BY DAN SPINELLI
Earlier this month, the Pentagon released a landmark report that identified the 79 American military installations most vulnerable to the “effects of a changing climate.” The 22-page filing frankly acknowledged the security implications of climate change—in dramatic contrast with President Trump’s very public global warming skepticism—but Democrats roundly criticized its failure to include several details requested by Congress, including specific cost estimates to protect or replace the ten most vulnerable bases from each of the military services.
Now those lawmakers want a complete do-over.
In a letter released Wednesday afternoon, three Democratic members of the House Armed Services panel, including Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), urged acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan to compile another report by April that “thoroughly and clearly addresses” the criteria requested by Congress.
“They clearly ignored the requirement in the law,” says Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), one of the signatories, who had described himself as “deeply disappointed” with the original report. “The report they issued was completely unsatisfactory.” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services panel, said the report carried “about as much value as a phonebook.” Smith immediately demanded another report that “rigorously confronts the realities of our warming planet.”
Heather Babb, a Defense Department spokesperson, attempted to explain the priorities, saying earlier this month that Pentagon officials “focused on mission assurance” when compiling the report. “By using this alternative approach, we are able to highlight where there are operational risks,” she said. When asked about the new request on Wednesday, Babb said, “As with all congressional correspondence, we will respond directly to [the] authors of the letter.”
What was omitted in the first report that the Pentagon had a year to compile was striking. No Marine Corps installations were mentioned, for example, despite the fact that just four months before the report was released, Hurricane Florence slammed into Camp Lejeune, the Marines’ biggest base on the East Coast, costing more than $3 billion in damages. Omissions from other branches of the military were just as concerning. Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, where Hurricane Michael devastated 95 percent of the buildings in October, was not included among the Air Force’s most vulnerable bases.