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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

National Defense Authorization Act Cements DOD’s Climate Resilience Role

On December 27, President Biden signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 (NDAA). The NDAA authorizes fiscal year appropriations principally for the Department of Defense, for Department of Energy national security programs, and for the Department of State.  

The NDAA, which received strong bipartisan support, includes several climate resilience measures, which look set to hold up beyond the current administration. Crucially, the NDAA codifies the National Security Climate Resilience Act. This Act requires DOD to incorporate climate resilience into acquisition; budgeting, planning and execution; infrastructure planning and sustainment; force development; engagement strategy development and security assistance. Through the NDAA, DOD is also required to conduct mission impact assessments to evaluate the implications of climate change on readiness, training, testing, and operations.

These measures were recommended in the Center for Climate and Security’s Climate Security Plan for America, originally published in September 2019. John Conger, the Center’s Director Emeritus, said the NDAA is “encouraging, and demonstrates that the U.S. Congress will continue to be a full partner in ensuring that the Department of Defense is positioned to deal with the security implications of climate change”.  

Many of the NDAA’s other measures were also recommended by the Center’s Plan. These include a requirement for Climate Resilience Mission Impact Assessments; a long-term assessment of the implications of climate change on DOD; the development of wargames and exercises focused on climate-driven crises; and a review of the R&D needed to ensure resilience of military equipment and capabilities to future climate conditions.

The NDAA also strengthens requirements to address the risks of flooding, and requires DOD to develop a framework for installation commanders to engage with local communities to improve preparation for and response to extreme weather and climate events. In addition, each Secretary of a military department will be required to identify at least two major military installations at risk from extreme weather events within 30 days of enactment, and to ensure that resilience plans are complete for those installations within one year.

A new program will be established, administered by the Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation, to make grants, conclude cooperative agreements, and supplement other federal funds for planning and implementing projects to maintain or improve military installation resilience.

DOD has often led both nationally and internationally on climate security, even if that has meant going against presidential leadership. The Department recognizes the threat posed by climate change. Last January, DOD’s Inspector General identified climate change as a top challenge, and in July, DOD’s senior climate advisor Joe Bryan said “climate change is going to cost us in resources and readiness; and the reality is that it already is.” 

Releasing its Climate Action Plan in October, DOD said “climate change will continue to amplify operational demands on the force, degrade installations and infrastructure, increase health risks to our service members, and could require modifications to existing and planned equipment”. 

DOD’s action plan builds on its 2014 climate change adaptation roadmap and aligns adaptation and resilience efforts with the department’s warfighting mission. Ongoing efforts under the 2021 plan will be tracked via a dashboard.

The plan is built around five key areas of action. The first action centers the integration of climate-informed decision-making using actionable science into all department processes. All other actions in DOD’s plan are dependent on the outcomes of this effort. Thereafter, DOD will train and equip a climate-ready force by focusing on operating under the most extreme and adverse conditions and integrating climate adaptation concepts into existing major exercises and contingency planning. Third, DOD will ensure built and natural infrastructure are in place for successful mission preparedness, military readiness and operational success in changing conditions and will leverage the Defense Climate Assessment Tool to develop comprehensive installation resilience plans. Fourth, DOD will insert climate change considerations into supply chain management to both reduce vulnerabilities and create opportunities to leverage DOD’s purchasing power to advance the key technologies essential to a clean energy transformation. Finally, DOD will enhance adaptation and resilience through collaboration. This will include interagency and intergovernmental cooperation in meeting the challenges of climate change as well as working with defense partners around the globe. 

The NDAA further cements the Department’s role in aiding not only the United States but the rest of the world in achieving military climate resilience through policy, operations and training internally as well as with its global partners.

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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