Since January 2017, at least thirty-five senior officials at the U.S. Defense Department (DoD) have publicly raised concerns about, and recommended actions to address, the security implications of climate change, both due to its effect on military infrastructure, readiness and operations, and its broader geostrategic implications for the United States.
This includes then-Secretary of Defense, James Mattis; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul J. Selva; Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer; Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Joseph Lengyel; Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment (IE&E), Lucian L. Niemeyer; Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, R.D. James; Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations, Energy, and the Environment, Phyllis L. Bayer; Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment, and Energy, John Henderson; Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Glenn Walters; Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Bill Moran; Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, General Stephen Wilson; Army Vice Chief of Staff, General James McConville; AFRICOM Commander General Thomas D. Waldhauser; Air Force Director of Civil Engineers, Major General Timothy Green; NORTHCOM/ NORAD Commander, General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy; Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson; Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy, and Environment, Alex Beehler; Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, General Robert McMahon; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford; Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert Neller; Commander of Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), Admiral Philip Davidson; Commander of United States European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Curtis M. Scaparrotti; Commander of United States Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), General Stephen R. Lyons; Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, General David L. Goldfein; Secretary of the Air Force, the Honorable Heather A. Wilson; Commander of US Africa Command (AFRICOM), General Thomas Waldhauser; Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Bill Moran; the nominee for Commandant of the Marine Corps, Lieutenant General David Berger, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper; Army Chief of Staff, General Mark A. Milley; Senior Naval Intelligence Manager Mr. Jeff Ringhausen; Commander of Air Combat Command, General Mike “Mobile” Holmes; Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, Hon Robert McMahon; Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, and Hon John Henderson; and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, Hon Alex Beehler.
The DoD also produced a survey report on the matter in January 2018, a report to Congress on climate change threats to its critical military infrastructure and Geographic Combatant Commands in January 2019 (as well as an addendum to that report in April), a flurry of strategy documents and service branch reports to Congress addressing climate change risks from April-June of 2019, and a report from the Army War College stating that “the Department of Defense is precariously underprepared for the national security implications of climate change-induced global security challenges,” among others.
Below is a chronological list of written and verbal statements by these defense officials, as well as links to DoD reports and other government documents covering the climate-military nexus, that have been released during this Administration thus far. Each entry includes a link to its source, which includes more information and context.
October 16, 2019
Hon Robert McMahon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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).”
“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.”
“From a policy perspective, the Department has published several issuances to ensure that the Services and Joint Staff integrate climate scenarios into planning.”
“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.”
“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.”
“What, recently I’ve asked the services to come back with an assessment of what that [the estimated cost of unmitigated climate risks to legacy installations] 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.”
“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.”
Hon John Henderson, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
Hon Alex Beehler, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment
“…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.“
“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.”
“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.”
“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…”
“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.”
Hon Lucian Niemeyer, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment
“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.”
August 7, 2019
Commander of Air Combat Command, General Mike “Mobile” Holmes
“Without getting into a political argument about when and why, we know that sea level is rising, at least for now, around the world,” Holmes told reporters at an Air Force conference in Dayton, Ohio, in June. “I wanted to have them [the U.S. Air Force’s 14th Weather Squadron] give me at least some kind of forecast of what’s going to happen so we can figure that into the investments that we make.”
“I felt like it [climate change] needed to be part of the puzzle, that as we look at the Air Force we need, as we think about our long-term basing, part of where the basing should be, is whether it will be underwater 50 years from now or not,” he said.
The U.S. Army War College publishes a report titled “Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Army” which strikingly states that “the Department of Defense is precariously underprepared for the national security implications of climate change-induced global security challenges.” See here for a review of the report.
June 12, 2019
The Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps submit to Congress their lists of the top most climate change-vulnerable military bases from the standpoint of their service branches. Short review of the lists here.
