Inside The Pentagon’s Climate Risk Analysis

This summer has been full of wildfires throughout Alaska. Numerous firefighting teams have been called up from the lower United States to help in the fight. One of the teams that have joined in the fight is a local team, the Alaska Army National Guard. Using 2 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and Bambi-Buckets the Alaska Army National Guard teams have been performing firefighting missions in coordination with the Bureau of Land Management, Fire Services based out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska. On Friday June 26 the team flew their aircraft down to Tok, Alaska, to assist in fighting a few large fires in the area. Using internal aircraft communications the crew chief Sgt. Philip Peter talked to the pilots Chief Warrant Officer 4 Nyle Harrison and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Molly Reque to guide them onto ponds, from that point the crew used the Bambi-Bucket to gather around 800 gallons of water and fly to the selected area of the fire to extinguish the flames in that location. The dropping of the water could be controlled by either the pilots or the crew chief. The teams worked with the fire mission flight controller, who circled the area in a plane and guided both the helicopters and skimmer aircraft onto flare up areas. Both the helicopters and skimmers took turns bombarding the fire filled trees with water until they reached their flight time limits. (Photo by Sherman Hogue/Fort Wainwright PAO)

When U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin released the Pentagon’s new Climate Risk Analysis, he acknowledged “climate change touches most of what this department does,” adding “this threat will continue to have worsening implications for U.S. national security.”

The Defense Department now recognizes climate change is a threat multiplier and must be incorporated into all aspects of defense strategy, planning and force posture. The Defense Climate Risk Assessment, or DCRA, directs DoD to incorporate climate risks into all key DoD documents and planning processes, from strategy and planning and force management, to budget and partner activities.

The enormity of this task should not be underestimated; these are the very wheels that make DoD move. While climate considerations have been included in the National Defense Strategy since at least 2008, they have not been fully incorporated into the force planning and budget processes. As is often said in the Pentagon, “strategy without budget is hallucination.” Now, that is set to change.

The change can’t happen soon enough. As the DCRA makes clear, the Defense Department is already experiencing climate hazards on a daily basis. From regular sunny day flooding at Norfolk Naval Base, home to the military’s largest complex of vulnerable bases, to destructive hurricanes which destroyed significant parts of bases in Florida and North Carolina, the U.S. military has to manage climate risks as part of keeping our troops ready to fight.

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