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Climate Investments Tied to Mission Objectives, DOD Official Says

April 1, 2022 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Climate change is reshaping the geostrategic operational and tactical environment, with significant implications for U.S. national security and defense, said Joe Bryan, a Department of Defense official.

Bryan, DOD chief sustainability officer and senior climate advisor to the defense secretary; Melissa Dalton, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and hemispheric affairs; and Richard Kidd, deputy assistant defense secretary for environment and energy resilience, spoke to the media yesterday. 

Men handle solar panel
Solar Panels
Wyatt Whelan, left, and Eric Roberts, both PosiGen install supervisors, move a photovoltaic panel to a roof May 11, 2018, in the Dover Family Housing community at Dover Air Force Base, Del.
Photo By: Air Force photo by Roland Balik
VIRIN: 180511-F-BO262-1009M

From extreme heat and drought to more intense and unpredictable weather, climate is also impacting military readiness and imposing significant costs on the department, Bryan said.  

Climate change is increasingly setting the context for DOD operations, and those of our allies and partners, as well as adversaries, he said. 

"While climate creates risk, responding aggressively to mitigate that risk offers the opportunity to create advantages, making our installations or operations more resilient by increasing our capabilities for our missions and our platforms, by ensuring the competitiveness with the technologies that will define the future," he said. 

Wind turbines shown
Wind Turbines
Wind turbines are shown at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wy., Nov. 9, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Airman Sarah Post
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"There's been an idea out there by some that there's competition between what's good for the climate and what's good for the mission. We believe that that is a false choice,” Bryan said. He further emphasized this idea by noting that climate investments are aligned with mission objectives.  

DOD investments, he said, include energy resilience, conservation improvement programs, operational energy, improved efficiency of operational platforms and science and technology. 

For example, the department looks to use hybrid tactical vehicles to enhance capability and extend range, he said. Also, DOD is prototyping new platforms to increase aircraft range and payload, while improving energy efficiency. 

Troops stand near trucks.
Deployment Prep
New Jersey Army National Guard soldiers from the 253rd Transportation Company prepare military vehicles for deployment to Florida at the Cape May Armory, Cape May Court House, N.J., Sept. 7, 2017.
Photo By: Air Force Master Sgt. Matt Hecht
VIRIN: 170907-Z-NI803-0391

The department is also working on electrifying its large fleet of non-tactical vehicles, he added. 

The department is poised to address how global climate and other threats are transforming the context in which DOD operates, said Dalton.  

"In order to train, fight and win in an increasingly complex threatened environment, the department must consider the effects of climate change at every level of the enterprise and invest in accordingly," she said.  

Allies, partners and competitors are assessing the implications of climate change on their respective strategic objectives, she said.  

Solar panels shown
Solar Panels
Nearly completed solar panel array at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is shown Nov. 21, 2014.
Photo By: Army photo by Sgt. Adrian Borunda
VIRIN: 141121-Z-CZ735-013

To address climate risks, DOD is working within the whole-of-government approach to prevent, mitigate, account for and respond to security risks associated with climate change, she said. 

The department is also working in close coordination with partners and allies since climate change is a global challenge that can only be tackled by working together, she added. 

"Over time, we're all influenced by climate change," said Kidd. 

Trucks move down a dirt road.
Readiness Training
Military vehicles move down a road at the Joint Readiness Training Center Operations Group in Fort Polk, La., Nov. 24, 2020.
Photo By: Army Capt. Joseph Warren
VIRIN: 201124-A-QL367-847

As such, the department is making decisions on how to more smartly operate its installations, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address vulnerabilities to the supply chain and the power grid, he said. 

Kidd noted that it's easy transitioning to electric vehicles for zero emission. The hard part, however, is getting in place the charging infrastructure to support it.