Mainstreaming Climate Security: The FY22 National Defense Authorization Act

By John Conger

Last week, President Biden signed the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), that Congress passed with overwhelmingly bipartisan support. The bill included numerous climate security measures that echo a number of key recommendations in the Center for Climate and Security’s Climate Security Plan for America (CSPA).

Over the past several years, Congress has enacted a series of pragmatic measures on climate and security.  Many of the measures have focused locally and tactically on the Defense Department’s infrastructure and resilience to extreme weather, while others have taken a wider view such as requiring a new Arctic Strategy or creating a Department of Defense Center for Arctic Security Studies.  This year’s NDAA fills in the gaps between the tactical and strategic measures and codifies some provisions in President Biden’s executive orders on climate, which will help ensure they last beyond this administration.

This year’s bill includes multiple provisions aimed at mainstreaming, or integrating, climate change into multiple DoD processes. For example, the bill codifies the National Security Climate Resilience Act (Sec. 331-335 of the bill), which directs DoD to incorporate climate resilience into acquisition; budgeting, planning and execution; infrastructure planning and sustainment; force development; engagement strategy development and security assistance.  This section of the bill also directs DoD to conduct mission impact assessments (recommendation 2.3 in our CSPA), to evaluate the implications of climate change on readiness, training, testing, and operations; and to use those assessments to support development of Combatant Commander requirements.

Another example of mainstreaming is the direction (Sec. 311) for DoD to incorporate military installation resilience, including to climate change, into the National Defense Strategy (CSPA 1.3) and other key strategic documents such as Combatant Command plans (CSPA 4.8).

Some other key climate security highlights from the bill are listed below, with their section number and, where applicable, the section of the CSPA where we recommended the measure:

Mission Assessments and Responses

  • Requires DoD to conduct Climate Resilience Mission Impact Assessments to assess the implications not only on installations but on operations and warfighting capability (Sec 334 / CSPA 2.3);
  • Requires a threat assessment of the impacts of extreme weather, drought, and desertification on regional stability (Sec 334);
  • Requires the Office of Net Assessment to conduct a long-term assessment of the implications of climate change on DoD (Sec 334 / CSPA 2.3);
  • Requires the development of wargames and exercises focused on climate-driven crises (Sec 334 / CSPA 2.3);
  • Requires DoD to analyze climate risks to the deployment of forces – specifically assessing impacts to the strategic highway and rail networks and strategic air and seaports (Sec 334);
  • Requires a review of the R&D needed to ensure resilience of military equipment and capabilities to future climate conditions (Sec 334 / CSPA 2.5);
  • Requires a review and enhancement of existing authorities for using Air Force and Air National Guard airborne firefighting systems and other DoD assets to fight wildfires (Sec 1065);

Expanding and Accelerating Installation Resilience

  • 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 (Sec 332);
  • Requires DoD to ensure at least 10 percent of major military installations achieve energy net-zero and water or waste net-zero by fiscal year 2035 (Sec. 319);
  • Establishes a new program administered by the Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation (OLDCC) to make grants, conclude cooperative agreements, and supplement other federal funds for planning and implementing projects to maintain or improve military installation resilience (Sec 313);
  • Establishes a new program for projects on and outside installations to manage increasing stormwater impacts (Sec 2803); 
  • Extends existing installation resilience programs focused on facilities to DoD testing and training ranges (Sec. 332);
  • Requires each Secretary of a military department 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 (Sec 2833);
  • Requires DoD to perform detailed assessments of the climate vulnerabilities of installations to climate change (Sec 335 / CSPA 2.2); and
  • Strengthens requirements to address the risks of flooding (Sec 2805).

Climate Education, Training, and Support to Allies and Partners

  • The Senate included an extensive section of directive report language in its committee report that directs DoD to include military installation resilience into professional military education and training courses for those officers selected to become installation commanders (CSPA 4.9).  It also encourages DoD to incorporate climate resilience into International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs and to conduct joint security training exercises on these issues with partner militaries (CSPA 3.3).

This extensive list 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.  


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