April 09, 2013

Signing Off

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.

The broader national security community is increasingly focused on how access to natural resources is shaping the strategic environment, including behavior between countries in places like the South China Sea. The National Intelligence Council is focusing attention on the nexus of water and security, with the intelligence community releasing a seminal assessment last year on “Global Water Security.” And security practitioners are enhancing their understanding about how climate change will impact the global security environment, and the attendant consequences for the United States and its allies.

More can and should be done, of course. Natural resource issues — energy and climate change in particular — need to be more routinely integrated into the broad range of national security planning documents — from the National Security Strategy to the Guidance on the Employment of Forces (used by U.S. Geographic Combatant Commanders), as well as security planning exercises, such as war games and foresight exercises.

But in four years this research program has witnessed remarkable change in how national security and defense policy makers think about access to natural resources and global challenges like climate change.  

You, our readers, have made our research and analysis all the better. Your comments have sharpened our focus and challenged the way we think about these issues. And as my colleagues before me have said, you have my eternal thanks for tuning into this little blog that could. I am forever grateful to you all for sharing your thoughts and your general interest in all things Natural Security. CNAS will continue to champion this area of research and the blog will remain our premier forum for showcasing our work. I hope you’ll stay engaged along the way as we take our research agenda to new and exciting places.

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