WEEKLY ROUND-UP: Han Solo, IPPR, and the Wall

Over the past week, three big headlines dominated the news.

  1. Han Solo gives a talk to the World Government Summit. The 76 year old actor, Harrison Ford, spoke out about how the degradation of our environment is the greatest moral crisis of our generation. The summit was held in Dubai, UAE this year. Leader from over 150 participating countries with an estimated 4,000 attendees joined Harrison Ford in discussions.

  2. The Progressive Think Tank known as the “Institute for Public Policy Research” released an environmental report detailing the breakdown of potential catastrophes that may affect society if global temperatures rise 2 degrees Celsius. The report highlighted how humans have historically perpetuated the notion to disregard anthropocentric climate change. Further, the report also argues humans are reaching an inflection point that has dangerous implications for all members of society.

  3. President Trump is on course to declare a state of emergency, as reported by senior White House officials. The state of emergency surrounds the construction of the wall that would run along the southern border and between the U.S. — Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California — and Mexico. The state of emergency is based out of the Trump Administration’s claim that the failure to have a strong southern border is a national security issue.

Warfighting And Biomimicry in the 21st Century

How Does An Army Bombing Range Support Conservation And Protection Of Endangered Species?

Contrary to conventional thinking, the military and conservation efforts are not diametrically opposed. In fact, if we dive beneath surface-level assumptions that the military does not possess sustainable mindset, we will unravel a very different story.

In the United States, military land totals roughly 25 million acres. These are lands that are protected from commercial development and support numerous biomes. Often, these lands are considered to be rare, unique, and — typically — have endangered flora and fauna. Once the 1960 Sikes Act was signed into law, the value of the natural resources on these lands were officially recognized. Subsequently, mandates from the Secretary of Defense followed suit, specifically for the implementation of programs that “[provided] for the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources on military installations.”

Further, the Sikes Act requires that the installation commanders are to create a comprehensive plan to manage natural resources effectively. Then, in 1997, the Sike Act Improvement Act broadened the scope of natural resource management to provide for the following: more funding, greater scientific research, and greater civilian oversight of existing environmental programs.

Did This Law Work?

Welcome to Townsend, Georgia the home of the Townsend Bombing Range that is ‘owned’ by the U.S. Marine Corps, but used by all branches of the military. Near this forty-mile, coastal strip of land is a ‘wildlife greenway’. Or, in other words, a corridor for conservation that actively works to reduce habitat fragmentation by keeping wildlife zones connected.

Since the 1960 and 1997 Sikes Act and Sikes Act Amendments, respectively, the Department of Defense has contributed $26 million to the $93 million project. The funds are used to prevent developers from breaking up these fertile areas into commercial or residential properties. Further, the Marine’s land management program is actively working to not only bring the frosted flatwood salamander back from the brink of extinction, but to also expand livable areas for the endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers and to protect the water quality in the vicinity of the bombing range. These efforts highlight the positive role the military plays in conservation and sustainability efforts.

Why Are Environmentally Responsible Policies In The Best Interest Of The Military?

Since natural resources are used widely at military installations, there is an inherent national security necessity to protect and sustain. For instance, at the U.S. Air Force Academy, a 6 megawatt solar array was installed with the ultimate goal of generating 100% of the base’s electricity on-site. This example addresses the environmental need to be decrease reliance on coal and also serves a fundamental function of government to provide value to taxpayers. Another example is the development of pulse technology by the Army. This pulse technology increases the life lead-acid batteries by 80% — a remarkable feat. Not only does the increased life of the battery reduce toxic waste from entering the environment as quickly, but it also significantly reduces costs for taxpayers and extends the product lifetimes for the Army.

Another reason for the military to promote sustainability is the availability of unique biomes for training. The Army’s 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum, NY, is focused on warfighting in mountainous and arctic conditions. It is also home of the Sustainability Expo that brings together military and contracting personnel with sustainable vendors and innovators. Conservation and sustainability are critical to the Division because of their unique need to mimic the undeveloped mountainous terrain and snowy conditions that soldiers would experience abroad. Simply put, this training environment cannot exist without habitat protection and comprehensive sustainability planning.