June 6, 2019
The Department of Defense releases its Arctic Strategy, which includes significant attention to climate change implications for a security landscape that’s becoming increasingly more complicated. Excerpts:
pp 3-4: Changing Physical Environment: The Arctic’s physical environment continues to change, including through diminished sea ice coverage, declining snow cover, and melting ice sheets. Temperatures across the Arctic region are increasing more than twice as fast as global average temperatures, accompanied by thawing permafrost and loss of sea ice and glacier mass. Diminishing Arctic sea ice is opening new shipping lanes and increasing access to natural resources during the summer months. If the warming trends continue at the current rate, Arcticwide sea ice loss may result in nearly ice-free late summers by the 2040s. Thawing permafrost, compounded by storm surge and coastal erosion, adversely affects infrastructure, including DoD installations, and complicates the development of new and resilient DoD infrastructure. The physical effects of the changing Arctic frontier are also causing some local communities to adapt by relocating. Even so, the Arctic continues to be characterized by harsh conditions, including
extremes of cold and darkness, which impose specific requirements for operating and sustaining Joint Force capabilities in the region.
pg. 17: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering (USACE) Research and Development Center, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (ERDC-CRREL) works to enhance Arctic domain awareness by examining the effects of a changing climate; and by monitoring Arctic effects on the operational environment, including sensor performance and signal propagation. The USACE ERDC-CRREL addresses effects on infrastructure and operations resulting from exposure to extreme environmental and dynamic climactic conditions. USACE ERDC-CRREL is pursuing technology to detect permafrost conditions, providing facilities to simulate Arctic conditions, as well as systems and materials evaluation and development.
June 5, 2019
Mr. Jeff Ringhausen, Senior Naval Intelligence Manager, Russia and Eurasia, of the Office of Naval Intelligence, submits testimony to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during a hearing on the National Security Implications of Climate Change.
June 1, 2019
The Department of Defense releases its Indo-Pacific Strategy Report (full report), which highlights the negative consequences of climate change in the military’s Indo-Pacific AOR. Excerpts:
pg 13: A region already prone to earthquakes and volcanoes as part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Indo-Pacific region suffers regularly from natural disasters including monsoons, hurricanes, and floods to earthquakes and volcanic activity, as well as the negative consequences of climate change.
pg 41: …we believe strongly in respect for a safe, secure, and prosperous, free and open Indo-Pacific that must preserve small states’ sovereignty. Third, we aim to focus on building capacity and resilience to address maritime security; Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing; drug trafficking; and resilience to address climate change and disaster response, as signified by the 2018 Boe Declaration.
April 30, 2019
“The Secretary of the Navy submitted a top ten list – this is not the top ten list you want – of Marine Corps and Navy installations that are most vulnerable to severe weather. And do you believe that we should adopt – i.e. the Department of the Navy and the Marine Corps – better installation resiliency planning and guidance as a result of weather threats? Admiral Moran?”
Sir, there is no question that we need… and we are developing a plan for greater resiliency, especially in areas where we have shipyards and communities that share water space, share waterfront. Those are really important areas for us for obvious reasons. We are largely a waterfront service, so climate change when there’s rising waters are going to be a problem for us if we don’t address them. So we are in the planning stages to look at how to reinforce those areas.”
“And General Berger?”
Lt. Gen. Berger:
“I’d agree, sir. The two biggest challenges are the rising water levels and severe storms that roll up the coast and through our bases and stations. I think the new standards for construction, for military construction, are absolutely critical. When we recover from a storm like we are now in North Carolina, we need to look at the location of the buildings. We need to look at the construction standards of the buildings to make sure that they’ll survive what the climate is going to throw at them. Absolutely, it’s an important factor for us. The standards for construction are very helpful.”
April 22, 2019
The U.S. Coast Guard releases its “Arctic Strategic Outlook,” which prominently features climate-driven changes to the geostrategic landscape of the High North. Relevant excerpt:
pg. 38: Arctic communities face increasingly frequent and severe incidents due to changing climate and growing human activity. Increased commercial activity also raises the risk of pollution incidents occurring in remote and environmentally-sensitive locations. This risk is compounded by the logistical and technical difficulties of operating in the Arctic, which challenges the ability of the commercial marine industry to meet the oil spill response planning requirements. As the Nation’s maritime first responder, the Coast Guard will lead and participate in national-level planning and exercises that include federal, state, tribal, local, international, and non-governmental partners to test preparedness and adaptability. The Coast Guard also works with industry to address oil spill response shortfalls and evaluate alternatives to the National Planning Criteria.
