February 08, 2011

Natural Security in the New National Military Strategy

The Department of Defense released the 2011
National Military Strategy
(NMS) this morning. For those not familiar, the
strategy is largely intended to outline how the U.S. military – and the
military leadership – will accomplish the objectives the Department of Defense
laid out in the Quadrennial Defense
(QDR) and advance U.S. interests articulated in the National
Security Strategy
(NSS). Like the QDR and the NSS, there are some relevant
natural security items that are worth mentioning. On first glance, here are some
excerpts from the NMS that I found particularly interesting:

Demographics and
Natural Resources

I thought it was great that the new strategy gives
particular attention to demographics and how those trends could have
implications from the strategic environment. And the strategy goes one step
farther by brining natural resources and climate change into the mix and
shedding light on the possible challenges that could be looming in the future:

Population growth and urbanization
in the Middle East, Africa, and South Central Asia will contribute to increased
water scarcity and may present governance challenges. The uncertain impact of
global climate change combined with increased population centers in or near
coastal environments may challenge the ability of weak or developing states to
respond to natural disasters. (P. 2)


Energy Trends and Fueling the Force

new strategy looks at energy challenges both in the strategic environment and
how energy could affect the military’s capabilities and preparedness (which, if
you recall from our 2010 report, Fueling the Future Force, we have
spent a lot of time on, as well). Though, perhaps by design, the
strategy does not delineate or recommend a path forward for reducing the
logistical burden associated with the military’s fuel consumption; those kinds of decisions are likely going to fall on Congress and the president:

Energy-state relationships will
intersect geopolitical concerns as state-run companies will control an
increasing share of the world's hydrocarbon resources and the persistent
challenge of resource scarcity may overlap with territorial disputes. (P. 3)


Joint Forces must become more
expeditionary in nature and will require a smaller logistical footprint in part
by reducing large fuel and energy demands. (P. 18)

Building Partner Capacity around Humanitarian
Challenges and Natural Disasters

The 2011 National Military
Strategy considers natural disaster preparedness and response in the broader
framework of a whole-of-government approach to strengthening international and
regional security. Interestingly, the NMS specifically makes the case for why
military to military engagement around humanitarian relief and natural disaster
preparedness and response is a good thing, both for our interests and our
partners’ interests. Yet when it comes to humanitarian and natural disaster responses,  DOD clearly recognizes it is not the lead agency, noting the Department needs to be prepared to support USAID and other USG agencies:

The Joint Force, Combatant
Commanders, and Service Chiefs shall actively partner with other U.S.
Government agencies to pursue theater security cooperation to increase
collective security skills with a wider range of partners. We seek to
facilitate interagency and enable international interoperability before crises
occur. Preparation is indispensable when conditions demand collaboration. In
turn, we must plan and exercise extensively across Combatant Commanders’ seams
of responsibility for full spectrum contingencies to support U.S. diplomatic
and development efforts and help mitigate and contain the human and economic
impact of crises. Humanitarian
assistance and disaster relief activities employ the Joint Force to address
partner needs and sometimes provide opportunities to build confidence and trust
between erstwhile adversaries.
also help us gain and maintain access and relationships that support our
broader national interests. We must be prepared to support and facilitate the
response of the United States Agency for International Development and other
U.S. government agencies’ to humanitarian crises.
(Emphasis added, P. 15)

Continue to check back for commentary and analysis on the new National Military Strategy. And as always, we
look forward to seeing natural security issues continue to be integrated into
the nation’s key strategic documents.