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The Biden Administration’s Whole of Government Approach to Climate Security

President Biden at the Leaders Summit on Climate – 22 April 2021

By Joon Hwang

“Climate change is an increasingly destabilizing force—an accelerating destabilization force—and it’s impacting our operational environment, it’s creating new missions, and our allies and partners are going to be called to respond to these increased demands,” said Brigadier General Rebecca Sonkiss, Deputy Director for Counter Threats and International Cooperation at the Joint Staff (J5), at a recent event hosted by the Wilson Center and the Center for Climate and Security. At the event, senior U.S. Government officials reflected on the significance of the Biden administration’s new climate security reports and how climate security is being prioritized and coordinated across defense and development, providing insight into the administration’s whole-of-government approach.

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The U.S. Department of Defense Releases its Climate Adaptation Plan  

Today, the U.S. Federal Government released Climate Adaptation Plans from all of its agencies.

The Department of Defense (DoD) plan can be found here, as well as a statement from Secretary of Defense Austin and the DoD press release.  It’s an impressive successor to the 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, and its ambition reflects the tone of this Administration – a tone set within its first week when President Biden signed Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.

See a more detailed assessment in this Defense One op-ed on the new strategy, by the Center for Climate and Security’s John Conger.

Stay tuned for more on other agency plans covering climate security.

The Pentagon Previews Climate Adaptation Plan in Congressional Hearing


By John Conger

On July 14, 2021, the Readiness Subcommittee of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee held a virtual hearing on the  installations and environment portfolios of the Department of Defense (DoD).  The witnesses were: Paul Cramer, the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense (Sustainment); Jack Surash, the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense (Installations, Energy and Environment); Todd Schafer, the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Energy, Installations and Environment); and Jennifer Miller, the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Energy, Installations, and Environment).  The hearing and the witness statements addressed a wide range of topics in this portfolio – to include climate resilience at DoD installations.

Note that each of these senior officials was Acting in their positions at the time of the hearing.  Each are senior civilian officials that are filling political jobs pending nomination and confirmation of political appointees in these roles.  Since this hearing, Meredith Berger has been confirmed as the Navy’s Assistant Secretary.  Rachel Jacobson is the pending nominee for the Army job.  No nominee has been announced for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) or Air Force roles.

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Climate Security: A Tale of Two Defense Hearings

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Offutt-Air-Force-Base_battling_flood_waters_190317-F-IT794-1053-1024x684.jpg
An aerial view of Offutt Air Force Base affected by major flood waters March 17, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt. Rachelle Blake)


By John Conger

Sometimes you want to hear from the very top, and sometimes you want to get into the details.  In the last couple of weeks, the U.S. Congress has done both, and each one teaches us something important about the way the Department of Defense (DoD) is planning to deal with climate change early in this Administration.

The first hearing described below included the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, covering a broad range of issues and setting the stage for the President’s budget release, which included      climate change as a priority.  The second addresses military infrastructure, which has been one of the key facets of the broader climate security portfolio within DoD.  It is the part of the climate challenge that has imposed the largest direct cost on DoD so far, and countering it also involves significant investment.  The second hearing gets into the details of this part of the portfolio.

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