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Hearing: 4 Defense and Service Assistant Secretaries Highlight Climate Change Risks to the Military

Assistant Secretary McMahon

The Honorable Robert H. McMahon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, October 16, 2019

By Marc Kodack

On October 16, 2019, the House Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities and the Subcommittee on Readiness held a joint hearing on “Resiliency of Military Installations to Emerging Threats.” Witnesses providing statements and answering questions included the HON Robert McMahon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment; the HON John Henderson, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy; the HON Alex Beehler, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment; and the HON Lucian Niemeyer, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment. All highlighted climate change-related risks and/or its effects to their respective military installations in both their written statements and answers to multiple Member’s questions during the hearing.

Following are sections from each witness’s written statement that address climate change or its potential effects. This is followed by a verbatim transcript of the exchanges between Members and the four witnesses on climate change related topics.

Climate Change Highlights in Written Testimony

Overall, HON McMahon emphasized the importance of installations to national defense and their support of all the mission essential tasks that are required for that defense. Multiple times he stressed how the Department is incorporating climate change and its accompanying risk into its planning activities and policies that affect both the built and natural environments. He provided several examples of what the Department and the Services are specifically doing. The HON Henderson, Beehler, and Niemeyer all discussed that each individual Service recognizes the threat of climate change and its’ effects to installations and their facilities. To address these effects, each Service has modified its’ facility planning and design process.

Hon Robert McMahon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment
Full written statement

“Our installations are key platforms for our nation’s defense. they are our power projection platforms and support every mission the DoD Components undertake to defend this nation. Therefore, we must work to ensure installations and infrastructure are resilient to a wide range of challenges—regardless of the source—to include weather, climate, natural events, disruptions of energy or water supplies, and direct physical or cyber attacks.” (page 1)

“The Department is incorporating analysis of climate-related risks specific to an installation into the master plan for that installation, to better guide development and facility design.” (page 1)

“As reported by the Government Accountability Office, the Department is moving towards incorporating forward-looking projections of climate-related data into its planning and design criteria, starting with projections of sea level change for coastal installations that will increase areas of inundation and expand floodplains at many locations. We are also pursuing the development of a tool to identify additional sources of forward-looking climate related data projections that will impact other aspects of installation planning and building design ranging from floodplain mapping to heating and cooling requirements.” (pages 1-2)

“The Air Force recently completed a comprehensive analysis of severe weather events and their impact on built infrastructure that will further inform additional refinements in our criteria to improve resilience of future projects.” (page 2)

“To assist installations in developing plans to manage the evolving natural resources challenges, the DoD worked with the National Wildlife Federation to develop planning guidance – “Climate Adaptation for DoD Resource Managers.” The guide, published in June 2019, provides an overview of how a changing climate may affect military lands and natural resources, and outlines a process to incorporate adaptation strategies into Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans (INRMP).” (page 2)

“The Department incorporates climate resilience as a cross-cutting consideration for our planning and decision-making processes, and not as a separate program or specific set of actions. Specifically, the Department considers resilience in the installation planning and basing processes. This includes environmental vulnerabilities in installation master planning, management of natural resources, design and construction standards, utility systems and service, as well as emergency management operations.” (page 4)

“From a policy perspective, the Department has published several issuances to ensure that the Services and Joint Staff integrate climate scenarios into planning.” (page 4)

“It is important that our installations be resilient to a wide-range of vulnerabilities, including climate factors such as changing sea level, coastal and riverine flooding, drought, desertification, wildfires, thawing permafrost, select historic extreme weather events, and reduced aviation lift capacity due to air quality.  The Department is deploying a number of tools to assist the DoD Components and installations in planning for these vulnerabilities: The Coastal Assessment Regional Scenario Database provides regionalized sea level scenarios for three future time horizons (2035, 2065, and 2100) for 1,774 DoD sites worldwide…To provide assistance in conducting consistent analysis of risks based on prevailing scientific analysis, my office has funded U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to build on the climate exposure tool originally developed for the Army to evaluate its installations.” (page 5)

