Department of Defense Reports on Climate Change Vulnerabilities

The Department of Defense has issued a report entitled Climate-Related Risk to DoD Infrastructure: Initial Vulnerability Assessment Survey (SLVAS), as directed by Senate Report 114-237.  In the report, the Department of Defense explains that there are several ways in which climate change can affect national security, particularly through the increased frequency of extreme weather events impacting critical infrastructure and military bases.  The SLVAS is “the first step in an on-going process to manage the risks associated with climate to the [Department of Defense] mission, installations, and ranges.”  The report surveys over 3,500 installations and associated sites maintained by the Military Departments around the world, including the approximately 500 sites within 2 km of coastal or tidal zones. It focuses on observed effects from past severe weather events, including wildfire, drought, wind, extreme temperature, storm-surge flooding, and non-storm-surge flooding.

The results of the SLVAS show that over half of the sites reported that they had assets affected by severe weather events.  The highest numbers of reported effects were from drought, wind, and non-storm-surge-related flooding.  Approximately 10 percent of sites were affected by extreme temperature.  The types of assets most likely to be affected by one or more severe weather events were: (1) airfield operations, (2) transportation infrastructure, (3) energy infrastructure, (4) training/range facilities, and (5) water/wastewater systems.  The report found that sites reporting one or more effects were geographically dispersed, similar to those sites reporting no effects.  However, the SLVAS notes that this “may have more to do with the nature of a qualitative survey completed by hundreds of different users” than with differences among the sites themselves.

The SLVAS concludes with feedback on the survey results from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.  The Navy reported that 73 percent of its sites had some effect from past extreme weather events, while the Air Force reported that 60 percent of its sites were effected.  All four military departments indicated that they were updating their existing planning and climate resilience considerations in light of the SLVAS results.

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