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The Pentagon’s Global Supply Chain Threatened by Climate Change

By Dr. Marc Kodack

Supply chains are the less visible parts of many large, global companies, such as Apple, Toyota, and Boeing. For each of these companies, their many suppliers incrementally provide parts that are eventually assembled into finished products, whether they are hand-held smartphones or part of vehicles that transport a few or many people. Disruptions to suppliers can have devasting effects on the ability of a company to complete finished products. The most recent example of this are the shortages in personal protective equipment, e.g., masks, surgical gowns, and face shields, for health-care workers involved in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the Department of Defense (DoD), disruptions to its global supply chain, particularly those suppliers involved in mission-critical products and services, will degrade DoD’s ability to respond when it is called upon. When these disruptions are caused or influenced by climate change, supply chain management under climate change becomes a strategic vulnerability. The probability of a disruption to one or more critical suppliers is never-ending, given their number and dispersed locations around the globe.

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Despite Politics, the Pentagon Launches New Effort on Climate and Environmental Security

By John Conger

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has been addressing climate change issues and examining how they impact national security for a long time – across multiple Administrations, both Democrat and Republican.  In recent years, the DoD has done so despite political pressures to the contrary, though prioritization of the issue declined significantly after the departure of Secretary of Defense James Mattis. However, recent articles (here and here) highlight a new effort within the Pentagon called Recourse Competition, Environmental Security, and Stability (RECESS), led by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Stability and Humanitarian Affairs), that seeks to create a coherent internal network within the Pentagon to address climate and environmental security threats.  According to recent news, the effort is intended to “corral the Pentagon’s top experts on climate and the environment to better prepare U.S. forces for future threats and conflicts” and has “already collected more than 60 people from across the military, including the intelligence community and combatant commands.” This initiative is new and exciting for a few reasons.

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U.S. Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs: Climate Change Impacts National Security

Esper and Milley_2020_2

Dr. Mark Esper, U.S. Secretary of Defense, and GEN Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, address climate change threats to the military before the House Armed Services Committee – February 26, 2020

By Dr. Marc Kodack

On February 26, 2020, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on “The Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of Defense.” Witnesses providing written statements and answering questions included Dr. Mark Esper, U.S. Secretary of Defense and GEN Mark Milley, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both Secretary Esper and General Milley identified climate change as a phenomenon that has impacts on the military and national security, and that investments need to be made now in order to address future risks. Below is a verbatim transcript of the exchanges between Members of Congress and the two witnesses on climate change and climate-related topics.

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Highway Bridge Deterioration from Climate Change Will Affect U.S. Military Mobility and Deployments

Bridge #3 with Deteriorated Deck _WI

By Marc Kodack

The overall state of infrastructure in the U.S. is very poor. Whether it’s energy, transit, drinking water, or inland waterways, these and other types of infrastructure are all aging and deteriorating at different rates. Climate change exacerbates the condition of many of these types of infrastructure. For the Department of Defense (DoD), infrastructure, such as bridges, roads, rail, ports, and aviation structures, is important to move personnel and equipment in response to disasters within the U.S. or for deploying overseas for humanitarian and/or combat operations. The declining state of bridges across the U.S. may impede the DoD’s ability to meet the timely execution of its assigned mission. Bridges will experience climate change effects, including those from rising temperatures that can lower physical performance leading to degradation in their life span. (more…)

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