“DoD’s Strategic Environmental Research and Develop Program (SERDP) and Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) invest in research focused on improving DoD understanding of environmental risks to installations and mission…In response to drought risk, SERDP initiated a study to understand and assess environmental vulnerabilities on installations in the desert southwest…In response to wildfire risk, SERDP developed a Fire Science Strategy…SERDP and ESTCP investments seek to understand changes to the Arctic terrestrial environment relevant to DoD infrastructure.” (page 5)

“Recent events at Tyndall AFB, Offutt AFB, and Camp Lejeune also are sober reminders of the catastrophic effects that weather can have on the Department’s missions. To address all hazards, both man-made and climate related, my office has worked proactively to lay the policy groundwork needed to ensure that energy resilience and cybersecurity are integrated across our full portfolio of appropriated and third-party financed programs.” (pages 6-7)

Hon John Henderson, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy
Full written statement

“Recognizing the dynamic threat environment, the Air Force is placing a renewed emphasis on water resilience.  Threats to water availability range from aging water infrastructure, vulnerable utilities, or malicious attacks to water scarcity or consequential impacts from changes in precipitation patterns, water quality issues, or encroachment.” (page 3)

“The Air Force recognizes that our installations and infrastructure are vulnerable to a wide variety of threats, including those from weather, climate, and natural events.  Changing climate and severe weather effects have the potential to catastrophically damage or degrade the Air Force’s warfighting readiness. To ensure the Air Force is prepared to effectively combat the significant mission and readiness impacts incurred from recent severe weather events around the globe, the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force directed the stand-up of an Air Force Severe Weather Readiness Assessment (SWRA) Team.” (page 5)

“The SWRA Team was tasked to conduct a full-spectrum assessment of recent and relevant Air Force severe weather event response readiness and identify optimized ways and means for combating risk to mission caused by future severe weather events.  The SWRA Team presented their findings in spring 2019. In response, our headquarters created a Severe Weather Assessment Tiger Team who continue to work diligently to implement the SWRA’s recommendations and conduct cost benefit analysis of the more complex action items. A large number of the more than 100 recommendations from the SWRA will be implemented, many of which drive new facility standards to be implemented as facilities are recapitalized.” (page 6)

…the Air Force is applying lessons learned from past severe weather events in the Tyndall Air Force Base (AFB) rebuild effort by leveraging adaptation opportunities which will increase installation resiliency after the impacts of Hurricane Michael. Informed by historic and projected flood elevations, we developed design flood criteria for new construction at Tyndall AFB. Additionally, we are incorporating best practices used in Florida’s High Velocity Hurricane Zone, which is applicable to Miami-Dade County. These and other resiliency measures ensure Tyndall AFB is rebuilt with agile, flexible, smart facilities that are resilient to future severe weather events.” (page 6)

“On the policy front, the Air Force continues to update relevant policies as they evolve to enhance our risk management framework, most recently by including consideration of climate and severe weather as potential hazards within our mission sustainment, integrated installation planning, and environmental management portfolios. Generally, the Air Force takes a base-by-base approach to building resilience to climate and severe weather impacts, as every installation location is affected by different local weather and geography.” (page 6)

“Through annual exercises of the Installation Emergency Management Plans, our installations are ready to face any disaster. Two days before Hurricane Michael hit Tyndall AFB it went from a Category 2 with no sights on the installation to a Category 4 with direct line of sight on the installation.  Due to emergency management preparedness, emergency management exercises, and installation emergency management plans, Tyndall AFB evacuated all mission capable aircraft, military members, and families in less than 48 hours.  The result: no loss of life or aircraft.” (page 8)

“Additionally, smart investments in infrastructure after each disaster result in future cost avoidance, increased mission effectiveness (requiring less time to open the installation and airfield), and safety for Airmen, civilians, and families.  In 2003, Hurricane Isabel hit Joint Base Langley-Eustis (Langley AFB) with a 7.9-foot storm surge and 62 mph winds causing $146 million in damage. Fast-forward to 2011, Hurricane Irene struck Joint Base Langley-Eustis with a 7.5foot storm surge and 85 mph winds.  Post-Isabel investment decisions and updated preparation procedures contributed to personnel reopening the airfield and installation in less than 24 hours.  Additionally, the storm only caused $1.5M in damage versus the $146M in 2003.  The Air Force will continue to learn from past events in preparing for future disasters, with a focus on ensuring the safety of our military personnel and their families while mitigating threats to effective mission generation capabilities.” (pages 8-9)

