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Responsibility to Prepare: A Whole of Government Approach to Climate Security
In excerpts from Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee (responses to follow-up “questions for the record”), the Secretary stressed the need for the United States to take a whole of government approach to climate change. His quote in full:
As I noted above, climate change is a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of government response. If confirmed, I will ensure that the Department of Defense plays its appropriate role within such a response by addressing national security aspects.
As climate change impacts all facets of society, it makes sense for the Secretary of Defense to suggest that a range of departments and agencies across the U.S. government should work together to respond to it. Leaving the issue siloed within one department or another would leave the United States fundamentally unprepared to adequately manage and prepare for the problem. If one agrees that a core function of the U.S. government is to protect its citizens and its critical institutions from physical harm, then it can be argued that the U.S. government has a “responsibility to prepare” for climate change risks to national security. (more…)
Our Take: New Intelligence and Presidential Memos on Climate Change and National Security
On September 21, 2016, the Obama Administration made two significant announcements related to climate change and national security – one which highlights the latest intelligence on the nature of the risk, and the second which lays the foundation for managing that risk across agencies. This included:
- A report from the National Intelligence Council (NIC): “Implications for US National Security of Anticipated Climate Change”;
- A Presidential Memorandum (PM): Climate Change and National Security, establishing an organizational framework for managing climate change risks to national security, to be be run by the National Security Advisor and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
These releases both reflect the reality of this accelerating risk, as identified by many in the bipartisan national security community to date, as well as practical next steps recommended by the Climate and Security Advisory Group.