The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee has been holding hearings with the U.S. combatant commanders over the last several weeks. The combatant commanders have been briefing their posture statements for their individual geographic Areas of Responsibility (AOR). Here are what the combatant commanders had to say about climate change in their prepared remarks.
U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM)
General Carter Ham, Commander of U.S. Africa Command, March 1, 2012
General Ham’s posture statement did not initially mention climate change, which seems strange considering the findings of a 2011 Defense Science Board (DSB) report on national security and climate change that gave “special attention to the African continent due to the vulnerability of African nations with high potential to intersect with United States national interests."
However, in follow up Q/A, Senator Mark Udall asked General Ham to comment on the DSB report and whether “resource scarcity and the impacts of climate change have the potential to cause or aggravate conflicts in your AOR?” General Ham replied:
Senator, there's no question but that environmental security can have a dramatic effect on overall security, both in individual states and more regionally. I would tell you my frank assessment is that we're having better success in response to environmental security challenges than we are finding traction for preventative or predictive actions that could be taken.
On the good side, we have incorporated in a number of regional exercises, which we conduct over the course of this fiscal year, 16 exercises involving as many as 30 different African states that will have as a component of that exercise response to an environmental disaster of some sort, mostly water-related, either flood or drought. We are finding that the African nations are very accepting and understanding of the security impacts of such issues.
As I indicated, though, we're finding -- and perhaps because it's more difficult -- we're finding less traction on the preventive steps than we are on response.
Continue reading the full exchange here.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM)
General James N. Mattis, Commander U.S. Central Command, March 6, 2012
General Mattis’s posture statement did not include any mention of climate change, which is expected given that CENTCOM is charged with managing the war in Afghanistan and addressing emergent issues in the Persian Gulf. Of course, General Mattis may have many thoughts about climate change within his AOR; I have no reason to suspect otherwise. Nevertheless, climate change is a challenge that should be integrated into CENTCOM’s strategic planning given the range of resources issues in the region that could be exacerbated by climate change, from water scarcity to food shortages.