Hon Alex Beehler, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment
Full written testimony

“…I am greatly concerned about the potential consequences of the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events…it is also highly likely that the Army will be called upon to assist in a greater number of humanitarian and disaster response events while we are simultaneously impacted.“ (pages 3-4)

“The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, Section 335 requires the Department of Defense to conduct specific vulnerability assessments and develop mitigation plans to address the national security threat posed to installations by climate-related threats, including extreme weather events. In response, the Army worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to develop an interactive climate vulnerability assessment tool to evaluate the near-term vulnerability of Army installations, located in the U.S., to six climate-related threats: coastal and riverine flooding, drought, desertification, wildfire, and permafrost thaw. This tool is based on validated climate data from government agencies and will be available to Army installations in early 2020. The intention is to provide installation managers with a method to identify critical climate hazards and incorporate climate resilience measures into their installation master plans.” (page 10)

“The Army accounts for potential natural disaster impacts in the site selection stage of project planning and in applying seismic and hurricane criteria during the design phase of each construction project. A good example of such effort is a major modernization project for the Army’s Powertrain Facility at Corpus Christi Army Depot in Texas where the project site was changed to an elevation of 25 feet above sea level to protect it from a Category 3 level hurricane storm surge.” (page 10)

Hon Lucian Niemeyer, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment
Full written testimony

“The DON faces an array of challenges for installations and ranges to be environmentally resilient. We consider the impacts of extreme weather, rising sea levels, land subsidence, wildfires, droughts, and incompatible development as factors restricting or altering our ability to train, test, and operate.” (page 9)

“We approach these challenges within a fixed topline that forces us to prioritize investments among a myriad of competing mission requirements. It is difficult to predict where the next hurricane, flood, tornado, or earthquake will hit. As a result, we prudently respond to unique environmental conditions during the planning and design of a facility by addressing the location of a facility, wind and snow loading, the placement of building systems and special structural considerations. We are also working with regions and communities to develop comprehensive engineering plans to reduce the impacts of flooding and geological subsidence.  In some cases where we have waterside bases built on fill material that is eroding, we must work with local communities to restore sea walls.“ (page 10)

“The Department regularly updates its building requirements, known as Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) to reflect updated or more stringent industry and local standards.  For example, recently the Master Planning and High Performance and Sustainable Building Requirements UFC were updated to incorporate additional weather considerations.” (page 10)

Many of the installation and operational vulnerabilities from climate risks identified during the hearing have been incorporated into Department of Defense documents and were a primary focus of the Center for Climate and Security/Environmental and Energy Study Institute’s September 2019 Climate and National Security Forum.

HON McMahon, Henderson, Beehler, and Niemeyer join at least thirty-two other senior Defense leaders in the current Administration (and many previously) who have highlighted climate change risks to the military mission, including Secretary of Defense Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Milley, Secretary of the Navy Spencer, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Lengyel, and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works James.

Questions and Answer Transcripts

Following is a transcript of Member’s questions related to climate change risks and the replies from HON McMahon, Henderson, Beehler, and/or Niemeyer.

Representative James Langevin (01:21:41)

“Let me begin. So, the climate has changed significantly over the last decade and several decades and is going to continue/more, to change even more, in the coming years. All the services have incurred climate related debt because installations were built with risk assessments that did not reflect the reality of today or the increased threats of the future. So, my question is, what is your assessment of the unmitigated climate risk you face in your legacy installations in terms of dollars and cents and, what methodologies do you use to determine those risks?”