April 16, 2019
Commander of US Africa Command (AFRICOM), General Thomas Waldhauser
The climate and environment challenges on the continent really do start to contribute to security challenges…Some of the [terrorist] groups in the Northern Mali-Niger area there, they leverage these challenges to recruit, because they really are after influence. And they want to maintain their livelihood.
April 15, 2019
The Department of Defense releases a guide on climate change adaptation for “Natural Resource Managers” at the DoD. In a memo accompanying the release of the guide, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, Robert H. McMahon, stated:
DoD installations will experience significant impacts from a changing climate which could compromise their capacity to support readiness and undermine DoD‘s ability to protect and restore the native ecosystems needed to conduct realistic training and testing activities.
April 10, 2019
The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) submits an addendum to its January 2019 report to Congress on climate change threats to its critical military infrastructure. The addendum prioritizes the 79 installations previously submitted by ascribing values to various climate impacts.
April 4, 2019
Senator Warren: I also want to ask another readiness issue facing the Air Force: climate change. The Defense Department’s most recent report on climate change discussed the impact of this human-caused problem on our military operations and bases. This report included a statement by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford, who said, quote: “When I look at climate change, it’s in the category of sources of conflict around the world and things we have to respond to.” General Goldfein, just a simple yes or no on this is fine, and then I have some follow-ups: Do you agree with General Dunford?
General Goldfein: I do, Ma’am. I do think that if there’s time at the end, I’d like to sort of qualify where I think we was going with that.
Senator Warren: Sure. But let me ask: Does adapting military and other infrastructure to climate change contribute to Air Force readiness?
General Goldfein: It does, Ma’am. I think what General Dunford was referring to, though, is that…if you go back…if you take a look at Syria, as an example. Most don’t remember what caused the Syria conflict to start. It started because of a ten-year drought.”
Senator Warren: Yes, water.
General Goldfein: And folks having to move from their family farms into cities where they then were not getting any support, and therefore a civil war began. I think what…what Chairman Dunford was talking about was that we have to respond militarily very often to the effects of, globally, of climate change.
Senator Warren: Good. So let me ask: Do you think it is prudent for the Air Force to incorporate climate change when making strategic decisions like strategic basing decisions, for example?
Secretary Wilson: Senator, let me take that one. We just published an infrastructure investment strategy, and we also just finished a major piece of work on weather. And maybe the Air Force looks at these things more because weather is such a big impact on us for all of our flying operations, every day, and we’re the ones responsible for weather forecasting around the globe. The infrastructure strategy looks at resilience, and how do we get more out of every dollar that we spend – so there’s a number of pieces of that strategy. But the resilience of our bases is very important because we fight from our bases. We don’t leave our bases to fight. We fight from our bases. And so their resilience is very important.”
Senator Warren: And how would you rank Air Force installations as a whole in terms of their climate resilience?
Secretary Wilson: Senator, it probably varies a lot. I couldn’t give you a red, yellow or green chart on that at this point, but I know that overall we’ve got significant infrastructure challenges overall, but from a number of factors.
Senator Warren: Well, I see that the Air Force is requesting nearly $5 billion in emergency funds to rebuild Air Force bases in Florida and Nebraska alone that were damaged by natural disasters. So, I think it’s very important that the Air Force and the other military services continue to incorporate climate change in their planning, so that when disaster strikes the impact on operations is minimal. This clearly is a readiness issue, so thank you for your work on this.
April 2, 2019
See here for excerpts from their testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, as well as their responses to Advance Policy Questions from the committee.
March 5, 2019
Commander of United States European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Curtis M. Scaparrotti; and Commander of United States Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), General Stephen R. Lyons
Sen. Warren: “So I want to discuss a national security threat that can’t be addressed by traditional military power at all, and that is climate change. The unclassified Worldwide Threat Assessment by the Director of National Intelligence, and I’m gonna quote here: ‘global environmental and ecological degradation as well as climate change are likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.’ End quote. That assessment also said, quote: ‘damage to communication, energy and transportation infrastructure could affect low-lying military bases, inflict economic costs, and cause human displacement and loss of life.’ I’ve asked this question to other combatant commander, so I want to make sure that I get this on the record. General Scaparrotti and General Lyons, do you agree with the intelligence community’s assessment of the climate change threat?”
