Bipartisan NDAA Amendment Will Require Updated Department of Defense Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap

Jun 30, 2020 Issues: Armed Services, Energy & Environment

WASHINGTON – Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI), Don Bacon (R-NE), and Jason Crow (D-CO) announced today their intention to offer an amendment to the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act that requires the Department of Defense to continue to plan for and confront the national security impacts of climate change. The announcement comes the same day the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis unveiled its comprehensive congressional climate action framework, which counts updating the Department’s Climate Change Adaption Roadmap as a key recommendation.

In 2014, the Department released an initial Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap. Although Congress, the intelligence community, and military experts identify climate change as a direct threat to national security, the Department has failed to update its comprehensive climate change strategy for nearly six years – even as scientists gather more data on the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events at Camp Lejeune, Tyndall Air Force Base, and Offutt Air Force Base cost the Department billions of dollars in repair. 

The amendment requires the Department to expand on the initial Roadmap by outlining an overarching approach to climate adaptation and climate mitigation measures, as well as a discussion of the current and foreseeable effects of climate change on the following lines of effort:

  • Plans and Operations;
  • Training and Testing;
  • Built and Natural Infrastructure; and
  • Acquisition and Supply Chains.

“For decades, our military has accumulated climate debt – a balance sheet of missed opportunities to invest in resilience or reduce emissions. Those bills are increasingly coming due,” said Representative Langevin, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities (IETC). “We need a comprehensive outline of the steps the Department is planning to take to combat climate change, and a comprehensive understanding of the costs taxpayers are on the hook for as our planet continues to warm, our sea levels continue to rise, and our ice caps continue to melt.”

“Understanding and properly determining the future threats that face our Armed Forces is critical to our mission readiness. This includes anything from potential cyber-attacks to even how the rising water levels confronting our ports impacts our defense strategy,” said Representative Bacon. “I partnered with Representative Langevin to introduce an amendment to update the DoD Climate Change Roadmap so that we have a clear strategy and plan on the foreseeable effects to the DoD’s mission."

“It’s clear that climate change is one of the biggest national security threats of the 21st century – both compounding existing threats and creating new security challenges,” said Representative Crow, who serves as vice-chair of IETC. “I’m proud to join IETC Chairman Langevin in this effort to ensure the Department of Defense continues to assess and prepare for the impact of climate change on our national security and military operations.”

“Military, intelligence, and national security experts agree: the climate crisis is a threat multiplier that warrants immediate action to protect our Armed Services and their missions around the world. That’s why the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis highlighted the need for the Department of Defense to update its Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap,” said Representative Kathy Castor, Chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. “It’s absolutely necessary to adapt current and future operations to the impacts of the climate crisis that are already here and getting worse. I applaud my colleagues’ push to implement this recommendation as part of the next NDAA and help DoD respond to the climate risks that threaten America’s national security.”

“In the past three years, Congress has directed DoD to identify its most vulnerable bases, to assess the resilience of individual installations and to work with defense communities.  Now is the time to wrap this all together in a comprehensive strategy, just as we called for in the Center for Climate and Security’s Climate Security Plan for America,” said John Conger, Director, Center for Climate and Security. “When DoD issued its 2014 Roadmap and cited the “immediate risks” posed by climate change, it could not have predicted the specific extreme weather impacts at Tyndall AFB or Camp Lejeune, the flooding at Offutt AFB or the billions of dollars that climate impacts have cost us.  Much has changed, and an updated roadmap to drive military resilience and planning is absolutely vital at this pivotal moment.”

“Rep. Langevin’s amendment provides an important update to the DoD’s Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap to address longer wildfire seasons, stronger storms, worsening droughts, increased flooding, and hotter temperatures,” said Shana Udvardy, Climate Resilience Analyst, Union of Concerned Scientists. “This timely proposal, guided by the latest science, will help our armed forces prepare for a hotter, stormier climate future and ensure mission readiness.”

“As the Ocean State, Rhode Island knows first-hand the impact of the climate crisis, from rising sea levels to changes in marine environments to threats to urban resilience; however, our small state cannot act alone,” said Kai Salem, Vice President of Policy for the Environment Council of Rhode Island. “Solutions that fight carbon pollution, create jobs, and build equity must be implemented in every state and at every level.”

The Committee first recognized climate change as a direct threat to the national security of the United States when Congressman Langevin lead a successful amendment to the FY18 NDAA that addressed the impacts of climate change on the Department and that was supported by a bipartisan majority on the House floor, including 46 Republicans. The amendment directed the Secretary of Defense to provide an assessment of and recommendations to mitigate vulnerabilities to the top 10 most threatened military installations in each military service. It also required the Secretary to address combatant commander requirements resulting from climate change over the next 20 years.

The House Armed Services Committee is considering the FY21 NDAA on Wednesday and Thursday.