HON McMahon, DoD (01:22:23)

“Mr. Chairman, I’ll begin in provide my comments and I’ll get my peers the opportunity as well. First, thank you, to you and Chairman Garamendi and both of our ranking members for the opportunity to be here today to talk about something that’s equally as important to Secretary Esper, our respective service Secretaries and in clearly to the four of us. As we move forward to your point as we look out over the last decade or two decades, the challenges and threats that we face within our installations have grown dramatically. And, as you pointed out its climate, it’s the challenge that we also face with regards to natural disasters, whether that be earthquakes, whether that be forest fires, whether that be deforestation or drought. In addition, it is the physical and, to Congresswoman Stefan’s point, the digital world as well. So, it’s this holistic approach that we have to look at when we deal with it. Specifically to the climate we’ve got to acknowledge that the climate is changing the fact that we have seen, for example, a rise in our seas at the same time that as we consume water that we’re seeing a degradation in our water supplies, and the fact that that’s have an adverse effect on our soils in our land as well. And, so this holistic impact as we look at the climate, how do we deal with that? We look at the way that we proactively put together our standards, our building standards. They need to be continuously updated as we learn about what is occurring with these natural disasters. How do we update that? We need to be more proactive, but, we also have to do in the context that as we look at the holistic challenges that we face within the department and our installations that that is just a single portion of it that we have to deal with. And so we’ve got to be aggressive with it, with new standards and where we have the opportunity to infuse those standards and we do that, but we also have to do in the context of the broader threat that we face.”

Representative James Langevin (01:24:30)

“Do you feel you have an adequate understanding of the dollars and cents involved?”

HON McMahon, DoD (01:24:33)

“I don’t, to that point. What, recently I’ve asked the services to come back with an assessment of what that looks like. What I can tell you is there’s four billion dollars’ worth of damage at Tyndall Air Force Base. There’s more than four million dollars or roughly four million dollars of damage at China Lake. So, as you look at that and try to apply that across the enterprise there’s a significant bill out there that I don’t think we fully understand or comprehend the full cost of just on the facilities, let alone when we start talking about counter-UAS, when we start talking about cyber and the other elements and we can throw EMP in there as well. And so, I don’t think collectively we understand what the full assessment is.”

Representative James Langevin (01:25:16)

“It’s essential that we continue to drill down on this to get our arms around that because the tax payers deserve no less. The Congress needs to know this information. And, it is the right thing to do for the country and our military.”

HON McMahon, DoD (01:25:27)

“Mr. Chairman, I absolutely agree and I would say that all four of us would agree with you and that’s getting our arms around that and we are on the road to do that.”

And:

Representative James Langevin (01:25:35)

“Secretary Beehler, Henderson, Niemeyer, anything else to add?”

HON Beehler, USA (01:25:39)

“Yes. Yes, sir. The Army has benefited already from the fact that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has developed a climate assessment vulnerability tool using a variety of data from other federal agencies that is constantly being refined and updated as they receive more and more data. That tool has been used and will continue to be used on an on-going basis by Army installations as they do their every five years update of their installation management plans. That certainly will address this issue and they’ve been basically prescribed to do so as well as the Installation Energy and Water Management Plans that are on-going for all of the major Army installations. And so through that exercise we will begin to get a handle on just exactly what the cost and other measures needed to be taken to address extreme events….”

Representative James Langevin (01:26:58)

“When do you think those assessments, when do you think those assessments will be completed?”

HON Beehler, USA (01:27:02)

Well, on the water and, energy and water plans they are in three phases. The first phase which covers the major or top critical mission priority installations of about 22. Expected to be done by the end of this calendar year and then the next tranche within 12 months’ time afterwards and the third tranche 12 months after that. The installation management plans are upgraded and reviewed every five years. That covers roughly the 150 Army installations. And so therefore you have that incorporated at roughly about 30 installation plans a year.”

Representative James Langevin (01:28:00)

And then, finally, did that follow, so, would the Army be developing strategies for addressing the risks identified from those assessments?

HON Beehler, USA (01:28:12)

I’m sorry, sir. I missed…

Representative James Langevin (01:28:15)

“I said, is the Army then planning to develop strategies once the assessments are completed?”

HON Beehler, USA (01:28:20)

“Absolutely and can, that’s the wonderful thing about these several efforts that are going on simultaneously. Each will help the other to become greater granularity in a way forward.”

Representative James Langevin (01:28:33)

“That’s going to essential for us to follow-up on that. “

HON Beehler, USA (01:28:20)

“Absolutely.”

