November 21, 2012

CIA Shutters Climate Center, But Continues its Work

Annie Snider of Greenwire confirmed on Monday that after more than three years the CIA has closed its Center for Climate Change and National Security, the office responsible for the intelligence agency’s analysis of the national security implications of climate change.

According to the report, the center was closed due to continuing pressure from congressional representatives and dwindling internal support for the work. “Especially since Panetta left, there wasn't a lot of love for this at the CIA," one former defense official told Greenwire.

“The exact timing of the closure and the reasons behind it are not clear. Those close to the center speculate that the move may have been intended to pre-empt cuts from Congress. The total U.S. intelligence budget has declined for the past two years, dipping to $75.4 billion for fiscal 2012 after peaking at $80.1 billion in fiscal 2010,” Greenwire reported.

Nevertheless, the agency has a continued stake in assessing the impact of climate change on U.S. national security interests and will continue the work “under other auspices,” the report said.

The New York Times Green Blog reported a statement by a CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz this morning:

“The C.I.A. for several years has studied the national security implications of climate change,” Mr. Ebitz said in an e-mailed statement. “As part of a broader realignment of analytic resources, this work continues to be performed by a dedicated team in a new office that looks at economic and energy matters affecting America’s national security. The mission and the resources devoted to it remain essentially unchanged.”

One official told Greenwire that the move may actually help facilitate better analysis by integrating the work into other offices. “You need to have the expertise also embedded in the regional bureaus, divisions, departments of the agency," the former official told Greenwire. "That's often how the strategic thinking and analysis is organized -- by country and region. If you don't have [issues such as] climate, energy, health, natural resource issues included in your country and regional geostrategic analysis, then you're missing part of the picture.”

Moreover, integrating the analysis into other agency work could help institutionalize the kinds of analysis the center brought to bear by encouraging analyst to integrate climate science into their routine assessments.   

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