The Insider

GAO: Pentagon must do more to track costs of climate change

December 13, 2017 |
Tony Bertuca
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The Defense Department does not consistently track the estimated costs of expected impacts of climate change at overseas bases, according to the Government Accountability Office.

"Installations inconsistently track these costs because there is no requirement for such tracking," GAO writes in a Dec. 13 report. "Without a requirement to systematically track such costs, DOD will not have the information it needs to integrate climate-related impact resource considerations into future budgets."

The potential costs associated with climate change include interruptions to training, testing, and missions, GAO states. There is also budgetary risk in failing to plan for repairs to potential damages.

"While the military services have begun to integrate climate change adaptation into installations' plans and project designs, this integration has been limited," GAO states. "For example, only about one-third of the plans that GAO reviewed addressed climate change adaptation."

Additionally, infrastructure and installation projects GAO discussed with DOD officials were rarely designed to include climate change adaptation.

"This is due to the inconsistent inclusion of climate change adaptation in training and design standards for installation planners and engineers," GAO states. "As a result, planners and engineers do not have the information needed to ensure that climate-change-related risks are addressed in installation plans and project designs."

GAO recommends that DOD require overseas installations to begin tracking costs associated with climate impacts; re-administer a vulnerability assessment survey; include climate change adaptation into relevant standards; and integrate climate change adaptation in host-nation agreements.

The Pentagon, in its response to GAO, took issue with GAO's reliance on previously issued strategy documents to determine current policy. DOD said it is in the process of updating the National Military Strategy and National Defense Strategy to "focus resources on threats considered to be critical to our nation's security and the security of our allies" and will be "prepared to address the effects of a changing climate."

Meanwhile, DOD did not concur with GAO's recommendation to systematically track costs associated with climate change.

"Currently, associating a single event to climate change is difficult and does not warrant the time and money expended in doing so," DOD states.

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