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Climate Security: A Tale of Two Defense Hearings
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.(more…)
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.
The U.S. Congress Overrode Trump Veto on FY21 NDAA: Here are the Climate Security Highlights in the Bill
By John Conger
On January 1, the U.S. Senate voted to override Mr. Trump’s veto of the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with an 81-13 vote. A few days earlier, the House voted 322-87 to override the veto. It is worth noting that the Statement of Administration Policy, which lists Mr. Trump’s objections to the bill, did not express opposition to any of its climate provisions.
This bill continues the trend we’ve seen in recent years of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees passing pragmatic climate security legislation without making it a political issue. In this bill, for example, Congress directs the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a strategy to follow up on its 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, essentially asking for a plan to climate proof the DoD. Given the signals the incoming Biden Administration has sent, there is every reason to expect it to develop an ambitious plan in response. It also continues the trend of expanding resilience authorities by granting broad authority to fund projects that improve the climate resilience of DoD installations – even when located on private land. (For those readers unfamiliar with the nuances of DoD funding, this is a big deal… and it’s important because climate change doesn’t recognize fence lines and sometimes the actions you need to take are outside the base.)(more…)
For First Time, the Pentagon IG Annual Report Identifies Climate Change as Top Challenge
In another sign that the Department of Defense (DoD) is prioritizing climate security risks, the annual Inspector General (IG) summary of the Department’s top management challenges explicitly discusses climate change and extreme weather events. This is the first time the report has featured climate change, incorporating it along with global pandemics in a section on strengthening resiliency to non-traditional threats.
The report explores a number of ways climate change and extreme weather challenge the DoD. It includes the following examples of the costly impact of extreme weather events on installations: $3.6 billion in hurricane damages to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in 2018 and the 2019 flooding that caused $1 billion in damages to Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. The report also notes the risk of rising sea levels at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; noting they are expected to rise an additional 3.6 feet by 2050 causing significant campus flooding.(more…)