Understanding the Army’s Climate Change Plan

Breaking Down the Plan

This February, Washington, D.C., released a twenty-page document detailing the U.S. Army’s climate change plans. The Army bases each strategy on four key pillars: climate change (changes in weather), adaptation (human changes in response to the environment), mitigation (measures that reduce or even stop carbon dioxide production), and resilience (preparations for any necessary changes).

In the report, a multitude of strategies are organized into three groups labeled Line of Effort 1, Line of Effort 2, and Line of Effort 3. Below these headers is a list of 6–12 “intermediate objectives,” which are basically the ways the U.S. Army plans to achieve its goals.

LINE OF EFFORT 1 — The first Line of Effort is also titled Installations. It hopes to “enhance” resilience and sustainability by adapting the U.S. Army to climate change, reducing greenhouse gases, and securing land for military use. It consists of 11 different objectives with the most notable being a strong energy and water supply, pollution-free electricity, and land management. In terms of strong energy and water, the military has already begun switching to renewable energy. “There are 950 renewable energy projects supplying 480 megawatts of power to the Army today and 25 microgrid projects scoped and planned through 2024,” states Washington on page seven of the 2022 Army Climate Change Strategy. For pollution-free electricity, the Army is working with the Department of Defense to encourage the use of ​​national electric grids throughout its infrastructure. Lastly, the military also wants to secure and invest in the “ecosystem management” of their land through programs like Army Compatible Use Buffer. The program preserves military land and creates buffers to maintain its natural state.

LINE OF EFFORT 2 — The second Line of Effort discusses acquisition and logistics. Each strategy under this plan is meant to increase the U.S. military’s abilities, strengthen it against climate change, and reduce the costs and risks of greenhouse gas emissions. With a total of 12 goals, Line of Effort 2 has the most intermediate objectives out of the three efforts. The most notable ones cover advanced technology, clean procurement, and resilient supply changes. A big part of the U.S. Army’s plan to go green is advancing its technology, specifically its vehicles. For example, through Tactical Vehicle Electrification Kits, the average fuel for the Army’s fleets have reduced by “approximately 25%,” as stated on page 11 of the 2022 Army Climate Change Strategy. Washington also adds, “The Army will field purpose-built hybrid-drive tactical vehicles by 2035 and fully electric tactical vehicles by 2050.” In regards to clean procurement, the military is starting to account for sustainable practices in its contracts and supplies. Right now, it is working on developing something called “key performance parameter.” This will become a way for the U.S. Army to evaluate things on efficiency and sustainability in future decisions. Thirdly, Line of Effort 2 wants to create resilient supply changes that provide the military with a steady stream of resources if a climate disaster occurs. The military plans to understand and create a strong supply of materials through “wargames and simulations” as declared at the end of page 13 in the document.

LINE OF EFFORT 3 — The final Line of Effort focuses on training. It has a total of six strategies that aim to create a U.S. Army that is “ready to operate in a climate-altered world.” This section covers the what and how of U.S. Army training in relation to the climate crisis. The military has tackled “what” they train their soldiers by adding a section on climate change literacy. The Army Materiel Command’s “Climate 101” Course introduces soldiers to climate science and how it relates to land, energy, water, soil, and other installation problems. Washington explains that the Army plans to do this by implementing “climate-informed POIs no later than 2028, ensuring all Army people — and especially those on track for strategic leadership — are well educated in these critical issues.” The “how” of training U.S. soldiers focuses on accounting the observed “changes in both potential adversaries and in the Arctic, desert, mountain, and jungle environments where the Army could be employed.” In other words, depending on where a soldier is deployed, they will be specifically trained to handle that environment in a “climate-altered world.” For example, in 2020, soldiers trained in a series of cold weather exercises in Canada, Norway, and Iceland. Washington says that “by working purposefully, all Army operational and strategic exercises and simulations will consider climate change risks and threats by 2028.”

Issues in the U.S. Army’s Climate Change Plan

The U.S. Army’s plan to fight climate change is a combination of strategies that aim to reduce greenhouse gases, strengthen the Army against climate change, and train soldiers with environmental literacy. While the U.S. Army’s plan recognizes that climate change poses an issue for them, it fails to acknowledge its own role in it. In the document’s forward, Christine E. Wormuth writes, “The Army must adapt across our entire enterprise and purposefully pursue greenhouse gas mitigation strategies to reduce climate risks. If we do not take action now, across our installations, acquisition and logistics, and training, our options to mitigate these risks will become more constrained with each passing year.”

The plan also explains that the goal is not necessarily to shift the military into a more sustainable infrastructure but to “prepare a force that is ready to operate in a climate-altered world while simultaneously maintaining the ability to win in combat.” This means that even though climate change is a threat, environmental shifts in the military may only be considered if they boost the Army’s capability. Jack Surash, who serves under a lengthy title of “senior official performing the duties of assistant Army secretary for installations, energy, and environment,” explains it best. “Climate change and its effects obviously pose a very serious threat to the U.S. national security interest. But I want to stress that . . . climate change does not alter the Army’s overall mission, which is to deploy, fight and win,” Surash stated last year in an annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army.

The U.S. Army is finally tackling the issue of climate change through extensive strategies that target various factors of its vast infrastructure. However, the military misses the mark when it comes to acknowledging its contribution in the crisis and virtually plans to stay the same unless sustainable inventions improve its chances of winning a war.

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501(c)4 youth movement bridging the gap between non-climate groups & intersectional climate action. https://linktr.ee/officialycatinc

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Youth Climate Action Team Inc.

Youth Climate Action Team Inc.

501(c)4 youth movement bridging the gap between non-climate groups & intersectional climate action. https://linktr.ee/officialycatinc

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