Langevin Amendment on Climate Change as a National Security Threat Passes House Committee

Jun 28, 2017 Issues: Armed Services, Energy & Environment

During today’s markup of the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), Ranking Member on the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced an amendment to ensure that climate change is included as part of the United States national security strategy. The amendment, which was cosponsored by every Democratic member of the committee, passed by voice vote. As stated in the amendment text, the committee has acknowledged that “climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States” and that “the Department of Defense must ensure that it is prepared to conduct operations both today and in the future and that it is prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on threat assessments, resources, and readiness.”

“It should come as no surprise that we are discussing climate change as a national security threat during consideration of our annual defense policy bill in the Armed Services Committee, said Congressman Langevin. “Numerous leaders from our defense and intelligence communities, appointed by both Democratic and Republican administrations, have acknowledged that a volatile climate is a serious threat to our readiness and to our long-term defense posture. This straightforward amendment requires each Service to plan for the future and properly determine which of their assets are most at risk.”

In a 2016 report, the Union of Concerned Scientists identified numerous American military bases that are at risk of significantly increased flooding due to climate change. Some mission critical assets like Naval Station Norfolk, home of the Atlantic Fleet, currently experience “nuisance flooding,” and the storm surges of the future are only expected to get worse. Additionally, warmer temperatures and more volatile weather could affect training operations at inland bases, thereby reducing readiness capabilities.

“Our military leaders have told Congress that they need to account for the effects of climate change in their planning, because it can affect the national security of the United States and the safety of our men and women in uniform,” said Congressman Adam Smith, Ranking Member on the House Armed Services Committee. “We need to listen to them. It would be deeply inappropriate for Congress and the White House to dismiss those concerns for political reasons.”

Langevin’s amendment (a copy of which can be found here) directs the Secretary of Defense to provide an assessment of and recommendations to mitigate vulnerabilities to the top 10 most threatened military installations in each Service. It also requires the Secretary to address combatant commander requirements resulting from climate change over the next 20 years.

“This amendment is a responsible first step in recognizing what most of the world already knows – that climate change is real, and it will have a devastating effect on the readiness of our armed forces. I deeply appreciate the support of my colleagues in bringing a sober, fact-based approach to this critical issue of national security,” Langevin added.