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Climate Security in the National Defense Authorization Act US Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago

Climate Security in the National Defense Authorization Act

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The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2020 has finally passed the House and is anticipated to pass the Senate next week. One of the critical components of this year’s NDAA is the inclusion of climate security. Multiple sections reference the threat to the military from climate change and direct the Department of Defense to plan for the impacts.

ASP has long discussed the threat of climate change to our national security. Our new website militarybaseresilience.org outlines some of the direct threats to our military infrastructure. Further, we have a number of publications on how climate change acts as a threat multiplier, increasing instability in already volatile regions around the globe and exacerbating humanitarian crises.

The FY2020 NDAA primarily addresses the first vulnerability: the impact of climate change on our military infrastructure. Below are some of the most important components:


  • Title III – Military Operation and Maintenance
    • Section 327: Remove institutional barriers that discourage investment in military installation resilience and create an adaptation plan to identify and respond to the effects of climate change.
      • Who Responsible: The Secretary of Defense
      • Requirements: Remove barriers that discourage investments to increase military installation resilience and reform policies and programs that unintentionally increased the vulnerability of systems to related extreme weather events. Further, the Secretary must develop an adaptation plan to assess how climate impacts affected the ability of the Department of Defense to accomplish its mission and how the Department can address those vulnerabilities.
      • Timeline: Adaptation plan must be updated every 4 years.
    • Section 328: Create a dedicated budget line for adaptation and mitigation of extreme weather impacts on military infrastructure and capabilities.
      • Who Responsible: The Secretary of Defense
      • Requirements: When the Secretary completes the proposed budget, they must include a dedicated budget line for adaptation to, and mitigation of, effects of extreme weather on military infrastructure and capabilities. Further, the Secretary must estimate the adverse impact and financial costs of extreme weather on the Department.
      • Timeline: Each year of budget
    • Why it matters:
      • These sections focus on an important concern in military installation resilience. By requesting an adaptation plan and removing barriers to investing in resilience, the military will understand vulnerabilities and be able to use resources to effectively address those vulnerabilities. Further, the dedicated budget line will dedicate funds for the military to respond to those same vulnerabilities. In past years, the lack of dedicated funding for adaptation has undermined the ability to seriously address the threat.
    • Title XXVIII – Military Construction General Provisions
      • Section 2804: Update the Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC), the building standards for the Department of Defense, to promote resilience for installations, energy, cyber, and climate.
        • Who Responsible: The Secretary of Defense
        • Requirements: The update should assure that military construction projects, take into consideration, and plan for future threats from climate change and energy and cyber vulnerabilities.
        • Timeline: The updates must be completed by March 1, 2021, and beginning in 2022, there will be an annual review comparing the updated UFC to industry best practices to determine if additional changes should be made.
      • Section 2805: Modify the form the Department uses to propose Congressionally approved construction to include climate change.
        • Who Responsible: The Secretary of Defense
        • Requirements: Modify Department of Defense Form 1391 to require proposed military construction project take into consideration – “The potential adverse consequences of long-term changes in environmental conditions, such as increasingly frequent extreme weather events, that could affect the military installation resilience of the installation.”
        • Timeline: None listed
      • Why it matters:
        • These sections on military infrastructure are an important step in the right direction. It is critical that the military begin bolstering resilience to the current and predicted effects of climate change.
        • Section 2804 specifically requests that the Secretary of Defense use both current conditions and projected changes when updated the UFC. This is vital as previous standards only looked at historical data or current conditions and failed to incorporate projected changes.
        • Similarly, Section 2805 requires new military construction projects, that are authorized by Congress, take into consideration the long-term effects of climate change. This means that future construction will be more durable and able to withstand the predicted changes in the environment.
      • Title LIII – Intelligence Community Matters
        • Section 5321: Establish a Climate Security Advisory Council
          • Who Responsible: The Director of National Intelligence shall appoint the Council. The Council shall be composed of individuals from the following agencies:
            • National Intelligence Council chair
            • CIA
            • Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the Department of State
            • National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
            • Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence of the Department of Energy
            • Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence
            • Defense Intelligence Agency
            • Three Federal government officials outside of the Intelligence space
          • Requirements: “Assist intelligence analysts of various elements of the intelligence community with respect to analysis of climate security and its impact on the areas of focus.”
        • Why it matters:
          • The creation of the Advisory Council will aid communication between the various intelligence agencies to coordinate research and analysis on the critical threats of climate change. While each agency does important research, there is a need for improved coordination.


Each of these sections are important for the continued response to current climate impacts and preparation for future threats. Hopefully these provisions will further enhance military resilience and bolster readiness. To learn more about the vulnerabilities to military infrastructure and our national security, check out our website and recent reports on the subject.