News from the US SENATE:
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (DN.M.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, opened today’s hearing on the military infrastructure and climate resilience.
The hearing focused on climate resilience and how the committee can allocate funding to ensure the U.S. Department of Defense is building on the latest engineering standards, appropriately incorporating resilience, and building facilities that most effectively reduce vulnerabilities.
Find the full list of witnesses and a video of today’s hearing by clicking on here.
Heinrich’s opening remarks prepared for delivery:
Good morning all.
This hearing of the Military Construction Veterans Credit and Related Organizations Subcommittee is now open.
I’d like to thank our witnesses for being here today:
- From OSD, we welcome Mr. Richard Kidd, Assistant Under Secretary of Defense for the Environment and Energy Resilience.
- Representing each of the services, Mr. Jack Surash, senior official serving as Deputy Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and the Environment,
- Mr. James Balocki, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations, Energy and Installations,
- and Mr. Mark Correll, Assistant Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety and Infrastructure.
Military installations are the backbone of our military’s readiness.
Among many other functions, these are the places where we develop, test and maintain equipment, vehicles and ammunition, where we base offensive and defensive systems, and where the military often work, train and live.
Ensuring the resilience of our military installations and their installations is essential.
Today we will focus on climate resilience, and that is, the ability of facilities to prepare for or minimize the effects of extreme weather events and other climate related disturbances.
While DOD infrastructure financing and climate resilience needs cut across several DOD accounts, this subcommittee hearing is particularly focused on the financing of military construction.
We need to understand how to appropriate limited funding and be confident that DOD is building to the latest engineering standards, appropriately incorporating resilience and building facilities that most effectively reduce vulnerabilities.
While climate threats are not new, the intensity and frequency of weather events have caused significant destruction to facilities in recent years.
We’ve spent over $ 8.5 billion in military construction funding to rebuild facilities damaged by half a dozen natural disasters since 2018.
In contrast, over the previous twenty years, we had collectively spent about $ 2.4 billion on the same purposes, over 70% of which was attributable to a single storm, Hurricane Katrina, in 2005.
Beyond the fiscal cost, there are operational impacts.
In the most significant recent examples, we have seen the destruction of Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida following Hurricane Michael, which displaced the F-22s of the 325th Fighter Wing, as well as the storm surge and flooding destroying or rendering inoperative hundreds of buildings at Camp Lejeune, the East Coast Marine Corps hub, and Offutt Air Force Base, which houses STRATCOM.
It is not only coastal and riverine facilities that face the threats of climate change; drought, desertification and thawing permafrost are affecting bases across the country.
In my home state of New Mexico we see more extreme fires, longer droughts, drier summers, and more severe flooding when it finally rains.
Energy demand and associated infrastructure are also essential to take into account.
We need to ensure reliable access to energy using proven technologies such as on-site battery storage and micro-grids.
Recognizing the need to invest in climate resilience, the Committee provided DOD with targeted funding for this purpose.
We are steadily increasing funding for the Energy Conservation and Resilience Investment Program (ERCIP) and, over the past two years, we have allocated $ 90 million in planning and design funds specifically for resilience. military installations.
I look forward to hearing from witnesses on how this funding is helping their departments develop tools, conduct climate assessments, update the building code, and plan, design and build projects to improve resilience. climate – and any additional funding needed to accelerate this work. .
While the DOD has taken action, such as updating the building code and developing the recently released DOD climate assessment tool, it has handicapped itself as well.
The DOD regularly postpones investments in infrastructure and, in military construction accounts, prioritizes new platforms over recapitalization of existing vulnerable facilities.
Last month, the DOD had yet to issue guidelines adding a military facility resilience component to facility master plans.
We have lists of the most vulnerable installations for each service, but it is not clear how this information is used in planning and scheduling.
The postponement of investments in the resilience of military installations, as climate risks become more acute and more frequent, is sure to exacerbate financial and operational tensions within the Ministry of Defense.
We know that many of the facilities destroyed by natural disasters are decades old and newer facilities have a higher survival rate.
I would say that instead of just replacing facilities when they are destroyed, we need to target investments in building facilities that directly improve resilience or mitigate risk in the most vulnerable facilities.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on how best to thread this needle.