Democrats want to require Pentagon to study climate change risks on military bases

It’s the latest effort by House Democrats to scrutinize and quantify the challenges a warming planet poses to the military

Colorado Rep. Jason Crow, center, wants to include language in the NDAA bill that would require the Pentagon to more aggressively study the risks posed to its bases by climate change. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats will seek to include in the proposed National Defense Authorization Act language that would require the Pentagon to more aggressively study the risks posed to its bases by climate change, their latest effort to scrutinize and quantify the challenges a warming planet poses to the military.

Colorado Rep. Jason Crow unveiled a summary of the measure Thursday, saying it will be included in the chairman’s mark to be offered by Washington Rep. Adam Smith, who leads the House Armed Services Committee that takes up the bill June 12.

[Jason Crow has the Monday of all Mondays]

“I’m not anticipating a very large pushback,” Crow said in an interview. “There’s already similar language that we’ve synced up with on the Senate side.”

The offices of Democratic Sens. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Brian Schatz of Hawaii have offered similar legislation.

Separately, Crow introduced legislation last week to require officials at large and medium military bases to consider climate change and extreme weather when drafting so-called “master plans” for their facilities.

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If that bill passed, the number of bases the military would have to assess for climate risks would increase from 148 to 260 — figures that include installations in U.S. territories, foreign nations and U.S. states, according to the fiscal 2018 Base Structure Report. Under federal law now, only “major military installations” are bound to assess their climate hazards.

On Wednesday, Rep. Denny Heck said he would introduce legislation to establish a so-called climate security intelligence center at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“I think this is a gap, frankly, in our ability to adapt,” the Washington Democrat said.

And after the Pentagon produced a climate report in January and only studied 79 of its hundreds of military bases, House Democrats directed the department to update its work.

Heck announced the bill at a hearing on climate change before the House Intelligence Committee, where California Rep. Devin Nunes, the panel’s top Republican, appeared uninterested.

“This committee has the jurisdiction and responsibility to oversee a vast number of pressing intelligence issues,” Nunes said, citing artificial intelligence, telecommunication policy and foreign powers. Climate change doesn’t belong before an intelligence committee, he said. “Instead of discussing any of these issues today, however, the majority has chosen to discuss global warming, which is a more appropriate topic for other committees.”

American forces are already feeling the effects of climate change and citizens are paying for it, Crow said. Opposing his efforts runs counter to requests from the Pentagon, he said.

“We’re already paying for this,” the Colorado Democrat said of climate change, broadly “to the tune of billions of dollars.”

“If someone wants to fight this, they’re going to be fighting the commanders and what they’re asking for, what DoD is asking for what and we need to do. And they’ll do it at the detriment of our defense, and our soldiers and our readiness,” he said.

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