General Scaparrotti: “I do, and I believe that, as you noted, much of this will be drivers for potential conflict, or at least very difficult situations that nations have to deal with. The second, I would point you to the High North. And that’s the increasing opening of the northern sea route and the challenges that presents from a security perspective.”
Sen. Warren: “Yes, thank you. Thank you. General Lyons, do you also agree?”
General Lyons: “Ma’am, I agree. These are sources of conflict and we certainly have to be prepared to respond to them.”
Sen. Warren: “Good. Could I then ask each of you very briefly, because we have very limited time, just to describe how climate change impacts your operations in your commands and what you’re doing to adapt to these changes? General Scaparrotti, would you like to start?”
General Scaparrotti: “Well, I think the most apparent to me is the one that I noted, and that’s in the Arctic. We’re going, we are seeing longer periods of time that the Northern Sea Route is open. And so as a part of that there’s an increased interest in commercial and resource capabilities there. China, for instance, is pressing to get into the High North and have some presence there. And so that creates competition. Russia, because that Northern Sea Route is the one that follows most closely to their borders, has increases, re-opened 10 of their airports there. They now have radar systems up. They’ve begun to move, on periodic times, different weapons systems up there for control of the area. So those are all things that I have to bring into my planning.”
Sen. Warren: “That’s serious! So, and, what has been your response to that? Briefly.”
General Scaparrotti: “Well, briefly, we’ve changed – we’ve updated our plans as a response, as a result of that. We’ve had to change the posture of some of our forces. We’ve changed our operational patterns so that we in fact deter when we send a signal of the importance of the Arctic to us. Those are just some of the way, day to day, that we’ve made changes in our normal routine in order to demonstrate significant capability in the Arctic.”
Sen Warren: “Thank you! General Lyons.”
General Lyons: “Ma’am, anything that degrades our ability to project and sustain power globally at our time and place of choosing is a concern, and we know that we have to operate in any conditions whatsoever.”
Sen Warren: “So, what are you doing by way of response.”
General Lyons: “Ma’am, we… in other words, in our planning and so forth, we consider all environments. But more specific to General Scaparrotti’s point about the more scientific piece of it, is that’s a little bit out of my area of expertise.”
Sen Warren: “Fair enough. I really wasn’t looking for so much a scientific answer, but as General Scaparrotti said, how you have to kind of readjust where you are and what you’re doing. If I can, I just want to say, adapting to climate change impacts our military readiness and I’m glad you both take this threat seriously. I appreciate that.”
February 12, 2019
Admiral Philip Davidson, INDOPACOM Commander
Senator Warren: The unclassified Worldwide Threat Assessment by the Director for National Intelligence said, and I’m going to quote here: “Global environmental and ecological degradation, as well as climate change, are likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.” That assessment also said: “Damage to communication, energy, and transportation infrastructure could affect low-lying military bases, inflict economic costs, and cause human displacement and loss of life.” Admiral Davidson do you agree with the intelligence community’s assessment of the climate change threat?
Admiral Davidson: Yes, ma’am.
Senator Warren: So how does climate change impact operations in your area of responsibility and what are you doing to prepare for climate change?
Admiral Davidson: Well, the immediate manifestation, ma’am, is the number of ecological disaster events that are happening. I’ve just wrapped up after some four months… excuse me… three and a half months of assistance in Tinian and Saipan. A contribution of Title X forces in significant numbers, to help clear debris, to help fix roofs, to help restore the infrastructure there writ large. I’ve also been called to respond and assist in Indonesia in the wake of the earthquake and the tsunami that happened there last year – a little separate from climate change, but our assistance in terms of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, our ability to command and control, to marshal troops, to deliver logistics is important training for the region. It’s something that they all need. And one of the things that my headquarters does is we run a center for excellence in disaster management. That training is available not just to the Title X folks but also our interagency here in the United States, and we export those courses as well to countries throughout the Indopacific and really globally to help assist them in these matters.
