Preparing Army Installations Against Extreme Weather, Climate Change
by Joseph Lacdan, Army News Service
October 4, 2020
The Army faces a growing menace ... one that has no military
forces ... but threatens Army installations.
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 Friday that requires planners and managers
to establish resilience measures to safeguard valuable assets and
minimize readiness impacts.
Trainees at Fort Jackson, SC stack sandbags to be used throughout the hurricane season on September 5, 2019. The Army recently introduced a new directive to prepare the service's installations against the growing threat of climate change. (U.S. Army photo by
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.”
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 last month, will also provide installation managers with a
quick reference on climate and extreme weather resilience measures.
Further, the directive will have commanders tailor climate
resilience measures to local threats, as well as track power and
water levels. The Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9 will assist ASA
(IE&E) in the evaluation and execution of the directive and in
strategic direction. The Army Climate Assessment Tool will be
updated with new data and climate projections over the coming years,
As Army installations increasingly become
targets, climate change could make posts more vulnerable to
adversary attacks and threaten the service’s ability to project
power, Dornbos said.
“The motivation is to protect critical
assets and ensure installation mission readiness in the face of
climate and extreme weather threats,” he said.
the effort behind the directive began about a year ago, because
hazardous weather increasingly inflicted damage on installations.
“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.”
have faced a variety of natural disasters in recent years. In
September 2018, Hurricane Florence caused catastrophic flooding near
the Army’s most populous post, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Flooding
damaged Soldiers’ homes in nearby Fayetteville and some Soldiers had
to sandbag areas of the installation.
South Carolina National Guard Soldiers from the 108th Public Affairs Detachment in Eastover, SC load gear into a Humvee in preparation to support partnered civilian agencies and safeguard the citizens of the state before the onset of Hurricane Florence
on September 9, 2018. Hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters having increasingly impacted Army operations and readiness. The Army has classified climate change as a threat to national security and recently released a new climate change directive to help installations prepare for extreme weather. (U.S. Army photo by
Staff Sgt. Erica Knight)
In 2011, wildfires
burned more than 11,000 acres at Fort Hood, Texas. And in 2018,
wildfires adversely affected Fort Hood again, as field trainings and
live-gunnery exercises had to be adjusted or canceled as flames
torched some of its training grounds. The Army’s three Alaska posts
also face the dangers of thawing permafrost destroying the surface
integrity of the ground, potentially destabilizing infrastructure
and making accessing and utilizing training areas difficult.
Editor's note: Stephen Dornbos' position is supported by the
Department of Defense and Department of the Army, through an
interagency agreement with the Department of Energy for the American
Association for the Advancement of Science's Science & Technology
Policy Fellowship Program. All of Dornbos' opinions expressed in
this article are his and do not necessarily reflect the policies and
views of the Army, DOD, AAAS, ORAU, or ORISE.
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