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Three Takeaways from Hurricane Michael’s Impact on Tyndall Air Force Base

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An F-22 Raptor from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., commences take off (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sergio A. Gamboa)

By John Conger, Director, The Center for Climate and Security

As the Florida communities devastated by Hurricane Michael begin their long recovery, much attention has been focused on Tyndall Air Force Base and the incredible amount of damage the base took from the storm.

First and foremost, it’s important to highlight the wise decision to evacuate the base as the storm approached.  No lives were lost on Tyndall and many of its F-22 aircraft were relocated elsewhere – out of harms way.  Missions have been moved and critical functions have continued to operate.  A decision to ride out the storm could have gone much, much worse.

Second, while the damage assessment is still ongoing, it is very clear that the bill will be quite high – not only to the infrastructure of the base, but also to the very expensive F-22 aircraft that remained at the installation.  Official numbers have not been released, but it is clear that many F-22s remained at the base because they were in various states of maintenance and unable to fly.  Fortunately, initial indications from the Air Force are that damage to the aircraft is less than it could have been.  (more…)

Senior Military Leaders to Congress: Climate Change Presents Strategic Challenges in the Arctic

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General O’Shaughnessy, nominee for NORTHCOM & NORAD Commander, responds to a question on climate change before the Senate Armed Services Committee, April 17, 2018

By Heather Messera

“The damn thing melted” – Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer on the Arctic, April 19, 2018

Over just the past few days, three senior military leaders from the Air Force and the Navy have raised significant concerns about the effects of climate change on the military mission in the Arctic.

First, on Tuesday, April 17, 4-star Air Force General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding his nomination to be Commander of United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM), and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). While the full hearing is worth watching (including the comments of Admiral Davidson, the PACOM nominee), a notable exchange on climate change between Senator Blumenthal and General O’Shaughnessy occurred at the 1:27:08 minute mark.  Asked about whether or not climate change presents strategic challenges in the Arctic – part of NORTHCOMs and NORADs Area of Responsibility (AoR) – General O’Shaughnessy replied “Senator, it absolutely does.” General O’Shaughnessy then went on to detail increases in activity in a thawing Arctic, highlighting the need to consider strategic competition in the region with Russia and China.  (more…)

Military Leaders Address Climate, Sea-Level Rise and Resilience at House Appropriations Committee

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Major General Timothy Green, Air Force Director of Civil Engineers, speaks to the House Appropriations Committee on actions by the Air Force to address sea level rise risks to Langley Air Force Base, April 12, 2018

“We are already altering how we do the engineering work to protect our facilities and our missions.” – Major General Timothy Green, Air Force Director of Civil Engineers

“Our goal is resiliency across the board.” – Hon. Lucian Niemeyer, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Energy, Installations & Environment)

On April 12, 2018, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs held an oversight hearing on the Fiscal Year 2019 military construction budget.  During the hearing, Congressman Scott Taylor (R-VA), a former Navy SEAL who represents Naval Station Norfolk and the Hampton Roads region, raised the importance of preparing for climate change.  He asked Assistant Secretary of Defense (Energy, Installations and Environment) Lucian Niemeyer whether the Department of Defense (DoD) was taking the necessary steps to ensure Norfolk and the other bases in his district were being made resilient to the effects of sea level rise. (more…)

Hearing: Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force Leadership All Highlight Climate Change Risks to Military Readiness

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General Glenn Walters, USMC and General Stephen Wilson, USAF, during Senate Armed Services Committee hearing “Current Readiness of U.S. Forces,” Feb 14, 2018

Last Wednesday, during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on “Current Readiness of the U.S. Forces,” senior leadership from the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force all highlighted climate change-related risks to their respective military installations, and force readiness, in a very substantive and illuminating exchange with Senator Tim Kaine.

The Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Glenn Walters, and the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Bill Moran, both warned of serious sea level rise threats to critical Marine and Navy installations, citing a shared status as  “waterfront organizations.” Air Force Vice Chief of Staff General Stephen Wilson, and Army Vice Chief of Staff General James McConville, noted rising threats from forest fires, floods and hurricanes, including to energy resiliency across their bases. Below is both a summary and full transcript of those statements, as well as a link to the hearing video (exchange with Senator Kaine begins at 01:07:40). (more…)

Must Watch: Dr. Chad Briggs on Climate Security Then and Now

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, HAWAII (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, HAWAII (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

In case you missed it, Dr. Chad Briggs recently gave a keynote address, “Making Your Own Fate: Climate Risks and Planning for Security,” at the 11th Annual Trudeau Foundation Conference, Weathering Change Pathways to Sustainability In Canada. The conference asked “executives from the insurance and financial sectors, social entrepreneurs, an advisor to the US military, energy experts, and some of Canada’s top economists to take a hard look at such topics as food security, the future of international governance arrangements, and Canada’s energy landscape.” All presentations from the conference can be found here(more…)

The Air Force’s Weather Squad: Keeping an Eye on Accelerating Climate Change

Southwest Asia CellNBC News wrote an interesting article recently about the Air Force Weather Agency’s “14th Weather Squadron,” based in Asheville, North Carolina (and according to the article, “the Pentagon’s oldest office of climatology…”). The squadron commander Lt. Col. Glenn Kerr describes the 14th as providing “cutting edge climatology for the war-fighter.”

A key takeaway from the article is how seriously the Air Force and the rest of the Department of Defense is taking climate change, which should surprise no one, but is not discussed enough. As the squadron’s lead scientist, Ray Kiess, notes “Is climate change accelerating? Absolutely…The extremes in this era are significantly being changed year in, year out.” (more…)

General Ron Keys Talks Climate Change and Security in Iowa

Ron KeysRetired four-star Air Force General Ron Keys, member of CNA Corporation’s Military Advisory Board (MAB), and our own Advisory Board, is in Iowa this week talking about the risks and opportunities associated with a changing climate. This comes on the heels of a landmark report release from the MAB, titled “National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change.”

Yesterday, General Keys spoke with “Iowa policy-makers and agriculture leaders” about climate change impacts on crop production, stating:

“That’s what we mean when we talk about a catalyst for conflict…When people don’t have enough to eat, when people don’t have enough water, when people don’t have a way to make a living, then they start to move or the[y] start to be activists…or the government can’t support them any longer and so you have, perhaps, radicals taking over certain areas of the world.”

Today, General Keys will speak at the opening of Iowa’s largest solar farm in Kalona. In advance of that, General Keys penned an Op-Ed for The Des Moines Register. In it, he talks about the effect climate change and a dependence on oil has on U.S. military infrastructure and operations, and how the military is addressing those issues. He states:

The military has long been looking for ways to reduce demand, diversify supply and advance the use of renewable options both here at home and on the battlefield. In recent wars, transporting and protecting access to fuel supplies has put our troops in greater danger. Historically, our dependence on oil has tied our nation to troubling regimes in parts of the world that are neither the most stable nor the most friendly to American interests.

These are all good reasons to look for solutions now.

There is another challenge, too: As a senior officer with responsibility for military installations around the world, I saw the beginning effects of climate change as long-term droughts and flooding began to threaten bases and training ranges. Extreme weather events were a wake-up call, showing what can happen as storms get stronger and weather patterns change.

Today, the Department of Defense is analyzing plans for at least 30 bases, posts or ports in the face of predicted sea-level rise that may make some unusable — more good reasons to look for solutions now.

Follow us on Twitter @CntrClimSec for more on General Keys’ visit to both Kalona and Camp Dodge (where he’s discussing efficiency with the Iowa National Guard).