Last week, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kath Hicks visited Florida and toured Naval Air Station Pensacola, which was damaged by Hurricane Sally in September 2020. During her visit, Hicks stressed that the entire Department of Defense (DOD) needs to be readied for worsening climate impacts, such as through investments in technology and upgrades in base construction standards, including for essential needs like energy grids and telecommunication networks. After touring the base, Hicks, on a phone call with DOD officials and base commanders, noted the administration understands that “readiness of the force is very much tied to how well we manage through and think about resilience in the face of climate [change].”
Climate threats, however, aren’t isolated to Florida. Inland flooding in the midwest, wildfires out west, extreme heat in the southeast, and thawing permafrost in Alaska present a real threat to infrastructure, readiness, and operations, and as such our national security.
Military installations could see a surge in infrastructure spending as the Biden administration seeks to make the DOD more resilient against asymmetric threats like climate change. ASP’s Alex Hackbarth said, said the Biden infrastructure plan could advance critical climate resilience measures at military installations, both on base and in host communities that are experiencing more subtle impacts like tidal and nuisance flooding in places like South Florida and Hampton Roads, Va., one of the nation’s largest concentrations of military bases.
“These things go hand in hand,” Hackbarth said, “and there is ample evidence that investment in resilient infrastructure yields large returns” for day-to-day base operations and long-term military readiness.
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