DoD: Mattis Won't Ignore Climate Change Threats Despite White House Pressure

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with military leaders from Commander, Submarine Group 9 in Bangor, Wash., Aug. 9, 2017.
Photo via DoD

Climate scientists in the federal government have been on the defensive since President Donald Trump took office in January. But military leaders will continue to address the risks that climate change poses to bases and national security, a senior Pentagon official said at a conference on Oct. 27 on sea level rise.

Maureen Sullivan, a Department of Defense deputy assistant secretary who oversees environmental issues, indicated Secretary of Defense James Mattis has set that tone from day one of the Trump administration.

The Senate confirmed Mattis by 98-1 on the day Trump was inaugurated. Though it was apparent Mattis would breeze through, his senior aides still combed the written answers that Pentagon officials helped craft in response to senators’ written questions.

Sullivan said they didn’t like the “wishy-washy” words on climate change that her staffers submitted.

“They came back to us and said: ‘These are too weak. Secretary Mattis believes in climate change and the risk to national security. You need to make those stronger.’ ”

Related: Mattis’ Pentagon Is Ignoring Trump’s Mandate To Treat Climate Change As A Hoax »

Within the government, Sullivan said, “a changing climate” is replacing “climate change” as the term de rigueur. No matter what it’s called, she said: “The fundamentals stay the same. The same general policy is that this is a risk that we need to integrate in day-to-day decision-making.”

Friday’s conference, which drew more than 200 attendees, was called “Defending our Coasts: Ensuring Military Readiness & Economic Viability As Waters Rise.” It was sponsored by the William & Mary Law School’s Virginia Coastal Policy Center.

It didn’t take long for presenters to make the case for why climate change and sea level rise threaten military readiness.

Shana Udvardy, a climate preparedness specialist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, ticked through the highlights of some of her group’s recent reports on the threats to coastal bases. If global sea levels rise by 3.7 feet this century, as the union has forecast, more than half of Naval Air Station Oceana and its Dam Neck Annex will be underwater every day in 2100. The base stands to lose more than 10 percent of its land mass to constant flooding in just the next 35 years, according to the group.

Related: How Pulling Out Of The Paris Climate Change Agreement May Screw The US Military »

Joint Base Langley-Eustis would suffer large land losses as well, the group says.

Storm surges from hurricanes would wreak even more havoc in the era of higher sea levels, potentially swamping entire bases, including Naval Station Norfolk, Udvardy said.

Some conference speakers decried Trump’s move to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, saying the international agreement to reduce carbon emissions offers the clearest roadmap for slowing the global warming that’s causing ice to melt and seas to rise.

Udvardy said she found some encouragement in a vote by the Republican-controlled House in June. It approved an amendment to a military spending bill that requires the defense secretary to address climate change in numerous ways, including by compiling a list of the most vulnerable installations and proposing strategies for protecting them.

The amendment still must be accepted by House and Senate conferees before it becomes part of a final bill.


©2017 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

A Marine wanted for killing his mother's boyfriend reportedly escaped police by hiding inside an RV they'd spent hours searching before towing it to a parking lot, where he escaped under the cover of darkness.

It wasn't until more than two weeks later authorities finally caught up to Michael Brown at his mom's home, which was the scene of the crime.

Brown stuffed himself into a tight spot in his camper during an hours-long search of the vehicle on Nov. 10, according to NBC affiliate WSLS in Virginia. A day earlier, cops said Brown fatally shot his mother's boyfriend, Rodney Brown. The AWOL Marine remained on the lam until Nov. 27, where he was finally apprehended without incident.

Read More Show Less

No motive is yet known for last week's Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard shooting tragedy, which appears to have been a random act of violence in which the sailor who fatally shot two civilian workers and himself did not know them and did not plan his actions ahead of time, shipyard commander Capt. Greg Burton said in an "All Hands" message sent out Friday.

Machinist's Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero of San Antonio, an armed watch-stander on the attack submarine USS Columbia, shot three civilian workers Dec. 4 and then turned a gun on himself while the sub rested in dry dock 2 for a major overhaul, the Navy said.

"The investigation continues, but there is currently no known motive and no information to indicate the sailor knew any of the victims," Burton said.

Read More Show Less
A projectile is fired during North Korea's missile tests in this undated picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 28, 2019. (KCNA via Reuters)

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it had successfully conducted another test at a satellite launch site, the latest in a string of developments aimed at "restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.", state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.

The test was conducted on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site, KCNA said, citing a spokesman for North Korea's Academy of Defence Science, without specifying what sort of testing occurred.

Read More Show Less

Since the Washington Post first published the "Afghanistan papers," I have been reminded of a scene from "Apocalypse Now Redux" in which Army Col. Walter Kurtz reads to the soldier assigned to kill him two Time magazine articles showing how the American people had been lied to about Vietnam by both the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations.

In one of the articles, a British counterinsurgency expert tells Nixon that "things felt much better and smelled much better" during his visit to Vietnam.

"How do they smell to you, soldier?" Kurtz asks.

Read More Show Less
Erik Prince arrives for the New York Young Republican Club Gala at The Yale Club of New York City in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., November 7, 2019. (REUTERS/Jeenah Moon)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Erik Prince, the controversial private security executive and prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, made a secret visit to Venezuela last month and met Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, one of socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's closest and most outspoken allies, according to five sources familiar with the matter.

Read More Show Less