Two weeks ago, the House Armed Services Committee passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in order to bolster our defense against climate change. This amendment offered by Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) would require the Pentagon to conduct a study on the impact of climate change on U.S. military installations and to submit a report to Congress of the ten military installations most vulnerable to a changing climate.
Recently, Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) submitted another amendment, co-sponsored by Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), to strike the above amendment from the NDAA.
These actions deny the existence of the threat of climate change and will severely hamper the at-home security of our men and women in uniform. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, quoted in the bill, attested to the need for climate change effects to be incorporated into military planning. He also said, “I agree that the effects of a changing climate—such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others—impact our security situation.”
The amendment, through encouraging research and reporting on the impacts of climate change on military installations, will work to strengthen U.S. national security both at home and abroad by helping to identify which bases are most at risk to rising sea levels and worsening hurricanes.
Securing and reinforcing our military installations is critical to the safety and readiness of the armed forces. After all, our military is often on the front lines responding to disastrous weather and severe flooding. Having a base secure and resilient from the very threats they face on the battlefield will go a long way towards boosting their overall efficiency and capabilities. Yet, securing operations at these installations will require a strong, united effort, considering that a three-foot rise in sea levels will threaten the operating status of more than 128 United States military sites across the globe. It is even possible that many of these at-risk bases could become entirely submerged.
Furthermore, when countries across the world suffer from climate-induced disruptions—such as extreme weather effects, drought, famine, or damage to infrastructure—they often look to the United States for humanitarian aid and assistance. This increases demands on our men and women in uniform, particularly when these disasters happen in failed states, which can become breeding grounds for extremists. But if we can secure our installations properly, our military can do the hard work of rescuing those in need and helping others impacted by the consequences of climate change.
The amendment proposed by Langevin will also help the United States fight against future threats. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford has stated, “It’s a question, once again, of being forward deployed, forward engaged, and be in a position to respond to the kinds of natural disasters that I think we see as a second or third order effect of climate change.” We have a long fight ahead of us. It is in our best interested to be fully equipped and ready for it.
With all of this in mind, I ask that the amendment offered by Perry to be voted down. It will severely weaken U.S. military bases worldwide, thereby putting the military at unnecessary risk. Our armed forces face plenty of tough challenges as it is—we shouldn't be adding worries about inadequately flooded bases to the already long list, risking our loved ones serving and U.S. capabilities to provide aid to climate-induced disasters both at home and abroad.
Welton Chang is a Fellow with Truman National Security Project and co-director of Truman's Philadelphia chapter. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and served as an Army officer and later a Defense Department civilian from 2005-2014. Views expressed are his own.
The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.