Representative James Langevin (01:28:40)

“I’m going to hold there and turn to Ranking Member Stefanik…”

HON McMahon, DoD (01:28:41)

“Mr. Chairman before you yield on this, I’d like to add just one point. Secretary Beehler referred to the climate tool that’s being used by the Corps of Engineers. We have just funded for all of the Services to be able to utilize that up to 50 bases stateside and 10 bases overseas for each of the Services recognizing the value of that tool making sure that all the services can benefit from it.”

Representative James Langevin (01:29:06)

“Thank you for adding this important point.”

And:

Representative Lamborn (01:40:52)

“Mr. McMahon, I’m going to address this to you because of the sake of time. I can’t have everyone answer this question and I want to thank you for your service to our country as you go into, like the chairman said, your next chapter. In my recent visits to survey the damage at Tyndall, Offutt, and China Lake I was struck by how much that advanced planning and up-to-date construction techniques can help mitigate when disaster strikes. So, what have we learned from recent natural disasters of all types to make things better in the future for more resiliency? And, I’m thinking of for instance of sacrificial first floors. They’re doing that Offutt. You don’t have all the expensive HVAC and computers on the first floor in case you have a flood you put them up higher. So, what are some examples of what we’re learning?”

HON McMahon, DOD (01:41:49)

“Congressman Lamborn what I would tell you is that as we look at the lessons that we learned in, there is a variety, rather than get into specifics, as you look at we establish our, essentially building standards which is a continuous process to update we take the lessons that we learned from each of these installations, whether its the construction, whether it is the roofing, what we are doing on one floor versus another and roll that in an annual basis to continuously update what those standards are to ensure that as we get to the next either rehab or new construction that those standards are in fact reflected in the way that we build the facility.”

Representative Lamborn (01:42:29)

“Ok, thank you. Thank you. And, the military has a separate building code that’s more stringent than local building codes. Is that correct?”

HON McMahon, DOD (01:42:38)

“The standards that we’re utilizing in most cases represent either national or state standards in some cases lag a little bit on state but you go to the national and some cases actually exceed what those states and national standards are.”

And:

Representative Kim (01:48:32)

“…my district was a district with Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. We got crushed by Superstorm Sandy and that was something that we saw full force there. That base was able to have, the resiliency of that base being able to get up and running 24 hours later was critical not just for the base, but for the surrounding community. As you know, that base really served the purpose for being the FEMA center for that area. So, I guess my question to you kind of building out from there, when we’re talking not just resiliency of the bases, but potentially for natural disasters supporting the community around it, what exercise, are you doing tabletop exercises or real-world exercises planned with FEMA or other organizations? I’m just kind of curious what we’ve been able to learn from Superstorm Sandy and other places where our military installations end up playing a critical role in the revival of these communities after these disasters. Maybe Mr. Henderson some of your thoughts and Mr. Beehler?”

HON Henderson, USAF (01:49:28)

“Yeah, thank you. So, the, with the Defense Support to Civilian Authorities, the Air Force plays a large role in that usually with air transport, offering up logistic hubs and bases and stuff. So, we participate with the Department of Defense in support of the FEMA exercises that go on. So, I know that’s our participation and that exercises that we do in conjunction with FEMA.”

HON Beehler, USA (01:49:52)

“Sir, a variety of things. One is that we at Fort Bragg participated in a project that I believe was initiated by OSD, but also include, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Regulatory Commission and the development of a defense critical electric infrastructure pilot program to evaluate the resilience of off post electric infrastructure, you know, support. But, more broad spread. Each installation does, on an annual basis, an emergency response exercise that by its very nature closely engages the surrounding communities at all appropriate levels. The other thing that we have done on a ad hoc utility-to-utility connection, is discussions on how appropriately located Army bases is particularly relevant to the southeastern area can, can help as temporary, I don’t know whether staging grounds is perhaps the best term, but really a place where utilities and emergency crews that are going to a scene that’s faced hurricanes or severe weather events and actually use, for whatever period of time, Army base facilities to help them position in the case of a major climatic event.”