Parting Thoughts

Not only are environmental stewardship and sustainable practices in the best interest of the Armed Forces, but the military has aligned their interests with conservation efforts. To be an effective warfighting force in the 21st century, it is critical for military members and all of society to recognize the need for environmental action and its impact on national security and natural resources critical to the military’s mission and success.


National Security

The Department of Defense is the 5th largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world.

“Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.” 

James Mattis, Former Secretary of Defense

In 2010, as commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, James Mattis signed the Joint Operating Environment, which lists climate change as one of the security threats the military expects to confront in the next 25 years. Today, rising sea levels, increased maritime access to the Arctic, and desertification in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa are of specific concern to Former Secretary of Defense. Further, the introduction of the report stated that our troops and defense strategists will “find ourselves caught off guard by changes in the political, economic, technological, strategic, and operational environments,” as battlefields evolve.

Climate change has been a growing concern in both National Security circles and at the Pentagon. Former Secretary James Mattis’s written statements only highlight the concerns stemming from the Department of Defense. When he addressed the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2017, he advocated for the environment through expressing his grave concerns as it pertained to U.S. interests and the Pentagon’s assets abroad. In the two previous administrations — under President Obama and President Bush — climate change was considered a pressing threat. From intelligence reports in the National Intelligence Assessment under the Bush Administration to the Obama Administration’s inclusion of climate change in the National Security Strategy, various organizations like the Center for Climate and Security have taken issue with the Paris Accord pivot.

“Ensure that climate change-related impacts are fully considered in the development of national security doctrine, policy, and plans.”

President Obama Executive Orders to over 12 agencies, including the Department of Defense.

In September 2016, a memo titled “Climate Change and National Security” developed an action plan to create a Climate and National Security Working Group. However, the results of such effort are unclear at the moment. Since 2007, President Bush signed a law requiring the Pentagon use 25% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2025. In 2012, the Department of Defense committed to this plan that has proved largely beneficial. To elaborate, a switch from diesel generators to a solar grid decreases the need to run dangerous convoys from base to base.

During Former Secretary Mattis’s Confirmation Hearings, he addressed these very issues. He stated that climate change requires a broad and holistic government response. Upon his confirmation, he stated to the Senate, that he would ensure the Department of Defense would be prepared to address climate change effects in their threat assessments, resources, and readiness reports. The Secretary even discussed the need to cut dependence on fossil fuels and explore renewable energy wherever it made sense for the Armed Forces. As a reminder, this is a career Marine who has no stake in the energy business, only a stake in protecting the lives of his Marines, and making them more capable weapon systems.

However, disagreements arose with President Trump administration’s Budget Request. Although Fiscal Year 2019’s budget has not fully been completed, large cuts will likely occur at various agencies like the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA was slashed by 20% in the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request. This encompasses the sub-departments that are expected to be slashed like the Oceanic & Atmospheric Research by 37%, the National Weather Service by 6%, and the National Environmental Satellite Data, & Information Service by 26%.

Renewable resources and the ability to monitor or analyze the extreme conditions resulting from climate change are vitally important for National Security. Droughts, famines, desertification, and decreasing risk to our Armed Service members by anticipating the changes of war, will solidify the hard power of the United States in this next century.

Crisis Management

Secretary Pompeo wants the State Department to get its swagger back.

While the State may start to swagger again it also needs agility and adaptability to face down three big trends. Chaos, complexity and convergence will have profound implications for the United States and the world order in the mid-21st Century.

First the world may be tipping to chaos. More than 65 million people are displaced; the highest number since World War II. Displaced populations often accelerate local conflicts into broader regional wars. The world is also experiencing a substantial increase in the number of disasters — both natural and political. Right now four concurrent famines place 20 million people at grave risk. The near future may likely be more chaotic than any time since World War II.

A chaotic world coupled with rising nationalism pose a complex threat to liberal post-World War II institutions. The Syrian crisis continues to challenge the nation-state order in the Middle East. Rising powers and the proliferation of non-state actors seek to destabilize political and economic systems. Yet, the United Nations and international financial institutions are in desperate need of reform; these institutions operate on an outdated model which does not align with the challenges of the mid-21st Century. This trend may move international systems from order to uncertainty.

