Austin wrote in the March 9 memo: “Climate change poses a growing threat to US national security interests and defense goals. The department will take immediate action to incorporate the impact of climate change on security into our risks. Analysis, strategy formulation and planning guidelines.”
The Biden administration has launched an ambitious eight-year infrastructure plan to eliminate grid carbon emissions by 2035 and carbon emissions from the entire economy by 2050. This is proposed by three people familiar with the proposal. The possible changes.
According to the suggestions of many experts, the Pentagon is working with the plan to require all non-combat vehicles to be electrified by 2030, and to fund more projects to reduce carbon footprint and strengthen facilities to deal with the impact of climate change. Pentagon.
Pentagon spokesperson Pete Hughes said: “Climate change poses an increasing threat to our security, and we need to incorporate climate risk into all our plans.” He pointed out that improving energy efficiency can also make military operations more effective. flexible. “Competing for future clean energy technologies is also important because they will be critical to capabilities.”
Nevertheless, in the face of a flat defense budget, it must still compete with other top priorities of the Pentagon, such as modernizing the nuclear triad and developing new technologies from artificial intelligence to hypersonic weapons.
At least in the early days, some Republican lawmakers who were traditionally skeptical of climate change-related efforts said they would be willing to make the military green if the mission was expanded.
Even if Democrats have a majority in both houses of Congress, they will still need some Republicans to promote some climate proposals. This also means reaching an agreement with those legislators who will want to protect the funds for the weapons program while the budget is basically unchanged.
“There will be some [policy differences] The highest Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of the Armed Forces Committee said in an interview: “We are now in this major crisis on the F-35. Therefore, people who have served in the new government are Saying: “Oh, the place there is very weak. We can spend this money on global warming. “
“philosophy [of] We know that there are many people in this government [is to] Try to find any areas of weakness where they will spend the money,” he added, noting that progressive lawmakers have pushed to cut spending on nuclear weapons and use this money on domestic priorities such as climate change. “We have been in the past. Do this with [nuclear] Triad.All they have to do is to stretch out a leg [and] See how much they spend on the environment. “
Other Republicans may back down more severely. In response, a spokesperson for Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said that the climate plan decentralized the military’s “core mission.”
“Sen. Cruz believes that the Pentagon’s work should be sufficient to deter US enemies and adversaries, and strong enough to take necessary and successful military actions if deterrence fails. It is highly irresponsible to disrupt or distract this core mission. The actions endangered the safety and lives of Americans.”
However, legislators and experts on both sides have been urging the Pentagon to use its abundant resources to deal with climate change, which is the core content of the Pentagon’s budget plan.
In a memo last month, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks instructed the Pentagon’s Office of Cost Evaluation and Program Evaluation to evaluate the “initial selection of investments and for other investments between fiscal years 2023 and 2027. lay the foundation”.
She also established a high-level climate change working group, which held its first meeting on March 17. “Addressing the climate challenge is crucial,” Hicks tweeted. “The new requirements for troops will affect the state of readiness.”
Where Obama left
Ray Mabus, former Secretary of the Navy, Barack Obama And still influential in energy affairs, he mentioned the successful move to push the Navy away from fossil fuels, and set a goal that by 2020, at least half of all naval energy will come from renewable energy. The Navy has achieved this goal: Today, two-thirds of all energy used in naval bases comes from renewable energy sources, mainly solar and wind energy. Mabus said in an interview that this represents 1.2 gigawatts of energy, enough to power Orlando, Florida. He said it also saved $400 million.
Mabs said that the move to convert the Pentagon’s approximately 200,000 non-combat-related leased vehicles to hybrid or electric models will also stimulate domestic production of electric vehicles in the commercial industry.
“First: The conversion of fossil fuels to renewable energy will first have a direct effect on reducing the carbon footprint,” Mabus said. “The second one: the whereabouts of the army, the civilian world often follows.”
John Conger, who holds a series of top positions in the Pentagon, is responsible for overseeing energy and facilities as well as budgets. He said that at the “top of the list,” more funds are available for plans to strengthen the military’s ability to respond to climate change. The damage to military bases accused of billions of dollars may make some military bases unusable in the long run.
