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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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U.S. Congress: Bipartisan Support for Investments in Combating Climate Change at the Department of Defense

Sherri Goodman, Chair of the Council on Strategic Risks, speaks to the House Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee, March 17, 2021

By John Conger

As the Fiscal Year 2022 budget is discussed within the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), a budget that will reportedly include an increased focus on dealing with the threats that climate change poses to the Defense Department, the House Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee held a hearing on March 17 to consider the risks – and the costs – imposed by climate change.  The panel witnesses were Sherri Goodman, Chair of the Council on Strategic Risks, Senior Strategist and Advisory Board Member of the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) and Secretary General of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS); and Vice Admiral (ret) Dennis McGinn, Member of the CCS Advisory Board.  

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A Blueprint for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Strategic Assessment of Climate Change

This is an excerpt from an article published in War on the Rocks

By Kate Guy and Erin Sikorsky

One could be forgiven for thinking that a rising China is the only threat that the Department of Defense is preparing to confront. China is referred to as the “pacing threat” by senior defense officials, and the top news out of President Joe Biden’s inaugural visit to the Pentagon last month was a new “sprint effort” to review the U.S. approach to China. In that same visit, the president called on the Department of Defense to “rethink” and “reprioritize” security to meet the challenges of the 21st century, including climate change — but it was the China threat that got the “task force” moniker and a named leader that day. Yet in its “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” the administration mandated that climate change must now be at “the center of our national security and foreign policy,” a mandate reflected in newly released national security and defense guidance. To that end, the executive order directs the Department of Defense to prepare a comprehensive new “Climate Risk Analysis” in just 120 days — on the same timeline as the China sprint. This analysis, meant to examine the long-term, strategic security risks posed by climate change, demands at least equal investment and attention as the China effort.

Read the full article at War on the Rocks.



U.S. Department of Defense: Funding Available for Environmental Research and Development

ALEXANDRIA, VA, November 4, 2020—The Department of Defense’s (DoD) Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) is seeking to fund environmental research and development in the Resource Conservation and Resiliency program area.  SERDP invests across the broad spectrum of basic and applied research, as well as advanced technology development.  The development and application of innovative environmental technologies will reduce the costs, environmental risks, and time required to resolve environmental problems while, at the same time, enhancing and sustaining military readiness.

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