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The New U.S. Department of Defense Leadership Team on Climate Security

Secretary Esper and General Milley

Secretary Mark Esper and General Mark A. Milley, USA

By John Conger

As the confirmation processes continue for both Mark Esper to become Secretary of Defense and General Mark A. Milley to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it is worth exploring what these officials have said and done about climate security in general, or particular aspects of it, while they’ve been in their current positions running the Army – including most recently during the confirmation process.

First, as Secretary of the Army, Dr. Esper submitted to Congress a top ten list of his most climate-vulnerable bases, focusing mostly on drought and desertification, and committed to “work closely with other leaders throughout the Department of Defense and with Congress to identify corrective actions and implement steps to enhance our readiness and capability in the face of climate related threats.” (more…)

Takeaways from the U.S. House Oversight Hearing on Climate Security

Secretary Hagel_2019_4_09

Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel discusses the national security risks of climate change before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, April 9, 2019

By John Conger

On April 9, the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hosted a hearing on “The Need for Leadership to Combat Climate Change and Protect National Security,” including former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and former Secretary of State John Kerry as witnesses.

Secretaries Hagel and Kerry recently signed a letter to President Trump urging him not to create a panel to second-guess military and intelligence expert judgments on climate change.

Moreover, the very day of the hearing, the Washington Post published a story noting that “As the White House questions climate change, the U.S. military is planning for it.” (more…)

A Statement About Secretary Mattis’ Departure and Climate Change

James_Mattis_Official_SECDEF_PhotoYesterday, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced that he would be stepping down from his position at the end of February 2019. Given his leadership on climate change within the Department of Defense, and his commitment to anticipating, analyzing and addressing the myriad threats the United States faces in this complex age, the Center for Climate and Security, an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks, is issuing the following statement:

Secretary Mattis has been an excellent Secretary of Defense during a tumultuous time. That excellence has included acknowledging and taking actions to address the very real risks climate change poses to the security of the United States, including to its armed forces, its allies and its interests abroad. His successor will need to also acknowledge and act on these risks, and address how they interact with other threats to the United States, as part of the complex job of keeping the nation, including our men and women in uniform, safe. However, despite his departure in February, Secretary Mattis’ example lives on within the Department of Defense, where a broad range of leaders at all levels of the military and across the service branches continue to deal with the very real consequences of climate change to their missions. That includes billions of dollars of damage to military infrastructure and assets from just the most recent climate events.

This is a reality that the U.S. military has taken seriously for many decades, across Republican and Democratic administrations, and that will undoubtedly continue. Secretary Mattis’ successor will therefore enter a building that is clear-eyed about the threat of climate change, and it will be critically important for that person to help lead the effort in dealing with it.

RELEASE: U.S. Military Leaders Applaud Secretary Mattis’ Clear-Eyed View on Climate Change and Security

The_PentagonRELEASE: U.S. Military Leaders Applaud Secretary Mattis’ Clear-Eyed View on Climate Change and Security

Washington, D.C., March 16, 2017 — The Center for Climate and Security (CCS), a policy institute with an Advisory Board of retired senior military officers and national security experts, applauds Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ clear-eyed view on the national security risks of a changing climate, as expressed in excerpts from unpublished written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, and offers recommendations for the way forward in its Briefing Book for a New Administration (pg 11). Among the excerpts, Secretary Mattis states: “Climate change can be a driver of instability and the Department of Defense must pay attention to potential adverse impacts generated by this phenomenon.” (more…)

Looking Back to Look Forward: The DoD and Opportunities in a Changing Climate

us_navy_military_sealift_command_underway_replenishment_oiler_usns_walter_s-_diehl_provides_fuel_and_suppliesAs the current Administration winds down, each of the President’s Cabinet members have submitted “Exit Memos” detailing “the progress we’ve made, their vision for the country’s future, and the work that remains in order to achieve that vision.” They are all worth a read. Of particular note is Secretary of Defense Ashton “Ash” Carter’s memo, and how it contextualizes the risks and opportunities associated with a changing climate. Despite perceptions to the contrary, Secretary Carter joins a growing list of defense leaders, civilian and military, stretching back to the early years of the George W. Bush Administration, that have taken climate change seriously as both a matter of national security, and a driver of innovative action. (more…)

Secretary of Defense Carter: the “growing strategic impact of climate change”

ash_carter_dod_secretary_portraitU.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made a recent statement at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, calling for a “principled security network” for the Asia-Pacific region – one that could collectively address the region’s myriad security challenges – including “the growing strategic impact of climate change.” Rather than ranking threats against each other, which tends to miss the integrated nature of the security landscape, Secretary Carter places climate change within the broader context of a range of pressing security threats and opportunities facing the region, that will be best addressed through a cooperative approach: (more…)

Secretary Gates: National Security Implications of Climate Change “Very Real”

Announcement of new Secretary of Defense.

Gates accepts nomination as Sec of Def from Bush, White House photo by Paul Morse

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (serving as Secretary of Defense under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama) recently sat down for an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation. Host John Dickerson asked Secretary Gates about his views on the national security implications of climate change. The interview is transcribed below, but in short, Secretary Gates noted that climate change does have serious consequences for national security. Gates also noted that ranking risks is not an appropriate way to look at the security landscape. We agree (see “Is Climate Change the Biggest Security Threat?” Is Still A Bad Question). The sooner we stop asking, “Is climate a national security issue?” and start asking, “How will climate change impact our national security priorities?” the better off we will be. Secretary Gates is spot on. (more…)