Senator Warren: So, thank you. Adapting to climate change impacts our military readiness, and I’m glad that our military commanders take the threat of climate change seriously. I think we, your civilian leaders owe it to you to enact policies here in Congress that recognize that climate change is happening and that we need to do more to stop it.
The DoD releases a report to Congress on climate change threats to its critical military infrastructure and Geographic Combatant Commands.
The Chief of Naval Operations releases the U.S. Navy’s “Strategic Outlook for the Arctic,” which pays close attention to climate-driven changes in the Arctic operating environment.
December 13, 2018
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) releases a “Report to Congressional Committees” titled “National Security: Long-Range Emerging Threats Facing the United States As Identified by Federal Agencies” – a response to a House committee report from the last Congress accompanying the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes climate change threats to the DoD.
December 12, 2018
General Robert Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps
Sen Kaine: Right, so we really ought to be probably be looking at the higher cost. The Tyndall price tag’s about $5 billion, as I understand it. That’s not the purpose of this hearing. But talk to me about this top 10 list. The–in the Navy/Marine side, there’s a report due pursuant to the NDAA this month about sort of the top 10 installations that you feel are–have–have vulnerabilities because of climate. When are we likely to see that report?
Gen Neller: Senator, that should be forthcoming soon. I will get back to you on the exact date. I mean, I’ve seen the list, and I don’t know where the process is in actually finalizing it and signing it out to you.
But not surprisingly, it’s going to be what you might expect in the Navy. It’s going to be oceanfront areas, water rising issues. It’s going to be areas exposed to what we’ve seen now as hundred year storms that come every two or three years. We’re going to have to start addressing this so we do this correctly and spend the money correctly.
Sen Kaine: We had a very well attended hearing in Hampton Roads now nearly 2 years ago, very bipartisan Congressional delegation talking about sea level rise and the effect on Norfolk and other bases, Langley and others in the area. And it was pretty sobering, and we started thinking about, if there’s a future BRAC round or any kind of, you know, physical base rationalization, that’s got to be a vulnerability that people would be concerned about.
But one of the DoD witnesses said you should worry about sea level rise but try running a base in an area where there is a persistent drought. It’s not just sea level rise. It’s–it is–there’s all kinds of weather emergencies and challenges that all of the services are dealing with on the climate side. And we look forward to that report because it’ll help us do our job better when we get to NDAA and appropriations.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Sen Wicker: Thank you, Senator Kaine. And we certainly ought to be able to deal with issues like that apart from any BRAC round we might have.
November 5, 2018
General Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
When we look at, when I look at, climate change, it’s in the category of sources of conflict around the world and things we have to respond to. So it can be great devastation requiring humanitarian assistance/ disaster relief, which the U.S. military certainly conducts routinely. In fact, I can’t think of a year since I’ve been on active duty that we haven’t conducted at least one operation in the Pacific along those lines due to extreme weather in the Pacific. And then, when you look at source of conflict – shortages of water, and those kind of things – those are all sources of conflict. So, it is very much something that we take into account in our planning as we anticipate when, where and how we may be engaged in the future and what capabilities we should have.
August 21, 2018
Senator Reed: I mentioned before that the GAO has done a study that has indicated that the Department of Defense spent over $1 billion dollars simply in military construction recovery from hurricanes and other climate effects. Do you agree with Secretary Mattis’ views that climate effects have an impact not only on the institutional forces, but also national security – droughts in Somalia. Start with Mr. Mc Mahon.
Robert H. McMahon: Senator, our military has faced weather extremes throughout its history, and the adverse impact of that we saw last year. But we’ve seen it as a military officer in the Southeast a number of times. Each year we prepared for the hurricanes that would come through. So, yes I agree with Secretary Mattis that weather can and does have an adverse effect on our ability to accomplish our mission. Risk mitigation is the preparation to ensure that we are ready for that. And if confirmed, I will continue to ensure that we are as ready as possible.