And:

Representative Scott (01:56:02)

“I know we talk about energy a lot, but Mr. Beckler [Beehler?], you mentioned water, I was glad to hear you mention water as well. I hope that is something that we will focus on going forward. I think we spend an awful of time talking about the air and I don’t think we spend enough time talking about water and making sure that we have access to clean water at our bases and that when water leaves our bases that it is as clean as it can possibly be before we reintroduce it to the environment.”

HON Beehler, USA (01:56:34)

“Absolutely agree, extremely important, and particularly given from the stand point of the Army, the number of Army bases that are in potentially drought area or just an area that receives very little precipitation.”

And:

Representative Escobar (02:08:02)

“I reviewed the list of the top 10 Army facilities that are vulnerable to climate change. All of those facilities are in the west or the southwest and the threat is listed as drought. And, so I am wondering if you can expand on how you all intend to attack that, what the plan is, and what the what, what the theory is around assisting, ensure the sustainability of the west and southwestern facilities vulnerable to drought.”

HON Beehler, USA (02:08:42)

“Sorry. Ma’am this is one of the things that will be accomplished through our installation’s energy and water programs/plans that are being done at all of the major Army installations, including all of the ones in the southwest. They are to address, in effect, your question, which is how do we ensure at a given installation adequate water supply, access to water, it also gets incorporated when an installation upgrades and reviews its broader installation management plan which is done every five years for each installation. As I mentioned earlier the first tranche of these energy and water plans are due to be completed at the end of this calendar year, which I believe includes some of the installations in the southwest. So, we will then have a, those installations will have a way forward as to what they need to do to make sure they have good access to the water.”

Representative Escobar (02:10:02)

One of the installations on that top 10 list is Fort Bliss, which is in my district and which obviously has a very sophisticated desal plant in the district that, that has really been focused on ensuring water not just for the military installation, but for the community. Was that taken into consideration when Fort Bliss was placed on the top 10 list?”

HON Beehler, USA (02:10:31)

“Well, it’s, the top 10 list was looking at threats.”

Representative Escobar (02:10:37)

“Ok.”

HON Beehler, USA (02:10:38)

“And so the, the, it’s great that there is this desalinization plant, but that doesn’t remove the effect of the threat.”

And:

Representative Waltz (02:16:27)

“Shifting back to the basing issues. Resiliency is something Florida takes very seriously. Obviously, we have to deal with it every year with storms, with flooding, there are areas of Florida now that are flooding on a sunny day. The sea level is rising and we, and we have to deal with it. We need to move beyond that debate. In fact, the governor of Florida my predecessor in this seat just named a Chief Resiliency Officer to pull together our statewide strategy. We have a Florida Defense Task Force that’s very focused on these issues. On the, on the Navy side, Secretary Niemeyer, you, the engineering command issued at what I think is a detailed and comprehensive handbook for installation Commanders: climate change, installation adaption, and resilience. What step are you taking to ensure installation Commanders are actually implementing, implementing the recommendations in this handbook, in their installation master plans, and then also coordinating because this is a broader issue. This is wetlands. This is offshore. This is sea walls. It’s a huge issue that I’m trying to deal with the Corps of Engineers as well for properties. How are you integrating locally? And how are you ensuring each installation Commander implements those plans?

HON Niemeyer, USN (02:17:44)

“So it’s I mean, it’s something we’re working on today with Southeast region. The goal here is to allow that installation Commander the  range of resources and to include that, that pamphlet and that guidance, in addition to other guidance and look at the most critical assets on that installation what really delivers that projection of that power for the naval base and use the guidance that we’ve given them to direct resources towards making sure that particular asset has a mission assurance from a full range of threats.” So, it is really…”

Representative Waltz (02:18:12)

Are you confident their doing it?

HON Niemeyer, USN (02:18:13)

“Yes, I am. And their captured in installation master plans.”

And:

Representative Torres Small (02:31:19)

“I want to pick up where my colleagues, Congressman Scott and Congressman Escobar, we’re talking about water. Because it is a deep need, as you mentioned, Assistant Secretary Beehler, it’s a challenge that many military installations are facing. In fact, I believe it’s over half of our military installations that face either current or future drought vulnerability. And, so I wanted to just peel, to talk more about the work that’s being done for the energy and water plans. You mentioned that all of the installations are putting those together now, do you know if they are assessing the resources that are available including the quality and quantity of water in nearby aquifers?”

