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Finding Climate Change Between the Lines in the National Defense Strategy

ASP-National-Defense-Strategy-Report_Summary_PageBy John Conger

Earlier this year, concerns were raised by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress about the new National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy omitting references to climate change or its possible impact on our security situation.

Recent work by the American Security Project (ASP) shows that even though the National Defense Strategy does not call out climate change specifically, it is most certainly in there implicitly.  ASP decided to look for climate change between the lines and concluded:

The 2018 NDS outlines how the operating environment is changing, highlighting “challenges to free and open international order and the re-emergence of long-term strategic competition between nations.”

Within this framework, we find that climate change will impact the national security of our nation in three main ways. First, climate change will undermine the existing international order. Second, at the same time, weak states will be more vulnerable to great power influence. And third, threats to the homeland will become closer to home and less concrete, allowing them to permeate our borders. As noted in the NDS, “the homeland is no longer a sanctuary.” (more…)

Chronology of U.S. Military Statements and Actions on Climate Change and Security: 2017-2018

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Since January 2017, 18 senior officials at the U.S. Defense Department (DoD) have 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 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; and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, General Robert McMahon. The DoD also produced a survey report on the matter in January 2018.

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. (more…)

Lawmakers to Pentagon: Keep climate change and security in your sights 

800px-United_States_Capitol_Building-_west_front_editBy John Conger

As reported by The Military Times, a bipartisan group of 40 lawmakers recently wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Mattis reinforcing Congressional intent when it comes to reporting on climate change: namely that when Congress asks for a report on climate change, they intend for it to at least mention the term.

Their concern was stoked by a recent Washington Post report that alleged the Administration had stripped a number of references to climate change out of a report (dubbed SLVAS) detailing the impacts of climate on DoD installations worldwide.  The final SLVAS report, though it only includes one reference to climate change (page 9), indicated that more than half of DoD bases had seen increases in adverse weather impacts.  (more…)

Conger: Why the Pentagon Cares about Climate Change

John CongerThe Ripon Society, a public policy organization that takes its name from the birthplace of the Republican Party (Ripon, Wisconsin) and considers Theodore Roosevelt its intellectual guide, recently published a multi-author volume America’s Energy Renaissance as the July issue of its The Ripon Forum magazine.

For the issue, Director of the Center for Climate and Security, John Conger, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment, wrote a piece simply and pragmatically titled “Why the Pentagon Cares About Climate Change.” Within the article, Mr. Conger highlights the simple, pragmatic, mission-focused reasons why the Department of Defense takes this threat seriously. From the piece:

Secretary James Mattis – and at least fifteen other senior defense officials during the current Administration – have taken an approach that is pragmatic and mission-focused. From day one – in response to questions during his confirmation process – Secretary Mattis said: “[T]he 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.”  His words are hardly inflammatory, and yet they convey an unequivocal recognition of climate change and a determination to overcome its effects.

Read the full article here.

Vice Admiral McGinn on CNN: The President should acknowledge climate threat at NATO

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Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, left, speaks with Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, USN (Ret) at the Navy Energy Forum 2009

In an article published today by CNN, the Center for Climate and Security’s Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, U.S. Navy (Ret), former Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment, has an important bit of advice for the U.S. President and other NATO leaders as they head to Brussels to participate in the NATO Summit: Take the advice of U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and acknowledge the security threat of a changing climate.

From the article:

US Defense Secretary James Mattis is one of this country’s greatest military leaders. A former four-star Marine General, he’s well read, thoughtful, pragmatic and highly intelligent. As our foremost national security strategist, in 2017, he described climate change as a threat facing the US.

“The effects of a changing climate — such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others — impact our security situation,” he wrote.

Since then, 15 other senior US defense leaders have reaffirmed that view.

Read the full article at the CNN website.

The Center for Climate and Security Announces New Director, John Conger

John CongerThe Center for Climate and Security (CCS) is pleased to announce John Conger as its new Director. Mr. Conger will oversee all of the Center’s programs, and chair the Climate and Security Advisory Group. He previously served as Senior Policy Advisor with CCS, and as the Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) at the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).  As principal deputy comptroller, Mr. Conger assisted the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) in the performance of his or her duties, provided advice to the Secretary of Defense on all budgetary and financial matters, including the development and execution of the DoD’s annual budget of over $500 billion, and oversaw the DoD’s efforts to achieve audit readiness. (more…)

AFRICOM Commander on Climate Change: Sahel Receding Almost a Mile Per Year

AFRICOM_General Waldhauser

General Waldhauser before the Senate Armed Services Committee addresses climate change in the Sahel, March 13, 2018

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, Marine General Thomas D. Walhauser, Commander of U.S. Africa Command (head of all U.S. forces on the African continent, barring Egypt), fielded a question from Sen. Gillibrand regarding the links between climate change, food insecurity and terrorism, and their impacts on AFRICOM’s mission and posture. General Waldhauser noted, in particular, the role of climate change in desertification, stating: “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.”

Below is General Waldhauser’s full statement on the subject:  (more…)