Centrist Dem pitches plan for Pentagon to tackle climate change

Centrist Dem pitches plan for Pentagon to tackle climate change
© Stefani Reynolds

A centrist freshman Democrat is pushing a plan for the Pentagon to tackle climate change that he is billing as more attainable than progressive proposals to address climate issues.

Rep. Jason CrowJason CrowGiffords launches national Gun Owners for Safety group to combat the NRA House approves .2T COVID-19 relief bill as White House talks stall Lawmakers grill Pentagon over Trump's Germany drawdown MORE (Colo.) unveiled Thursday morning an initiative to confront the intersection of climate change and national security, starting with a provision he successfully inserted into this year’s annual defense policy bill.

In an interview with The Hill this week, Crow emphasized that his plan, dubbed the “Sustainable Power Initiative,” is not in opposition to liberal proposals, but argued it stands a better chance of becoming law.


“Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, progressive or conservative, this is one of those rare opportunities for a win-win-win,” Crow said. “It’s good for the environment, and it’s good for our national security. It makes us a stronger, more resilient, more lethal force. That’s something that I think everybody can get behind."

“And it’s not in any way contradictory to other efforts people are doing,” he continued. “There are other exciting proposals out there. A lot of them aren’t going to be able to pass. This one will.”

Crow did not mention the Green New Deal or its chief House sponsor, freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezHarry Styles hits back at criticism over wearing dress on Vogue cover 'It's not a slogan': Progressives push back on Obama's comments on 'defund the police' movement Obama says Democrats should make sure Ocasio-Cortez has a platform MORE (D-N.Y.), by name, but the progressive proposal has emerged a sort of litmus test for Democrats, with several 2020 candidates backing it.

Crow’s initiative is narrower than the Green New Deal, focusing on the Pentagon’s planning for climate change.

His bill would require military bases to assess climate vulnerabilities and plan to mitigate the risks from severe weather as of part of their master plans. It would also expand the criteria for which bases need to have a master plan, roughly doubling the number.

The requirement for the assessment was included in the readiness subcommittee’s portion of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The subcommittee advanced its portion of the bill Wednesday, and the full committee will take up the NDAA next week.

Inclusion in the NDAA all but assures passage in the House, but the provision will have to survive negotiations with the Republican-controlled Senate before final passage.

Still, Crow said he was confident it would become law.

“Politics isn’t driving this, operational need is. The commanders have testified about it. The Pentagon has testified about it. We’re already paying for it through our need to respond to hurricanes and storms and other big events,” he said, referencing a disaster aid bill passed this week that includes $2 billion to rebuild storm-battered military bases.

The NDAA has been a vehicle for Democrats to tackle climate change before. Two years ago, when Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress, Democrats successfully included a provision that called climate change a national security threat and required the Department of Defense to report on each military branch’s top 10 military installations threatened by climate change.

Military leadership has for years recognized threats posed by climate change, but their acknowledgment of it has become a touchier subject under President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE, who has often questioned the reality of climate change.

Crow’s proposal does not directly mandate the Pentagon to reduce its carbon footprint, but he argued that will be a byproduct of adapting to climate change.

“What you see is that the same things that make us more resilient also greatly reduce our carbon impact in many instances,” Crow said. “Of over 500 installations around the world that fall in the [Defense Department] portfolio, the vast majority of those draw almost all of their electricity from the civilian power grid. That’s a huge vulnerability."

“You don’t have to take down Buckley Air Force Base’s grid or hack them,” he continued, referring to a base in his district. “You just have to hack the civilian power plant. So to make ourselves safer, more resilient, more sustainable, by doing microgrid, by doing wind and solar, by going to electrical vehicles, to make ourselves more independent, we actually make ourselves more secure.”

Crow, an Army Ranger veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, also cited deaths of soldiers during fuel convoys and insurgent attacks aided by the sound of U.S. bases’ diesel generators during those conflicts.

In addition to the bill, Crow announced he plans to hold a series of roundtables over the next six to nine months with members of Congress, industry, government, think tanks, retired military officers and others to discuss further policy proposals.

“We don’t want politics to be the driver,” he said of the roundtables. “We want operational need, security, resiliency to be the driver. And I think where we’re going to see it takes us is a call for more independent, sustainable power sources.”