Climate Change and U.S. Military Basing

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Climate Change and U.S. Military Basing

Climate change will not only affect American security through impacts on the economy and our physical infrastructure (roads, bridges, airports, etc.); it can also affect our domestic and international military bases. Physical changes to the environment such as flooding, drought and extreme weather events may disrupt U.S. military capabilities and facilities, including military training ranges and bases.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, there are a number of US military installations that are already at risk. The report states: “In 2008, the National Intelligence Council [NIC] judged that more than 30 U.S. military installations were already facing elevated levels of risk from rising sea levels. DoD’s operational readiness hinges on continued access to land, air, and sea training and test space.”

Homestead AFB after Hurricane Andrew.

Although sea-level flooding remains a major concern for the security of U.S. military bases, a variety of other environmental threats pose serious risks as well. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew nearly wiped out Homestead Air Force Base in Florida and Hurricane Katrina caused $950 million of damage to Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi. Both of these bases were rebuilt, but at the cost of millions of dollars. Military bases in the U.S. are important for driving local economies and when they are destroyed by natural disasters, there is a ripple effect economically in the region.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense 2012 Base Structure Report, the United States military manages property in all 50 states, 7 U.S. territories and 40 foreign countries, comprising almost 300,000 individual buildings around the globe. These buildings are valued at $590 billion. The Army alone has over 14 million acres of property, 2000 installations and 12,000 historical structures. As the effects of climate change increase in many parts of the world, our investments and structures may be at risk of severe damage.

The physical and operational security of U.S. military bases around the world is a vital requirement to maintaining the national security of the United States and stability abroad. For example, the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean is a critical logistics hub for U.S. and British forces in the Middle East and houses critical Air Force Satellite Control Network equipment. Climate change is a threat to the United States and it must begin to confront those potential impacts on its military installations and missions around the world.


ASP Climate Change Resources:

Climate Security homepage

2012 Climate Security Report

Fact Sheet on Military Basing and Climate Change

Op-ed in The Hill about climate change and military basing

Further Resources (authored by Colonel John Conway, Air University’s AF Research Institute):

 “Islands in the Stream: The Advent of the One-of-a-Kind Air Force Base”

“Hurricane Risk to Air Force Bases May Be Broader Than Previously Thought”