House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said the Pentagon has failed to lay out a plan for addressing vulnerabilities due to climate change.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said the Pentagon has failed to lay out a plan for addressing vulnerabilities due to climate change. Alex Brandon/AP

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House Armed Services Members Challenge Pentagon on Climate Change

Democrats ask Defense chief for revisions to report, citing statutory requirements.

The mandatory report on climate change released on Jan. 10 by the Defense Department “failed to meet the basic requirements laid out in statute,” according to three Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee.

On Wednesday, the chairman and two majority party colleagues wrote to acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan asking for revisions, saying the current report “demonstrates a continued unwillingness to seriously recognize and address the threat that climate change poses to our national security and military readiness.” 

Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said in a statement: “While this climate report acknowledges that nearly all the military installations it studied are vulnerable to major climate change impacts, and provides numerous installation-level examples of those impacts, it fails to even minimally discuss a mitigation plan to address the vulnerabilities.” 

He called for more specifics and estimates of future costs.

In the report, Defense Department planners said the document “represents a high-level assessment of the vulnerability of DoD installations to five climate/weather impacts: recurrent flooding, drought, desertification, wildfires, and thawing permafrost.” The report noted: “From a resources perspective, DoD is incorporating climate resilience as a cross-cutting consideration for our planning and decision-making processes, and not as a separate program or specific set of actions.”

Additionally, the report said, “resources for assessing and responding to climate impacts are provided within existing DoD missions, funds, and capabilities and subsumed under existing risk management processes” within the military departments.

A 2017 amendment to the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act required the Pentagon to address climate change—which has been rising up the military’s agenda for years, but which has been deemed a lesser priority by the Trump administration.

Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., a-co-signer of the letter, said in a statement, “The Pentagon must complete the necessary analysis to meet the parameters set forth in law. Our military service members, the installations they rely on, and the threat environments they deploy are living with the reality of climate change.”

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., said, “It’s shameful that the Trump administration refuses to take the threat of climate change seriously. As chairman of the Subcommittee on Readiness, I am deeply concerned about the impact climate change will have on military readiness.”

Shanahan has been grappling with this issue since at least December 2017, when the White House released its overarching defense strategy document, which eliminated President Obama’s 2016 description of climate change as a U.S. national security threat.