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Climate Change, National Security and the Big Blue Rabbit

PACOM_AORStars and Stripes magazine’s Wyatt Olson recently published a very interesting and thorough article titled “PACOM not waiting for politics to plan for climate change challenges.” The article details the reasons U.S. Pacific Command is taking climate change seriously, and some of what it’s doing to combat the threat.

A great quote from the piece, which perfectly encapsulates the national security community’s risk management approach to climate change, comes from Brig. Gen. Mark McLeod. He stated:

Seventy percent of the bad storms that happen in the world are in the Pacific,” he said. “Call it climate change, call it the big blue rabbit, I don’t give a hoot what you call it — the military has to respond to those kinds of things.

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Weekly Wisdom: Admiral Locklear On the One Thing He Tells His Commanders

PACOM commander visits MCAS MiramarAt the Atlantic Council in March, Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, head of U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) – in charge of all U.S. forces in the Pacific region – revealed some practical wisdom he communicates to those that work for him. He stated:

… if there’s one thing I tell everybody that comes to work for me – every commander – I [say] ‘While you’re here, you may not have a conflict with another military, but you will have a natural disaster that you have to either assist in, or be prepared to manage the consequences on the other side. And that has been true every year.

In the context of typhoon Neogori, which recently hit Okinawa, Japan (also host to the U.S. Kadena Air Base), and the likelihood of an increase in extreme weather disasters in the region over time (due to population and climate change dynamics), these words are likely to remain relevant for some time to come.

Must Watch: PACOM Commander on the Climate Change Threat to the Asia-Pacific

Secretary_of_Defense_Chuck_Hagel_walks_with_Navy_Admiral_Samuel_LocklearAbout a year ago, the Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, identified climate change as the biggest long-term security threat in the Pacific region. He defended that assertion during Senate testimony soon after those comments were made. And just yesterday, Admiral Locklear stood by his assessment during a conversation with the Atlantic Council’s Barry Pavel. We’ve included a transcript of those sections of the discussion including climate change below (we’ve underlined some phrases for emphasis), but encourage people to watch the whole video for a fascinating look at how the USPACOM Commander sees his role in the wake of the recently-released QDR, the so-called Asia-Pacific rebalance, budget pressures, and the reemergence of security threats in Europe. (more…)

Admiral Locklear’s Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee

PACOM commander visits MCAS MiramarOn April 9th, Admiral Samuel Locklear III, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), gave testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the role of U.S. Pacific Command “in review of the defense authorization request for fiscal year 2014, and the Future Years Defense program.” In response to a question from Senator Inhofe regarding recent statements made by the Admiral on the security threat of climate change in the Asia-Pacific region, Admiral Locklear reaffirmed the importance of the issue from U.S.PACOM’s perspective. From page 10-11: (more…)

Admiral Locklear: Climate change the biggest long-term security threat in the Pacific region

PACOM commander visits MCAS MiramarAs reported by the Boston Globe, four-star Admiral Samuel Locklear, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, provided an “unexpected answer” when recently asked “what is the biggest long-term security threat in the Pacific region?” Climate change. (more…)

USPACOM’s Admiral Locklear: Climate and Security in the Asia-Pacific

1200307-M-ZE445-004Earlier this week, we briefly highlighted comments by Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), in the wake of the severe flooding that gripped Jakarta in January. As Admiral Locklear mentions, PACOM’s Area of Responsibility, or AOR, covers an incredibly large and diverse Asia-Pacific region, which includes “nine of the world’s ten largest ports,” “the world’s smallest republics” and “the most populous nations in the world,” and over half of the global population. Though you should read the full statement to get a more comprehensive picture of what the region looks like through a security lens, and how the United States is structuring its engagement in the region, we thought we would include excerpts below related to the impact of climate change on the “strategic complexity” of the Asia-Pacific security environment. It is clear that the U.S. is moving forward with an “Asia-Pacific Rebalance,” (previously referred to by some as the “Pacific Pivot,”) and it is heartening to know that U.S. military leaders in the region are responsibly addressing the security dynamics of a changing climate. (more…)

U.S.-Philippines Joint Exercises on Disaster Relief: More Important Than Ever

This is just a note that from October 8 – 18, the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) and the Philippine military will be conducting joint exercises in Zambales – the 29th in what is an annual affair. These particular exercises will focus on disaster response and humanitarian assistance, and ensuring interoperability between the two forces in the event of disaster. This is an especially critical mission in the region, and is one that may become even more critical in the event that climate change projections play out, and increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events take their toll. And as we have written previously, both for strategic and altruistic reasons, enhancing the resilience of the Asia-Pacific region to the effects of climate change should be a core U.S. national security priority in the coming decades.