The Army faces a growing menace -- one that has no military forces but threatens Army installations.
From the California wildfires to the hurricanes that pounded the southeast coast last fall, climate change has had an impact on operations and installations so great that the Army has identified the phenomenon as a national security threat.
To help Army posts prepare against natural disasters resulting from climate change, the Army published a new directive Sept. 11 that requires planners and managers to establish resilience measures to safeguard valuable assets and minimize readiness impacts.
Stephen Dornbos, science and technology policy fellow in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, or ASA (IE&E), said the new directive will provide Army installations with uniform instruction to help them build resilience to natural hazards.
Hazardous weather includes flooding, drought, desertification, rising sea levels, extreme heat, and thawing permafrost.
“Climate change has already had a big impact on Army installation infrastructure and threatens to degrade mission readiness. I think it’s going to continue to have an increasingly large impact going forward,” said Dornbos, who served as professor of geosciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for 15 years. “There are a lot of concerns about wildfires in California and energy supply being threatened … . There are adaptation strategies that installations could use to better prepare themselves.”
Congress has required military posts to account for climate threats in infrastructure planning and design. Under the Army directive, installation commanders must develop emergency plans
for extreme weather events as well as include climate change projection analysis tool results in infrastructure plans, policies and procedures.
“This practice will enhance installation readiness and safety because it informs the installation master planning process and facility design requirements,” said Alex A. Beehler, assistant secretary of the Army for IE&E. “In the event of a climate-related event, our Army installations will be better prepared to provide the critical capabilities essential to the Army’s ability to deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars.”
The instruction will also help commanders protect Soldiers and their families from health and safety impacts such as heat related illnesses, Dornbos said. A web-based Army Climate Assessment Tool developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will give installations the ability to assess exposure to weather-related threats and project future climate impacts, Dornbos said.
The Army Climate Resistance Handbook, published in August, also provides installation managers with a quick reference on climate and extreme weather resilience measures.
“Installations need to start engineering for the future,” Dornbos said. “Designing based on historical conditions is insufficient to engineer buildings that will be serving the Army in 20 or 30 years when we will have increasingly damaging weather events, so I think the timing of this is right.”