The Pentagon is working to adapt to how a changing climate could impact its weapons and programs, a top official said May 19.
The Defense Department is looking to “transition from reactive maintenance to proactive or predictive maintenance,” said Stacy Cummings, acting undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. “We want to understand how different changes in the environment are going to impact our acquisition systems and … we want to build that in from the beginning of a program.”
One concern for Cummings is the ability for future warfighting capabilities to be effective in extreme or adverse weather conditions caused by climate change, she said during remarks at the National Defense Industrial Association’s virtual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference.
“If we think forward past 2035, as the climate changes, we need to be designing our weapons systems to be able to operate” in those conditions, she said. “Whether it's extreme weather or whether it's a change in the market conditions that are driven by climate adaptation or by the desire to reduce greenhouse gases across the country.”
As an example of a change in the market due to global warming, Cummings noted that the automotive sector is moving away from the combustion engine, which the military and industrial base rely on. This leaves the Pentagon to tackle the challenge of adapting to evolving market conditions, she said.
In January, President Joe Biden signed a number of executive orders aimed at tackling the climate crisis. In Executive Order 14008 — which established climate change as a national security priority — agency heads were tasked with submitting a draft action plan that describes steps that can be taken within the departments' facilities and operations to boost the adaptation and resilience to impacts of climate change.
“Action plans should, among other things, describe the agency's climate vulnerabilities and describe the agency's plan to use the power of procurement to increase the energy and water efficiency of United States government installations, buildings and facilities and ensure they are climate-ready,” the order says.
In response to the executive order, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III directed in late April the creation of a Defense Department Climate Working Group tasked with incorporating climate change considerations into strategy, planning and programming documents.
Cummings, referencing the executive orders, said the Pentagon's acquisition and sustainment office is also trying to bolster the department's ability to adapt.
“We in A&S are working to look at how to incorporate climate change data and information into our defense industrial base and commercial industrial base and how that will impact our acquisitions in the future," she said.