After four years, it is bittersweet for me to close this chapter of my professional life. Today is my last day at CNAS and at the helm of the Natural Security program. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be moving down the street to the august halls of the U.S. Senate.
I came to CNAS in April 2009 to join a team dedicated to exploring, at the time, a niche research area on the intersection of natural resources and national security policy – what you know as, “Natural Security.” And it is quite amazing to see how quickly this area of study has garnered serious attention in the national security community.
Before, policy concerning natural resources and the security implications of natural resource consumption were often considered, in defense parlance, things “other than war.” But today, the defense community is giving more attention to how sustainable access to natural resources can produce huge dividends for America’s war fighters. The Department of Defense, for example, is making deliberate choices about how it consumes energy, with ever more attention to reducing the vulnerability of its dependence on petroleum through conservation and efficiency measures. Meanwhile, DOD is making smart investments in alternative fuels to ensure that the U.S. military can operate on a variety of energy sources, making every effort to provide our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines with the fuel they need to complete their missions and safeguard American interests.
Happy Presidents' Day from the Natural Security Blog. We will be taking today off, but we look forward to returning to our regular Natural Security business tomorrow.
Photo: Mount Rushmore. Courtesy of flickr user Jvstin.
President Obama delivered his State of the Union address on Tuesday. In his speech, the president promised, in the absence of congressional action, to use his executive authority to address climate change and would seek recommendations from his Cabinet to help “prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change.”
Photo: Courtesy of Pete Souza and the White House.
NASA successfully launched its new Landsat satellite on Monday, ensuring that the U.S. government will continue its ability to keep a close eye on environmental change from space, from receding glaciers, deforestation and coastal erosion to natural disasters.
We noted the importance of the Landsat Data Continuity Mission in our August 2011 policy brief, Blinded: The Decline of U.S. Earth Monitoring Capabilities and Its Consequences for National Security:
The health of the Landsat program, which provides information on topics from land use change to urbanization, is a top concern. One of the two remaining Landsat satellites is past its expected lifespan, and the other has declining capabilities. One replacement satellite, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, has a planned launch date in 2012. The achievement of this mission and its successors is necessary to ensure that one of the most accomplished U.S. satellite programs, spanning nearly four decades, is not lost.
A report in The San Francisco Gate explained the satellite’s important functions and role in generating remote sensing data:
The newest Landsat is equipped with sensors that are more powerful than its predecessors. Once it reaches 440 miles above Earth, the satellite will zip around the planet 14 times a day, snapping hundreds of pictures that will be beamed back to ground stations in South Dakota, Alaska and Norway.
After a three-month checkout period, day-to-day operations will be turned over to the U.S. Geological Survey, which intends to make images and data free on the Internet as in previous Landsat missions. NASA developed the spacecraft and its two instruments.
Learn more about the Landsat Data Continuity Mission at NASA.gov.
President Barack Obama officially began his second term yesterday when he took the oath of office in the White House Blue Room. This morning, shortly before noon, he will take the oath again on the steps of the West Front of the Capitol and deliver his formal second inaugural address.
What the president will say is a closely held secret, but many expect him to provide a broad vision for his second term priorities. He will have an opportunity to give more specifics in just a few short weeks when the president gives his State of the Union Address.
Will energy, climate change and natural resources be included in the president’s remarks today? It is hard to say. But I suspect there will be some mention. We can look back to four years ago and get a sense of how the president may touch on some of these issues in his remarks and his vision for addressing them:
The vision: “We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We'll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories…With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.”
Photo: Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts swears in President Barack Obama in the Blue Room of the White House on January 20, 2013. Courtesy of Lawrence Jackson.
Natural resource trends topped international headlines in 2012 – from illicit resource trade in Afghanistan to energy competition in the South China Sea. Which ones should readers track in 2013? Here’s a list of the five international trends I’ll be watching in 2013, in no particular order.
We are still on holiday and won’t be posting any new content to the blog today.
But we did want to remind our readers that on Wednesday, October 10, CNAS will hold its final Election 2012 event from 1 PM to 2:30 PM at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington.
CNAS, wtih the New America Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, will host a debate between top-level surrogates of the Obama and Romney presidential campaigns. Dov S. Zakheim, Special Advisor on Foreign Policy and National Security for the Romney campaign, will join Rich Verma, member of the National Security Advisory Committee for the Obama campaign, to discuss the defense and foreign policy agendas of the two candidates.
Also, before the Vice Presidential debate on foreign policy this Thursday, don’t forget to check out our new National Security Guide to the 2012 Presidential Election and learn a bit more about the foreign policy and national security issues that the next administration faces.
Happy Labor Day everyone! We are taking a brief holiday at the Natural Security blog and wish you all a restful day before the beginning of a busy fall.
The Associated Press’s epitaph for one of America’s most memorable pioneers appropriately captures Neil Armstrong’s place in history.
For several generations of Americans, the pioneering spirit and adventurism that helped carry Neil Armstrong to the moon also characterize a period of American history when our collective imagination seemed boundless. With outstretched fingers Americans reached for the stars and in less than a decade went from just terrestrial beings to lunar explorers. It is a period of American history that, sadly, seems almost unimaginable today as we increasingly look away from space.
In remembering Armstrong, we have an opportunity to reflect not only on one of America’s greatest accomplishments, but also to re-imagine America’s role in space and to search the stars for new opportunities for advancement.
The United States has enduring interests in space, from maintaining remote sensing satellites that help scientists understand and track environmental change, to networks of communications satellites that serve as the connective tissue of an increasingly globalized world. And though federal space programs continue to be squeezed in this fiscally constrained environment – and by all accounts we are increasingly pressed to confront challenges here at home, on Earth – we should spend some time thinking about America’s role in space, and how the United States can wield this cosmic domain to further its interests.
To help spur some reflection on U.S. interests in space, I’m reaching back to a piece my colleague Christine Parthemore and I wrote last year exploring the decline of Earth monitoring satellites and its consequences for U.S. national security: Blinded: The Decline of U.S. Earth Monitoring Capabilities and Its Consequences for National Security.
You can expect more from me in the weeks ahead on how U.S. policymakers should be thinking about using space to confront a range of unconventional challenges.
Photo: Neil Armstrong’s walk on the lunar surface. Courtesy of NASA.
Happy 4th of July everyone! Enjoy fireworks, family, friends and good food today as you celebrate America's Independence Day. We'll be taking the rest of the week of and will continue with our regularly scheduled broadcast next week.