“How do you deal with extreme weather?” he asked. “How do you deal with floods? How do you ensure that the basic energy is guaranteed? How do you do business in the Arctic? When the Arctic ice melts and you have a brand new marine patrol, are you ready? The Russians are ready for this. “
As a result, Conger predicts that Biden’s first Pentagon budget request will seek more funding for a series of programs that will fund research on “sustainable solutions to the environmental challenges of the Department of Defense” .
These include a strategic environmental research and development program in cooperation with the Energy and Environmental Protection Agency, and an environmental safety technology certification program aimed at transitioning innovative technologies into this field.
It’s also possible to get more funding The National Defense Community Infrastructure Program, which supports environmental resilience projects. Now, the “Integrated Readiness and Environmental Protection Plan” also covers efforts to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change on military bases (such as floods).
But where the Pentagon can play its greatest role is what he calls “environmental aspirations,” which includes things he plans to buy in the next few years.
The sheer size of the Department of Defense can not only lead other departments of the federal government, but also promote a wider commercial market for green technology.
Conger, director of the Climate and Security Center, said: “The Department of Defense will determine the appearance of the federal government because the Department of Defense leads the federal investment portfolio.” “The Department of Defense is the majority of buildings. The Department of Defense is the majority of fuel consumption. The Department of Defense can lead by example. They can invent things. They can do many things.”
There, the promotion of electric vehicles will have a ripple effect.
“At the beginning of the industry, just like electric cars, [in], It is very important to have regular customers. “He said. “Although part of electric vehicles will not necessarily change emissions, but can catalyze an industry, will have a greater impact. “This is the importance.”
Conger also believes that many of these initiatives will be supported by both parties. He pointed out that even in the Trump era, a series of steps have been taken to better prepare the Pentagon for the climate crisis, including requiring the military to assess the bases most vulnerable to climate change and to install facilities. Develop new standards to make it more secure. Adapt to its influence.
At the hearing on climate change and national security held this month by the House of Representatives Appropriations National Defense Subcommittee, the two parties broadly supported the Department of Defense to take more measures to deal with the impact of climate change.
Representative John Carter, Republican of Texas, said: “I think we should prioritize it.” Fort Hood is one of the Army’s largest bases.
Conger said: “There was broad consensus during the hearing.” “There was no doubt or doubt about climate change. A conservative Republican even suggested that the Biden administration should prioritize climate change in its national security strategy. “
Use a large budget
Michèle Flournoy, who once served as the head of Obama’s Pentagon policy, agreed that the department can play an important role in reducing America’s carbon footprint. In particular, the Pentagon can devote huge budgets to research and development to accelerate the development of new technologies to deal with climate change.
“if you want [DoD] A platform to showcase and expand the application of green technology can create a meaningful level of market demand to help the development of green technology and industry in the United States. “
Making full use of the Pentagon’s vast resources to combat climate change is not a new effort, but it was stranded during the four years of former President Donald Trump’s tenure. For example, the Trump administration cancelled most of the Pentagon’s support structure for climate change work, including the removal of the deputy secretary of defense responsible for environmental security, which Sheri Goodman held in the Obama administration.
Flournoy said that in the 2021 defense policy bill, legislators created an assistant secretary for energy, facilities, and the environment, which may help simplify the work of Biden’s new administration.
Flournoy acknowledged the need for strong procedures to coordinate the work of the John Kerry team at the White House, the Pentagon and other agencies. She said that it is important to be a key person in charge of climate issues at the Pentagon and to ensure that the official has the support and entry of the White House.
She said: “You need some kind of broader effort by the government to make sure that everyone is rowing in the same direction.”
To ensure progress, the team should focus on “early wins,” such as improving the efficiency of the Ministry of Defense’s installation and switching to hybrid and electric vehicles, which do not require legislation, Flournoy said.
She said: “You must seize the opportunity and start from the opportunity. Obviously this is the basis for a win-win situation, and you can win a certain amount of buying and motivation.”
Connor O’Brien contributed to this report.