Despite chaos and complexity, technology, public and private finance, as well as rapid advances in power and water are converging forces to change the human experience in frontier markets. Specifically, community access to power and water coupled with agriculture and technology can fundamentally change economic and political development. The convergent world has seen rapid transformation in standards of living, education and health to previously vulnerable populations.

Given chaos, complexity and convergence, America will certainly remain the dominant power in the decades ahead. Yet, as President Trump’s election demonstrates, American voters have little appetite for big civilian attempts to nation build in far off lands. America canassert its interests abroad while not bankrupting its future at home simply by being smarter and more efficient in responding to many of the most complex crises.

First, leverage the private sector to help fix a humanitarian assistance system that is overwhelmed and failing. The United Nations estimates that the humanitarian architecture costs $25 billion — and yet there remains a fundamental need for leadership, adaptive technology, forensic audits, causal impact analysis, and better results. The continued spread of conflict particularly in the Middle East also underscores the requirement for new and creative solutions that bridge the divide between humanitarian relief and much cheaper, more efficient development assistance. It is time to bring start-up culture to the humanitarians.

Second, Senators Corker and Coons are leading a bipartisan effort to reform America food aid to make it far more efficient. Allowing for local purchase of food in a crisis zone, if available, would save millions of lives while lowering costs. There is, however, much more which can be done to improve food aid. For instance, expanding the use of iris scans, mobile payments, RFID chips, electronic vouchers, drone technology and operating systems reform could dramatically improve impact over cost. Additionally, the famine early warning system based on satellite forecasting has directly saved hundreds of thousands of lives but was developed in the 1985 and now currently fails to adequately capture crowdsourced and big data analytics. Collectively, food aid reform — from procurement to distribution — is ripe for disruption change.

Third, encourage private-public partnerships to transform the water, power and agriculture nexus. If Google can map all streets, then it is time to map all water sources in Africa. Water technology, including desalination, efficient use and re-use technology, remains largely untapped in semi-arid environments in the Middle East and Africa. The relationship to water and power with solar, wind or biomass can change fundamental economics for communities. The relationship between water and power is on the tipping point of massive change in many frontier markets.

Finally for high priority crises, the Administration must begin by building expeditionary embassy teams. Think Rumsfeld after 9/11 and his small military units deployed in Afghanistan. The decade ahead will demand something similar in diplomacy — small, professional, resourced, and adaptable teams which can be deployed as interagency crisis responders in theaters where the US military is engaged, where the U.S. partners closely with allies on cross-border crises, or where there is a protracted crisis.

The mid-21st Century is coming. U.S. leadership, resolve and innovation can shape the most complicated challenges ahead to favor American interests — but policy leaders will need to hack the systems that served us since World War II.

This article was originally written by Dave Harden and published on Medium.

Global Security

Environmental security is global security.

Global security assurances are not partisan issues. In fact, without the integrity of our ecosystem and biosphere all the life on this planet would face great issues. For example, rising sea levels in the next few decades could displace millions of people who live in New York’s marine counties.

If the scientists are right and temperatures continue to rise, we could face environmental, economic and national-security consequences far beyond our ability to imagine.

Senator John McCain on the Senate Floor in 2007

While long term change is harder to conceptualize on a daily basis, short term change is not as hard.

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael destroyed Tyndall Air Force Base. Tyndall Air Force Base is nestled in the pan handle of Florida and home to the F-22 Raptor. It was estimated that Hurricane Michael not only damaged several aircraft left at the base, but caused more than $8 Billion in damages.

The intensity, frequency, and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes, as well as the frequency of the strongest hurricanes, have all increased since the early 1980s. Hurricane intensity and rainfall are projected to increase as the climate continues to warm.

National Climate Assessment

According to the National Climate Assessment’s projections, hurricanes will only become more frequent, more intense, and way more destructive. Clearly, the economic cost and national strategic loss of Tyndall Air Force Base is of greater concern than lots of insurgent attacks that take place around the world. Natural disasters have the power to impact more people.

Stayed tuned to more posts on our ocean waters, marine biology, and sea beds!