Alex Beehler: Absolutely. Echoing what General McMahon just said, and if confirmed, from my position I will do everything to encourage installations and help direct installations to properly prepare on a case by case basis for both adverse weather and effects long-term from climate. I understand that there is a report obligation coming out of the NDAA that was just passed that requires each of the services to do an assessment and a master plan impact. And if confirmed I will ensure that that effort of assessment and master plan impact is complete, comprehensive and delivered on time.
April 19, 2018
“Asked what triggered the decision to revise the 2014 document now, Richardson said “the Arctic triggered it” – and Spencer added, “the damn thing melted.”
“The Arctic ice caps are as small as they’ve been in my lifetime,” Richardson said.
“And that gives rise to strategic changes. Waterways that are open. The secretary mentioned the blue-water Arctic. Continental shelves that are exposed, and the resources on those shelves. So there are strategic issues that arise from that shrinking of the icecap. And then there’s this National Defense Strategy that’s changed our focus as well. So it’s really, from a number of perspectives, about time to do that again.”
April 17, 2018
Nominee for Commander of NORTHCOM and NORAD, General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy
Senator, it [the impact of climate change] absolutely does [create strategic challenges]. And certainly the Arctic, for example, just as you mention, the Northern Sea Route as an example, we see increased use and activity in the Arctic. I think from the NORTHCOM perspective and the NORAD perspective as well, if confirmed, I would certainly make the Arctic a priority. Because as we look to the future, look at the strategic competition we’re in, look at Russia and China, and their activities there, that is clearly something that we need to also be focused on.
April 12, 2018
Air Force Director of Civil Engineers, Major General Timothy Green
For Langley Air Force Base (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.
Assistant Secretary of Defense (Energy, Installations & Environment), Hon. Lucian Niemeyer
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…
…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.
March 13, 2018
AFRICOM Commander, General Thomas D. Waldhauser, USMC (Ret)
Senator, some of the numbers you stated are certainly overwhelming. And when it comes to the African continent, unfortunately those numbers are sometimes the order of the day. Last year, for example, in Somalia there were over 6 million people who were food insecure. This year it’s going to be around 5 million people. And that’s just in that region.
I would say from the climate perspective, is that we have seen the Sahel – the grasslands of the Sahel – recede and become desert almost a mile per year in the last decade or so. This has a significant impact on the herders who have to fight, if you will, for grasslands and water holes and the like.
So these environmental challenges put pressure on these different organizations — some are VEO [violent extremist organizations], some are criminal, but it puts pressure on these organizations just for their own livelihood.
So, consequently, in areas like northern Mali, ISIS West Africa and the northern part of Niger, these are areas that are a very concern to us. And this is why we’re trying to work so closely with those countries there, so that they can maintain security, that they can keep it, at a minimum, keep these challenges inside those particular boundaries. But there are some significant challenges, and the numbers sometimes in Africa can overwhelm you.
February 14, 2018
Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, General Stephen Wilson:
“This last year was a great example. So we were fighting [forest] fires in California and using our C-130s to help fight those. We did the floods here, the hurricanes both in Texas as well as Florida, and as the ones came up the East Coast affecting bases like Langley. So everything we look at in terms of infrastructure we have to look at through the lens of ‘how would I build and design infrastructure that would support changes in climate.’ I think that and energy resiliency across our bases to be able to – as the Army just talked about – partner with local communities because our bases are our power projection platforms. So we got to make sure they are energy resilient.”
Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Bill Moran:
“I attended a briefing by the Naval Academy here recently and they were looking out 30 years at the flood plains and the sea wall associated with the Chesapeake Bay and the Severn River. It was a pretty stark demonstration of what could happen if we don’t take some action in the next 30 years to address that rise in water level. As you know, General Walters and I, we share bases, pretty much waterfront property all over the world, so if the oceans are going to rise we’re going to be impacted everywhere. So, it does demand kind of a comprehensive look at all of our bases, especially in those areas that you already cited, in Hampton Roads, Florida, on the West Coast in San Diego, etc, so we are going to look at that very hard in the next several years.”
Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Glenn Walters:
“Yes, Sir, we are a waterfront organization also. We have come to the conclusion that we’re not going to turn the tide, but we are looking at it closely. I’ve taken, in this job that I’m in right now, I’ve taken two briefs in the last eight months on what I consider our most critical vulnerability, and that’s Parris Island, South Carolina. Our logistics folks at I&L, our Deputy Commandant for I&L has done extensive work and studies, and projected out what’s the best case, what’s the worst case, and obviously there’s a big variance in there. But what I do know is that we’ll eventually have to bolster that. I’ve come to the conclusion in my own mind that it’s not today – we don’t have to build a sea wall today. But we have to consider one, and we’re monitoring it every day as we watch that. Because you remember that started out as a marsh and a little bit of an island. So marshes turn into seawater, and land turns into marsh.”
Army Vice Chief of Staff, General James McConville:
“We look at some of the hazards that have happened over the last couple of…I mean, the hurricane. We had three major hurricanes. We have installations, camp post installations really in all those type [of] areas. So they certainly affect us. We got fires in certain parts of the country – that certainly affects where our post is. The flooding is certainly there. We are building some resilience. You know, an example right now – we are building, in partnership, at Schofield Barracks, a power plant in conjunction with the local area so, it’ll be used – we don’t necessarily need it – but if there’s a situation where the power goes out, we’ll have that capability, resilience. It’s a public-private partnership which I think is a good way to get after, and they seem very excited about that partnership that’s going on there…(Sen. Kaine interjection: ‘Excellent, so that’s a shared investment that’s being done by both DoD and the local community?) Gen McConville: It’s actually the community that’s actually paying for it, but we’re allowing them to use the land, and then if something happens where we lose power, we have first dibs on the power. And it’s on the grid right now, but if something happens serious, then we have the opportunity to use it.”
January 30, 2018
Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations, Energy, and the Environment, Phyllis L. Bayer
“Yes, if confirmed, I will ensure the Department identifies those bases most at-risk [from climate change] and develops the measures necessary to mitigate those risks.”
Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment, and Energy, John Henderson
“Yes, I agree with Secretary Mattis’ assessment that a changing climate can impact our installations. If confirmed, I will ensure that the Air Force continues to be prepared to conduct operations today and in the future, and that we are prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on our threat assessments, resources, and readiness.”
January 26, 2018
The Department of Defense releases a personnel survey report showing climate change-related risks to 50% of military infrastructure.
December 12, 2017
The President signs into law the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes in “SEC. 335. REPORT ON EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON DEPARTMENT
OF DEFENSE” a recognition that climate change presents a direct threat to national security, and requests a report from the DoD on how climate change affects its overall mission – including the top ten most climate-vulnerable military sites.
November 9, 2017
Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, R.D. James
“As an engineer and after years as a member of the Mississippi River Commission, working with multiple Civil Works water resource projects designed to perform under extreme climatic conditions, I believe it is critical that we look at hydrologic data, analyze hydrologic trends, and understand what is happening on the ground at Army Civil Works projects. That kind of understanding is crucial to assuring those projects continue to perform as designed and that they are sufficiently resilient to face whatever future climatic events may occur…Because most Army Civil Works projects are specifically designed to safely perform and reduce risk under the extremes of the hydrologic cycle, from extreme floods to prolonged drought and everywhere in between, I believe we owe it to the communities, industries and economic sectors that depend on Civil Works systems to assure those systems are sufficiently resilient in order to dependably perform regardless of what future climatic conditions are presented.”
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issues its report “Climate Change Adaptation: DoD Needs to Better Incorporate Adaptation into Planning and Collaboration at Overseas Installations.”
September 19, 2017
Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Joseph Lengyel
“I do think that the climate is changing, and I do think that it is becoming more severe…I do think that storms are becoming bigger, larger, more violent. You know, I never know if this one speck of time is an anomaly or not, but, you know, we’ve all seen now three Category 5 storms that popped out in a period of a month.”
