Climate Provisions in the 2021 Defense Authorization Act

The U.S. House and Senate recently passed their versions of the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. The House of Representatives passed H.R. 6395 the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 by a vote of 295 to 125.  The Senate passed S. 4049, National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), as amended by a tally of 86-14. Both versions contain many similarities including a more robust response and information about identifying cybersecurity threats, cutting ties with businesses linked to China, and resource requirements that production happen in the United States. 

Each bill declares that climate change poses a direct threat to the national security of the United States and directs the Department of Defense to:

  • prioritize its vulnerabilities and send to Congress a list of its most vulnerable installations, 
  • an expansion of existing authorities to incorporate climate considerations, 
  • update the 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap
  • improvements to building codes, 
  • requires DoD to conduct resilience planning at each of its installations.  

Some key requirements and resources include an updated Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap. Originally released in 2014 under former DOD secretary Chuck Hagel, the Roadmap focuses on various actions and planning the DoD is taking to increase its resilience to the impacts of climate change. Specifically, Congress is requiring that the updated roadmap include a strategy and implementation plan to address the effects of climate change on DoD missions, geopolitical/strategic environment, infrastructure (inside and outside the U.S.), and civilian dependencies such as supply chains and strategic transportation nodes. This Roadmap is meant to give DoD a comprehensive guide to address climate change in the coming years. 

Congress also outlined a number of new resources including:

  • National Academies Climate Security Roundtable. The new Roundtable comprised of Climate Security experts seeks to inform the Climate Security Advisory Council established in the Defense Authorization Act of 2020.  

The bill also directs the US Coast Guard to identify its ten sites that are most vulnerable to climate change impacts. A recent hearing in January of 2020 urged the USCG to refocus on asserting leadership in the Arctic. The climate change impacts in the Arctic are making it more important than ever to start patrolling the area. All of DoD is required to also build on the 2018 vulnerability report. However, this would focus only on extreme weather vulnerability of installations and combatant commander requirements. 

 The two bills now have to be merged into a final version, so it is uncertain if all of the provisions will be passed. However, both versions contain very similar sentiments that could signal a more seamless merging. The provisions for climate change represent a pragmatic legislative recognition of the unprecedented weather events and other climate change effects we have seen in the past years. 

 

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Kalyna White is an Assistant Editor at HSToday for Climate Change Security and is the STEM Ambassador to the Board of Directors for Women in Homeland Security. She is the founder of LABUkraine, a non-profit organization that builds computer labs for orphans in Ukraine. Since 2011 she has worked with Women in Homeland Security to encourage middle and high school student to pursue STEM careers by organizing and supporting field trips to STEM missions throughout the homeland security enterprise. She is also President of the University of California, San Diego Pi Beta Phi chapter.

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