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Council on Strategic Risks Experts React to Biden’s Budget on Climate, Biological and Nuclear Threats

Perhaps more than any executive branch budget submission in history, the first budget released by the Biden administration takes the gravity of transnational, systemic security risks seriously and begins significant investments in addressing them. Yet there will be more work to do past the Fiscal Year 2022 budget in order to ensure that federal government resources are commensurate to these threats. Here are initial reactions to the budget by several Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) experts on these issues.

On Climate Security

“One thing is clear about the climate investments in this budget request – they’re actually investments in mission capability.  Investing in climate resilience means you want to continue to perform your core mission, even when climate impacts worsen.  Investing in more efficient systems means you’re buying more capable systems.  Far from any mandate that distracts from traditional warfighting capability, these investments all increase the ability of DoD to meet mission and readiness requirements in the face of emerging and growing environmental threats.” – John Conger, Director, Center for Climate and Security

“The United States cannot tackle the climate crisis alone — so I’m pleased to see the budget proposes an increase in contributions to the Green Climate Fund, to help those countries most impacted by the climate crisis adapt. There’s still a gap, however, between what the US promised under President Obama and what we are providing, so more must be done. Climate change is already contributing to serious instability and conflict risks in countries around the globe, threatening US interests. How can we convince other countries to take bold action to curb emissions and prevent catastrophic future security risks when we won’t help them deal with the security risks we’ve already bought?.” – Erin Sikorsky, Deputy Director of the Center for Climate and Security; Director, International Military Council on Climate and Security

“The Indo-Pacific is emerging as a key site of geopolitical contestation and climate vulnerability. The Biden Administration could consider committing additional resources to strengthen the resilience of nations in the region, particularly in the area of climate-smart infrastructure, both physical and human, and support for resolving transboundary water contestations. Such support should prioritize allies and partners, but other nations could also be included, in order to strengthen the dynamic of cooperation in a region vital to the U.S. national interest.”  – Sarang Shidore, Senior Fellow, Council on Strategic Risks

“This budget starts the process (finally) of responding to the climate crisis in a way that’s proportionate to the threat. But the scale of investment in adaptation – and mitigation – needs to increase if we’re to prevent a potentially unmanageable security landscape. We don’t have a lot of time, so now is the time to go big.” – Francesco Femia, Co-Founder and Research Director, The Council on Strategic Risks/The Center for Climate and Security

On Biological Threats

“The President signalled clearly that addressing biological threats is a high priority. We’ve all seen the devastation they can cause. While there are positive increases to pandemic prevention in some areas, it is disappointing not to see this matched in the proposed defense budget. In particular, the president’s budget appears to cut the Chemical and Biological Defense Program—which made important contributions to the COVID-19 response and houses unique capabilities for responding to infectious disease threats—and the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program which includes working with international partners on biological threat reduction. In future years, Defense leaders need to remediate this and increase these investments that are so critical to U.S. strength, competitiveness, and international partnerships.” – Christine Parthemore, CEO, Council on Strategic Risks

“Cutting-edge technology for early warning systems and rapid medical countermeasure development are only effective with the proper infrastructure and trained workforce to utilize it. We have already seen the Biden administration’s commitment to public health along these lines – most recently, the administration announced $7.4 billion to support public health worker training and hiring for the next public health crisis. Ideally, the administration should commit similar resources to create a trained workforce that will work on the research, development, testing, and deployment of these technologies. Further, the administration should commit additional resources to the study of national security, ethical, and societal implications of these technologies as they emerge, consisting of a diverse community of technologists, community leaders, social scientists, ethicists, and other public and private stakeholders. Diverse and thoughtful input and discussion are the key to navigating the promise and perils of emerging technologies” – Dr. Yong-Bee Lim, Fellow, Janne E. Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons, CSR

“The increased presence and role of the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Laboratories highlights the administration’s vision that science and technology are integral components of building a healthier, safer, and more secure world. DOE National Laboratories have historically been underutilized despite their immense capabilities as a repository of top-class talent in science and technology, cutting-edge facilities, and a crucible for public-private partnership innovation. The proposed budgets indicate that these spaces should be leveraged to address everything from climate change to future pandemics, which is a welcome change from past trends.” – Dr. Yong-Bee Lim, Fellow, Janne E. Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons, CSR

On Nuclear Threats

“As expected, given that the Biden administration’s first Nuclear Posture Review is forthcoming, the nuclear weapons program in the president’s first budget request is mostly in continuity with Trump’s last budget. But nearly doubling Trump’s budget for the nuclear long-range standoff cruise missile (LRSO) – a destabilizing nuclear weapon we don’t need for the bomber leg of the triad – doesn’t make sense.” -Andy Weber, CSR Senior Fellow and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs

“Although the budget targets upgrading the US’ nuclear arsenal, there is an expected gap on addressing climate, nuclear, and security intersections. As the Administration’s defense priorities indicate, nuclear issues are intertwined with geopolitical tensions (namely with regards to China and Russia)  — climate impacts are virtually guaranteed to intersect with these developments.  – Andrea Rezzonico, Deputy to the CEO & Deputy Director of the Converging Risks Lab, CSR

DOD’s FY22 request overview explicitly mentions how climate change will impact the Arctic region — and usher in greater opportunities for conflict. It could, and should, actively state that this region is also surrounded by nuclear-armed states and nuclear powered infrastructure including icebreakers. The Administration should incorporate this nexus into its strategic plans moving forward.”  – Andrea Rezzonico, Deputy to the CEO & Deputy Director of the Converging Risks Lab, CSR

This article was first published at the Center for Climate and Security

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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