The U.S. Secretary of the Army has issued a new policy directing that installations address threats from climate change and extreme weather – demonstrating that the military continues to address the issue, despite political pressure to the contrary. The goal is to protect critical assets on installations to ensure mission resilience. The goal will be accomplished through the incorporation of climate change and extreme weather information across facility and infrastructure planning processes, such as real property master plans, Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans, Installation Energy and Water Plans, and emergency management plans. Implementing guidance for the policy will be issued by mid-December 2020.
To assist installation planners in incorporating climate change and extreme weather into their planning activities, the Army recently published the Army Climate Resilience Handbook (ACRH) which is referenced in the policy. The ACRH serves as an in-depth guide and provides step-by-step examples of how to integrate climate change into risk-informed planning. The ACRH builds on existing Army efforts to identify and address water and energy vulnerabilities at its’ installations. The ACRH is augmented by the on-line Army Climate Assessment Tool (ACAT). The policy requires that a user manual be made available to planners. The ACAT contains information on individual installations that planners can use to determine current extreme weather and climate change effects to infrastructure and assets that are vulnerable to these effects along with adaptation measures that can be used to increase an installation’s climate resilience.
An administrative challenge for the Army will be updating three installation-focused regulations within two years as required by the policy so that each one incorporates the effects of climate change and extreme weather. None of these regulations post-date 2008 and thus, do not contain any existing Department of Defense policies and guidance on climate change that were issued in 2014 and 2016. Congressional interest in climate change and directions to DoD to address its’ threats are becoming more common (see here and here). That interest will continue and possibly intensify, with new or additional requirements eventually trickling down to the Army.
Dr. Marc Kodack is Senior Fellow at the Center for Climate and Security and former Sustainability and Water Program Manager in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy and Sustainability.