HON Beehler, USA (02:31:58)

“It’s certainly my understanding that they would take that into account because they’re thrust is access to quality water. So, they obviously are going to have to look at the sources from which this water is coming for their use in installations. Once again, the plans for the first tranche have not yet been completed. When they are, and particularly relevant to the geographical area in which you are interested, be happy to provide that further information come in with a briefing.”

Representative Torres Small (02:32:35)

“That’s great. That’s fantastic because it really is important as we assess what we have available that we’re looking at all of the aquifers and what might be available especially if we’re able to do more desalination plants to clean up some of the brackish water as we’ve seen be so successful and in Fort Bliss”

HON Beehler, USA (02:32:53)

“Absolutely.”

And:

Representative Langevin (02:40:24)

“Secretary Henderson, several years ago the Air Force, had request, considerable additional funds to address structural damage to facilities that Eielson Air Force Base resulting from melting permafrost. Last year Congress directed a detailed assessment of the risks from melting permafrost, installations in Alaska, Greenland, and northern Europe. Since many of those are Air Force installations, has the Air Force completed those assessments?”

HON Henderson, USAF (02:40:59)

“So, I think we’re still working on them. What I would like to do is take that for the record, make sure I give you a detailed response on what the status of those assessments are and where we’re at. I know we’ve done a lot of work and correcting the problems caused by melting permafrost, by shoreline erosion also in Alaska, and then the permafrost issues that we’re seeing in Thule, Greenland. In Eielson, for instance, we were having to modify the designs of some of our structures there to use deep pile designs so we can get down and have the support for those facilities against the bedrock. In Thule, Alaska[means Greenland], we’re actually going the other way and putting piping systems in to keep the ground frozen underneath there so the ground remains stable and then with the eroding shoreline in northern Alaska for our radar sites and stuff, we’re trying to find better predictive models that incorporate what is a better characterization of the changing climate and number of other factors that are affecting the shoreline erosion are so you can put together a mitigation strategy for that. I will/I owe you an answer back on what the status of that assessment and that document is though.”

Representative Langevin (02:42:00)

“Fair enough. I look forward to the follow-up assessment.”

And:

Mr. Garamendi (02:42:53); general comment/direction to all the witnesses at the end of the hearing.

“Also, as we have discussed before and almost individually, well, not quite individually with all of you, the, reconstruction plans for the bases that have been decimated, Tyndall, Lejeune, China Lake, Offutt, those plans are in process as I understand. They are not yet complete. There’s a significant pile of money that has been and will be appropriated ahead of the plans. That is the completion of the plans. I want to, I’ll say it very clearly, that money must be spent in a manner that maximizes the resiliency of that base, whichever it happens to be and the standards that, to be applied must be the strongest standards available in the world. Not just in these in the States, earthquake specifically, and flood standards, and so forth. So, we’ll see those detailed plans as they are completed, but I know the money is already out there in some of the cases. And, so, be aware you don’t want to have to come and explain why you didn’t build to the maximum standard. Do you? No, you don’t. And, so please keep that in mind as you go about your work on rebuilding. I do have some specific concerns. Some of this has been shared with the, actually a fella behind you. There he is. So, please pay attention to that.”

To watch the hearing, click here. The hearing itself begins at 01:08:20.

Members Attending the Hearing and Asking Questions

House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Readiness

John Garamendi (D-California, Chairman); Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado, Ranking Member), Elise Stefanik (R-New York), Andy Kim (D-New Jersey), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Austin Scott (R-Georgia), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pennsylvania), Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico), Xochitl Torres Small (D-New Mexico), Elissa Slotkin (D-Michigan).

House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities

James Langevin (D-Rhode Island, Chairman); Elise Stefanik (R-New York, Ranking Member), , Andy Kim (D-New Jersey), Austin Scott (R-Georgia), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pennsylvania), Don Baker (R-Nebraska), Michael Waltz (R-Florida), Jim Banks (R-Indiana), Elissa Slotkin (D-Michigan).


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