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States of Emergency: Climate Change Risks to U.S. Military Installations in 2021

A new article by the Center for Climate and Security’s John Conger and Erin Sikorsky looks at the U.S. military installations in areas affected by climate-related emergencies in 2021:

On January 5, the Washington Post published an analysis of climate change-related emergencies in 2021 and concluded that more than 40 percent of Americans live in counties that were covered by federal disaster declarations in the past year. The devastating effects of the severe storms, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and droughts identified in the analysis pose a range of security risks to the US homeland, including direct loss of life (more than 650 people died from these disasters according to the Post), economic harm (NOAA estimates 20 separate “billion dollar” disasters in the US in 2021), and critical infrastructure damage. These climate-driven shocks also undermine long-term US resilience and compound other risks such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

An additional security risk is one we at the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) have spent a lot of time talking about over the years: the implications of climate change and extreme weather on military installations.  In recent years, hurricanes have done billions of dollars of damage to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina; while the 2019 Missouri River flood inundated Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, home to US STRATCOM.  Meanwhile, wildfires have repeatedly driven the evacuation of bases in California including portions of Camp Pendleton and Beale Air Force Base in 2021. 

In that context, we couldn’t help but wonder – how many military installations are located in the counties identified by the Post? One quick measure is to look at the eleven states where every county (the entire state) was covered by climate-related disaster declarations in 2021. These states – California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Vermont – are home to 868 Department of Defense (DoD) sites and 41 major installations (each with over $1 billion in facilities), per the DoD’s most recent Base Structure Report. Another hard-hit area in 2021, the Gulf Coast of Florida, houses multiple US bases, including the aforementioned Tyndall Air Force Base, Eglin Air Force Base,  MacDill Air Force Base, and others. Of course, being located in the county where disaster was declared does not mean all of these facilities were directly affected, but even if they were spared,  severe stress on the surrounding community can impact the base and its operations  as well. 

In 2019 the Army, Navy and Air Force identified a list of bases most vulnerable to climate change – 15 of the 45 identified were in a county included in the Washington Post measure. Other bases on the services’ lists may have escaped climate disaster in 2021, but as the Post noted, “There is little doubt that the future will be worse. Steadily rising temperatures heighten the risk of wildfires, turbocharge rain storms, exacerbate flooding and intensify drought.” 

The bottom line is that climate-related risks are rising across the country, and even bases not listed as ‘most vulnerable’ are exposed. Some of the most devastating climate-related disasters this year – Hurricane Ida’s landfall in New York and New Jersey and the December wildfires in Colorado – were unprecedented events. One of the key climate challenges facing the United States is preparing for a future that in no way resembles the past. The DoD Climate Adaptation Plan, released last fall, recognizes this challenge, and as the Post analysis underscores, implementing this plan must be a top priority for the Department in the coming year. 

Below we are including the Army, Navy and Air Force 2019 lists of bases most vulnerable to climate change, with the installations in counties that declared disasters in 2021 bolded.

Army

  • Yuma Proving Ground, AZ
  • Fort Irwin, CA
  • Fort Huachuca, AZ
  • Fort Bliss, TX
  • White Sands Missile Range, NM
  • Camp Roberts, CA
  • Hawthorne Army Depot, NV
  • Tooele Army Depot, UT
  • Military Ocean Terminal Concord, CA
  • Pueblo Chemical Depot, CO

Navy

  • Naval Air Station Key West, FL
  • Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, GA
  • Naval Base Guam, GU
  • Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, HI
  • Wahiawa Annex, HI
  • Naval Base Coronado, CA
  • Naval Base San Diego, CA
  • Joint Base Anacostia Bolling, DC
  • Washington Navy Yard, DC
  • Andersen Air Force Base (under Navy as part of Joint Region Marianas), GU 
  • Naval Support Facility Indian Head, MD
  • Naval Air Station Oceana, VA
  • Naval Air Station Norfolk, VA
  • Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads, VA
  • Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads – Northwest Annex, VA/NC

Marine Corps

  • Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, CA
  • Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC
  • Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Okinawa, Japan
  • Marine Corps Base Hawaii, HI
  • Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, SC
  • Marine Corps Support Facility Blount Island, FL
  • Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, SC
  • Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA
  • Marine Corps Reserve Forces New Orleans, LA
  • Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, CA

Air Force

  • Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA
  • Eglin Air Force Base, FL
  • Hurlburt Field, FL
  • Patrick Air Force Base, FL
  • Joint Base Charleston, SC
  • Dover Air Force Base, DE
  • Homestead Reserve Base, FL
  • MacDill Air Force Base, FL
  • Tyndall Air Force Base, FL
  • Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA

Read the article at the Center for Climate and Security

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
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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