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Unpacking the Pentagon’s $3.1 Billion Climate Request

Rough seas pound the hull of Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic as she sails alongside Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua A. Moore

By John Conger

On March 28, the U.S. Federal Budget request for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY2023) was released, officially kicking off the Congressional budget season and the ensuing posture testimonies, staffer briefs, and associated deep dives into the details of the budget.  With that first release, however, the Department of Defense (DoD) had not yet made available the budget details – instead providing just an information appetizer in the form of an overview slide deck.  The slides indicated that the DoD characterized $3.1 billion of its budget request as “climate investment” in four categories: Installation Resiliency and Adaptation ($2 billion); Science and Technology ($807 million); Operational Energy and Buying Power ($247 million); and Contingency Preparedness ($28 million).  These categories roughly line up with similar categories from FY2022 but represent significant increases in each.   The FY2022 budget identified $617 million in similar categories.  That said, while the categories remain the same, the contents are slightly different and it is hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison between the two.

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New Pentagon Inspector General Report on Climate Resilience in the Arctic: Key Takeaways

By Erin Sikorsky

Last week, the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General (IG) released a new report evaluating the climate resilience of US military bases in the Arctic and Sub-Arctic that provides a revealing glimpse of some of the challenges and opportunities facing the DoD as it works to implement climate security measures across its enterprise.

First, the report underscores the number one takeaway that the Climate Security Advisory Group identified in Challenge Accepted, our scorecard of the Biden Administration’s climate security policy: the need to move from words to action. The IG report shows the yawning gap between what policymakers mandate in Washington, what tools the Pentagon creates, and what actually happens (or doesn’t happen) out in the field. The report found little to no action at the bases on climate resilience, noting that, “military installation leaders focused on existing weather and energy challenges rather than analyzing their installations’ infrastructure, assets, and mission exposure and vulnerability to climate change; the DoD and Service Components did not provide guidance for implementing military installation resilience assessments; and installation leaders lacked resources to analyze and assess climate change.”

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HIGHLIGHTS: House Armed Services Committee Talks Climate Strategies and Resiliency 

By John Conger

On March 16, 2022, the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing to discuss matters dealing with energy, installations, and environment at the Department of Defense. The witnesses were Paul Cramer, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense (Energy, Installations and Environment); Paul Farnan, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Installations, Energy and Environment); Meredith Berger, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Energy, Installations and Environment); and Ed Oshiba, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Energy, Installations, and Environment).  

While the subject of the hearing was broader than climate security, climate change policies played a central role in the discussion. Highlights included:

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States of Emergency: Climate Change Risks to U.S. Military Installations in 2021 

Debris litters Tyndall Air Force Base following Hurricane Michael on October 17, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. Many U.S. military bases are in locations vulnerable to storm damage and sea-level rise.

By John Conger and Erin Sikorsky

On January 5, the Washington Post published an analysis of climate change-related emergencies in 2021 and concluded that more than 40 percent of Americans live in counties that were covered by federal disaster declarations in the past year. The devastating effects of the severe storms, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and droughts identified in the analysis pose a range of security risks to the US homeland, including direct loss of life (more than 650 people died from these disasters according to the Post), economic harm (NOAA estimates 20 separate “billion dollar” disasters in the US in 2021), and critical infrastructure damage. These climate-driven shocks also undermine long-term US resilience and compound other risks such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

An additional security risk is one we at the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) have spent a lot of time talking about over the years: the implications of climate change and extreme weather on military installations.  In recent years, hurricanes have done billions of dollars of damage to Tyndall Air Force Base  in Florida and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina; while the 2019 Missouri River flood inundated Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, home to US STRATCOM.  Meanwhile, wildfires have repeatedly driven the evacuation of bases in California including portions of Camp Pendleton and Beale Air Force Base in 2021. 

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