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Resilience in the FY22 NDAA Military exercises - image courtesy of US Navy

Resilience in the FY22 NDAA

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The release of the final markups for the FY22 NDAA shows increasing attention on resilience, both for extreme weather events caused by climate change and for on-base energy. The NDAA incorporates resilience further into on-base planning, but considering the events of the last five years, some of the mandated resilience actions should have been undertaken under the DoD’s own initiative. There has also been movement forward on funding resilience in communities surrounding bases, but the scale of engagement may remain behind what is necessary. Finally, the NDAA reflects steady movement forward on energy resilience in the wake of last year’s mandate that bases provide 99.9% of the energy required by critical infrastructure. This post will examine on-base, off-base, and energy resilience provisions in the FY22 NDAA markup, although changes may occur in the final bill.

Strategic Resilience

At the highest level, and in keeping with recent history, military installation resilience has been mandated for inclusion in the National Defense Strategy, National Military Strategy, and subordinate planning documents. Resilience has also been clearly defined as responding to extreme weather events, an important caveat considering the myriad uses of “resilience” within the DoD. Although climate change is a strategic concern for all government agencies, the required resilience actions are mainly tactical and operational considerations. The DoD must incorporate military installation resilience into planning through wargames and produce an annual report on military installation resilience and vulnerabilities.

Resilient Master Plans

All service secretaries have been mandated to incorporate resilience into master plans of specific facilities. As evidenced by the relative surprise of most acting assistant secretaries for sustainment and installations when asked about master plans by the Readiness Subcommittee in July, last year’s blanket provision to include resilience in master plans was not implemented with alacrity.

The FY 22 NDAA requires each service secretary select two major installations at risk of climate impacts and ensure their respective master plans are updated in conjunction with state and local governments regarding “environmental planning, sustainable design and development, sustainable range planning…and military installation resilience.” Major military installations are those with a Plant Replacement Value of over $2.06 billion as assessed in the Base Structure Report. The secretaries are responsible for making the installation choices within 30 days of the signing of the NDAA, updates are required 11 months after that, and a follow-on brief is required 60 days later to both HASC and SASC. All of this is excellent detail, but not something Congress should have to mandate considering the threat faced by installations and the responsibilities of departments and base commanders to maintain them. Congress should not need to micromanage DoD’s resilience efforts.

Pilot Programs

The FY22 NDAA as it stands also includes several pilot programs for on-base construction, including one to utilize sustainable building materials and another to utilize mass timber in military construction projects. Mass timber is a form of cross laminated wood which replaces wood framing, concrete, or steel beams in construction. Overall, $376.4 million is marked for both energy resilience and conservation investment at domestic and overseas bases. Amendments have also been mooted to change the military construction standard from a 100-year floodplain to a 500-year floodplain to better reflect increasingly extreme flooding, and to require all military construction after 2035 to be net zero.

Additionally, Combatant Commanders will be authorized to use initiative funds for the resilience of military installations, ranges, and supporting civilian infrastructure. The former two are excellent provisions that allow for funds to be utilized on-base and the latter may represent a significant change in how DoD funds can be utilized outside the gate. Bases depend on local and state infrastructure surrounding them to be resilient, but often local and state governments do not have the funds to fully prepare for the effects of climate change. Although there are several DOD programs which assist local and state governments with funds, much of it is aimed at assessments and coordination, very few provide funds directly for implementation.

Resilience Outside the Gate

Several other provisions will have outside the gate impacts. The FY22 NDAA now includes nature-based solutions as part of the broader cultural and conservation activities of the Department of Defense and incorporates resilience as part of the Sentinel Landscape program. The Sentinel Landscape program provides funding to assist local groups in ensuring sustainable land management practices on lands surrounding DoD facilities, which prevents undesirable development from interrupting training. These are welcome additions, particularly since programs were already listing resilience among their accomplishments. Including nature-based solutions like soft-shorelines and the inclusion of resilience within the Sentinel program follow on the heels of resilience inclusion in several other programs in the FY21 NDAA.

Resilience is also included as a reason to grant funds under the Port Infrastructure Development Program, which provides funding to civilian ports that support Department of Defense activities. Adding resilience should provide a means to update facilities at risk of sea level rise, tidal flooding, and more frequent and stronger hurricanes. Of note, there may be areas where resilience actions taken in proximate parts of the hydrological area reduce the threat to ports from extreme weather, like soft shoreline maintenance in adjacent wetlands. Finally, funding for the Defense Communities Infrastructure Program (DCIP) was increased $15 million over the DoD’s budget request. DCIP continues to also provide funding for military family recreation and education centers, on which nearly the entire $50 million budgeted was spent in FY20. Last year the program granted $60 million and saw a marked change in focus towards resilience and infrastructure programs.

The Defense Community Infrastructure Program is one of the few which can award DoD funding to local governments for use infrastructure projects. While it is good that money is available for communities, extensive resilience projects in multiple communities may quickly deplete funding. If, on the other hand, allocated funds are enough to cover grant requests, then it may be that not enough communities are aware of the funding opportunity.

Energy Resilience

The energy related provisions of the NDAA focus on military installation self-sufficiency, although some provisions do cover renewable energy. DoD has been mandated to create and implement tools to measure energy resilience on bases, a key provision that ensures accurate assessment of the FY21 NDAA requirement that installations generate 99.9% of energy required by critical infrastructure.

A key aspect of self-sufficiency is having energy storage, and to that end the FY22 NDAA requires DoD to create a long-term energy storage pilot program. Long-term energy storage on base could alleviate the need for fossil fuel generators, which carry several disadvantages, among them greenhouse gas emissions and resupply requirements. Among the mandates for the program are islanding and microgrid compatibility, as well as assisting in the commercial viability of storage technology.

Islanding and microgrids are recurring themes and are crucial to providing sufficient power to critical infrastructure. Future military construction projects must assess the feasibility of including energy microgrids and intentional islanding for not less than seven days. Military construction projects are also required to assess the feasibility of including microgrid-compatible electric vehicle charging stations for both employee and agency vehicles, with five projects mandated annually for each service between 2023 and 2027.

Changes

Overall, the FY22 NDAA markup represents another step in the right direction, but it is not necessarily a large one. There may be more details in the forthcoming DoD climate risk analysis mandated by President Biden and in climate change exposure assessments announced in April, 2021, both of which could change the perception of DoD inertia on climate resilience. But the inclusion of specific directives like the master plan mandate do not give the impression that Congress expects DOD to make immediate and widespread changes. Nor do the mandated cost estimates yet capture the total cost of climate resilience on US military infrastructure. For instance, the new mandate does not capture the cost of retrofitting existing infrastructure. Without a more detailed assessment, and more initiative on the part of DoD, the US military remains reactive when it comes to climate change.

 

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