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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. 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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