RELEASE: U.S. Military Leaders Applaud Secretary Mattis’ Clear-Eyed View on Climate Change and Security

by Arturo Herrera on March 17, 2017

by Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia  

 RELEASE: U.S. Military Leaders Applaud Secretary Mattis’ Clear-Eyed View on Climate Change and SecurityWashington, D.C., March 16, 2017 — The Center for Climate and Security (CCS), a policy institute with an Advisory Board of retired senior military officers and national security experts, applauds Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ clear-eyed view on the national security risks of a changing climate, as expressed in excerpts from unpublished written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, and offers recommendations for the way forward in its Briefing Book for a New Administration (pg 11). Among the excerpts, Secretary Mattis states: “Climate change can be a driver of instability and the Department of Defense must pay attention to potential adverse impacts generated by this phenomenon.”
The response from senior military leaders at the Center for Climate and Security was laudatory, though “unsurprised,” as the Department of Defense has a historyof treating climate change seriously across both Republican and Democratic Administrations, and Secretary Mattis is known to have a clear-eyed view of the risks the Pentagon faces:

Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, U.S. Navy (Ret), Member of the Advisory Board, The Center for Climate and Security, Former Commander, U.S. Pacific Command: “Secretary Mattis’ testimony is not surprising. As a global military leader he understands that the effective defense of our nation and our significant national interest requires that all threats to our security be considered and addressed, including the real threats posed by climate change.  Hopefully, Secretary Mattis’ leadership on the issue will translate into U.S. policies that help us manage the unavoidable, and avoid the unmanageable.”

General Ron Keys, U.S. Air Force (Ret), Member of the Advisory Board, The Center for Climate and Security, Former Commander, Air Combat Command: “No surprise that DoD takes a pragmatic position on the effects of Climate Change… it already impairs their ability to base, train, test, mobilize, deploy, and conduct operations here and abroad, while threatening to stretch their forces to the breaking point. DoD has been monitoring the risks of Climate Change since at least 2003 and they clearly see the instability it brings to already precarious situations around the world… situations they have to be prepared for when they are called upon.”

Admiral Frank “Skip” Bowman, U.S. Navy (Ret), Member of the Advisory Board, The Center for Climate and Security, Former Director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program: “I fully support Secretary Mattis’ statements on climate and security risks.  Putting aside arguments of cause and effect, there are measured and measurable data and global events that must be considered and accounted for in our defense planning.”

Lieutenant General John G. Castellaw, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret), Member of the Advisory Board, The Center for Climate and Security, Former Chief of Staff, U.S. Central Command: “”Secretary Mattis, as a Marine I know and have served with, understands that climate change can have a significant impact on our military operations in the future, and that we’re more secure if we deal with this problem seriously – as we do other threats to the nation. That’s the kind of clear-headed leadership that the military has brought to the climate change issue across both Republican and Democratic administrations. Secretary Mattis is no exception.”

Lieutenant General Arlen D. Jameson, U.S. Air Force (Ret)Member of the Advisory Board, The Center for Climate and Security, Former Deputy Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strategic Command: “The impacts of Climate Change on our national security are clearly evident every single day.  Secretary Mattis is a wise and highly experienced military leader who we are extremely fortunate to have directing DOD plans to address the growing risks climate change presents to our global security.”

Sherri Goodman, Member of the Advisory Board, The Center for Climate and Security, Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense: “Secretary Mattis recognizes that climate change is “threat multiplier” for instability and will affect America’s forces whether deployed overseas or based at home.  He is clear eyed in his assessment that America should be reducing the risks of climate instability, both as Combatant Commanders prepare their theater engagement plans and when base commanders prepare their community resilience plans.  Americans are fortunate to have Secretary Mattis’ leadership on climate security today, building on the work Secretary Mattis has done over the last decade to “unleash” our military “from the tether of fuel.”

Rear Admiral Ann Claire Phillips, U.S. Navy (Ret), Member of the Advisory Board, The Center for Climate and SecurityFormer Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group TWO: “As Secretary Mattis states, Climate Change poses a substantial and evolving risk to our National Security.  It magnifies the complicated nature of threats abroad, and adds tension to operational readiness preparations, including maintenance and training, and the daily lives of our service members and their local and regional communities at home.  The “Whole of Government” and “Whole of Community” approach, as evidenced by the recent Hampton Roads Intergovernmental Pilot Project and other similar pilot projects around the country, validates this cross-functional planning strategy, and demonstrates the critical need for aggressive action to prepare for and adapt to this risk.”

Rear Admiral David W. Titley, U.S. Navy (Ret), Member of the Advisory Board, The Center for Climate and Security, Former Oceanographer of the Navy: “I am heartened, but not surprised, to learn that Secretary Mattis understands the changing climate is one of the many risks the Department of Defense needs to manage.  The changing climate is evident in every Combatant Commander’s Area of Responsibility.  This reality has been recognized for over a decade by both the military and the intelligence communities.  Climate change impacts the physical operating environment, our defense infrastructure, and can tip already regions already unstable into chaos and conflict.  It is essential to the military’s overall readiness that these risks from climate change be acknowledged and managed, just as the Defense department manages other areas of significant risk.”

Joan D.B. VanDervort, Member of the Advisory Board, The Center for Climate and Security, Former Deputy Director for Ranges, Sea and Airspace in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Readiness): “I applaud the statements made by Secretary Mattis on the need for the Defense Department to continue its proactive approach on climate change.  Climate change is, without a doubt, a game changer: A game changer with regard to increased global instability due to drought, rising seas, and famine as well as the increased vulnerability of our ranges, training land, and infrastructure, both in the US and abroad.  The Department’s continued efforts to assess, adopt risk reduction strategies, and develop adaptive planning approaches will only serve to strengthen our national security now and into the future.”

Dr. Marcus D. King, Member of the Advisory Board, The Center for Climate and Security, Former Foreign Affairs Specialist, Office of the Secretary of Defense: “Like his predecessors Republican and Democrat alike, Secretary Mattis’s statements clearly reinforce the understanding that failure to address climate change’s risks to food, water and energy security is already creating adverse impacts in vulnerable nations important to U.S. national security.  His leadership at the Pentagon will elevate attention to these risks across the U.S. government and support preventative actions in the defense, development and diplomatic arenas that save lives and money and forestall the need for future military action.”

Francesco “Frank” Femia and Caitlin Werrell, Co-Founders and Presidents, the Center for Climate and Security: “It’s Secretary Mattis’ job to protect the nation from all manner of security risks and threats, including climate change. He’s clearly a Secretary who understands that job, and so it’s heartening, though not surprising, to see his testimony. As this Administration develops its policy on climate change, it would do well to heed the assessment from Secretary Mattis, who approaches the issue in as apolitical a way as you can imagine – and as the DoD has always done, across both Republican and Democratic administrations. The ‘political climate’ has no bearing on the Pentagon’s concern about climate change, and that should be the case across the U.S. government.”

Read excerpts from Secretary Mattis’ written testimony here: https://climateandsecurity.org/2017/03/14/secretary-mattis-clear-eyed-on-climate-security-risks/

To speak with a CCS expert and/or Advisory Board member on this topic contact Francesco Femia, ffemia at climateandsecurity dot org,  202-246-8612

Related material: The U.S. military has been planning for climate change impacts from as early as 2003, as expressed in this collection of documents.

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