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Climate Change Affects National Defense Decisions, Official Says

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 27, 2014 – Climate change is among the factors Defense Department officials consider in protect national security around the globe, a senior DOD official told a Senate panel here last week.

Daniel Y. Chiu, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee May 21.

Chiu said while DOD plans for contingencies and unexpected developments to protect the nation’s security, climate change can create sea-level rise, storm surge, shifting climate zones and more severe weather conditions that can affect operations. And while some of those conditions have affected military installations, he said, such changes can also have a negative impact on other DOD concerns.

“We are also seeing the potential for decreased capacity of DOD properties to support training, as well as implications for supply chains, equipment, vehicles and weapon systems that the department buys,” he explained.

Even while infrastructures are being adapted to climate change threats, DOD also is conducting a baseline study to determine which infrastructure elements are most vulnerable to extreme weather events and sea-level increases, he said, adding that the study is due for completion late this year.

Climate change effects potentially could alter, limit or constrain environments where troops operate, Chiu said, using sea-level increases as an example of an impact on amphibious operations.

Another demonstration of climate change’s effects is diminishing sea ice in the Arctic region, he said, which can make the Arctic Ocean “increasingly accessible.” While such a scenario is a “decades-long dynamic,” he said, the region must now be monitored.

DOD’s Arctic strategy, released in November, seeks through U.S. leadership and collaboration to “preserve an Arctic region that remains free of military conflict in which nations act responsibly and cooperatively and where economic and energy resources are developed in a safe and sustainable manner,” Chiu said.

To carry out the strategy, DOD will ensure security, support and safety, promote defense cooperation and prepare for a wide range of challenges and contingencies that include consideration of the Arctic region, he added.

“[DOD] is working to better understand how the impacts of climate change will affect our planning and operations in the [United States] and abroad,” Chiu told the panel. “We're working to take into consideration the impacts of climate change in our longer-term planning scenarios, so we can think about how it will affect our humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities over time [and] look at our efforts to plan and enhance the capacity of partner militaries so they can plan for and respond to natural disasters.”

DOD also will address implications for potentially higher demands for defense support to U.S. civil authorities because of extreme weather events, Chiu said.

Given the nature of climate change and its effects, Chui said, the U.S. response requires a whole-of-government approach and international collaboration, which he called “the bedrock of our efforts.”

“By taking a proactive approach to assessment, analysis and adaptation, DOD can definitely manage the risks posed by the impacts of climate change and minimize the effects on the department while continuing to protect our national security interests through strong leadership,” Chiu said.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkAFPS)

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Daniel Y. Chiu


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