“It impacts me because the National Guard does provide — we are the military domestic response force. We keep that as part of our job jar…For us to do that job, we have to have some force structure that’s located were the events might happen. So whether that’s in Oklahoma, where you have a lot of tornadoes, or whether that’s in the northwest, where you have a lot of fires, or whether that’s in the Gulf or along the East Coast, we need force structure that is in all 50 states, the territories and the District of Columbia, so that we can respond…It doesn’t work for me to put all of our forces on one base in any particular state.”
July 18, 2017
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul J. Selva
“The dynamics that are happening in our climate will drive uncertainty and will drive conflict. And I’ll just provide one example of how that can happen and this is a man-made problem. The dams along the Nile River control the flow of water into what was the Fertile Crescent of Egypt, and any change to that water flow causes the Egyptians to become more hostile to their neighbors who are putting dams upstream of the Egyptian stretch of the Nile River. I could build that argument in a variety of countries around the world, and those are man-made problems not directly related to climate change but related to how we as humans change our environment. If you extend that argument to the kinds of things that might happen if we see tidal rises, if we see increasing weather patterns of drought and flood and forest fires and other natural events that happen inside of our environment, then we’re gonna have to be prepared for what that means in terms of the potential for instability in regions of the country where those impacts happen. Particularly today where there’s massive food instability. The Sahel in Africa is a classic example, where a small drought over a limited period of time can decimate the crops and cause instability and make that an area fertile for recruitment of extremists because they see no other way. Similarly you could look at the decimation of the fisheries off Somalia that contributed to piracy because the fishermen couldn’t make their livelihood by doing what they do best, which is fishing on the fishing grounds off of Somalia. So I think we need to be prepared for those. It will cause us to have to address questions like humanitarian disaster relief. It will also cause us to have to focus on places where climate instability might cause actual political instability in regions of the world we hadn’t previously had to pay attention to…”
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment (IE&E), Lucian L. Niemeyer
“Yes, the climate plays a pivotal role in DoD’s ability to execute our missions. The
Department has always considered risks from climate related effects such as high winds, precipitation, extreme temperatures and drought to mission readiness and execution. As Secretary Mattis has stated “the Department should be prepared to mitigate any consequences of a changing climate, including ensuring that our shipyards and installations will continue to function as required.”
“I agree that the Department must be prepared for extreme weather, but in the long run DoD must plan now to ensure it can meet future mission requirements to remain a ready and resilient fighting force. If confirmed, I will work with the Military Departments to ensure our facilities and installation plans appropriately consider the impact of a changing climate.”
“If confirmed, I will ensure that the comprehensive threat assessment and
implementation master plan [on the risks and vulnerabilities to Department missions and infrastructure associated with climate-related events] is submitted to Congress in a timely manner.”
“Secretary Mattis has passed on the desire to want to make sure that we’re incorporating what’s going on around the world with climate change into our operational plans, and I fully plan to support that, and to what extend we can prepare domestically as well for what’s happening with the climate and the environment.”
July 11, 2017
Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer
Q: Mr. Spencer, do you believe the climate is changing and that climate change will continue to affect the Navy’s installations and missions?
Spencer: “Senator, the Navy, from my briefings to date, is totally aware of the rising water issue, storm issues, et cetera. We must protect our infrastructure, and I will work hard to make sure we are keeping an eye on that because without the infrastructure, we lose readiness.”
Q: So I take that as a yes?
Spencer: “Yes, all about readiness.”
Q: And, if confirmed, under your leadership will the Navy prepare for climate change? I think this is where you are going about readiness. And I want to say that both in terms of repairing our own bases and installations and preparing for the crisis and the insecurity that climate change will exacerbate around the world.
Spencer: “Yes, Senator.”
March 14, 2017
Secretary of Defense, James Mattis
“Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today. It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.”
“Climate change can be a driver of instability and the Department of Defense must pay attention to potential adverse impacts generated by this phenomenon.”
“As I noted above, climate change is a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of government response. If confirmed, I will ensure that the Department of Defense plays its appropriate role within such a response by addressing national security aspects.”
“I agree that the effects of a changing climate — such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others — impact our security situation. I will ensure that the department continues to be prepared to conduct operations today and in the future, and that we are prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on our threat assessments, resources, and readiness.”