November 22, 2013

DOD Adapts to 21st Century Environmental, Arctic Challenges

The Defense Department offered a major new contribution to the U.S. government’s climate change and Arctic security strategies today. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, emphasized the need to adapt defense planning to address the effects of climate change at the Halifax International Security Forum. Energy efficiency, he said, is a key strategy for addressing these challenges. “Efficiency, new technologies, and renewable sources… [make the U.S.] a stronger fighting force,” said Hegel. Planning on these lines will help “save [the U.S.] money, reduc[e] demand, and [help] protect the environment.”

However, energy wasn’t the only focus point of the day, as Mr. Hagel devoted extensive remarks to the Department of Defense’s first ever Arctic Strategy. Noting that this document is intended to support President Obama’s May 2013 Strategy for the Arctic Region, eight points in particular highlight the Defense Department’s plans for safeguarding, stewarding and managing activities in the Arctic. The military will accomplish this independently and in collaboration with U.S. and foreign government counterparts and private entities.

For the Defense Department, cooperation with U.S. “allies and partners” is key—an emphasis consistent with the broader Administration Arctic Strategy. Ultimately, managing the challenges of climate change and the changing Arctic are part of a “long-term endeavor” by the DoD, which must, in the near term, adjust to challenges presented by “defense budget reductions and continued budget uncertainty.”

Considering the magnitude of the challenges posed by climate change and defending and safeguarding resources and activities in the Arctic, the release of the Defense Department’s strategy is a welcome addition to the U.S. government’s leadership on the issue. 

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