US Department of Defense Climate Adaptation Plan Released

On 7 October, the US Department of Defense (DoD) Climate Adaptation Plan was publicly released alongside those of over 20 other government departments and agencies. The plans were developed in response to President Biden’s Executive Order 14008 which was made announced on 28 January.

The US Department of Defense has long realized the danger posed to its operations by a changing climate. Rising sea levels threaten American coastal bases while the melting arctic has opened up a new area of competition with Russia. Moreover, regardless of climate change, sustainability offers significant benefits. By eliminating fossil fuels, the logistics burden of deploying forces and the dangers of a disrupted supply line can be drastically reduced.

In its new strategy, the DoD outlined five main lines of effort. The first is “climate-informed decision-making”. This translates into being aware of climate-related issues and changes by utilizing means such as climate intelligence and making sure such perspectives are well integrated into the overall information available to DoD leaders. These considerations are to be integrated into decision-making at all levels.

A Sustainment Package for Exercise Arctic Eagle The Alaska National Guard tests its ability to operate in the extreme Arctic environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Xavier Navarro)

The second line of effort is to “train and equip a climate-ready force”. This means training the armed forces for action in extreme climates and making sure current equipment and future acquisitions are able to withstand extreme climate effects. Future acquisitions will account for climate with examples including “tactical cooling, on-site water generation, and arctic maneuver”.

The third focus is “resilient built and natural installation infrastructure” which includes improving DoD infrastructure resilience and increased concern for the environmental impact of DoD installations.

US Marines help install solar panels. Afghanistan, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexander Quiles)

“Supply chain resilience and innovation” is the fourth DoD line of effort. This will include a move towards conducting planning and war games with less optimism about military logistics. It also means building up stockpiles of key resources and making sure more key components are manufactured inside the United States. The DoD will also invest in technologies which offset the burden that a changing climate makes on DoD logistics.

The Final DoD effort outlined is to “enhance adaptation and resilience through cooperation”. This means that the DoD will not seek to tackle climate issues alone but will work closely with other US government agencies, American allies and local communities.

Climate Adaptation Plan framework (US DoD)

The full report goes into much greater detail how these individual goals will be reached and the key challenges and opportunities they face. It is available here. It also outlines how the DoD plans to address the four topic areas laid out by Executive Order 14008 and the “enablers” which will allow DoD success across all five of the main lines of effort.