The Ayes Don’t Have It

The US National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2018 encounters the blind-eye in Congress as Rep. Perry [R-PA] attempts to block a study of climate change impacts on national security. StratDem again takes this moment to stress that definitions of national security must change to meet the urgency of a changing horizon of threats



Amendment No. 4 Offered by Mr. Perry

The Acting CHAIR. It is now in order to consider amendment No. 4 printed in House Report 115-217.

Mr. PERRY of Pennsylvania. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

Strike section 336 of H.R. 2810 — National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018

The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 440, the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Perry) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Pennsylvania.

Mr. PERRY. Mr. Chairman, I thank the chairman of the committee for his hard work and his defense of those who wear the uniform and take on that tough task. In these tough and troubling times, especially in financial austerity, he stood up and let everybody know how the military, in actual dollars over the last 8 years, has been cut significantly, and the impact on our national security.

In that vein, my goal with this amendment is to prioritize those limited defense resources on efforts that pose an immediate and direct threat to our national security.

This amendment would strike section 336 of the NDAA, which strikes the requirement for the Secretary of Defense to submit a report on the vulnerability to military installations and combatant commander requirements resulting from climate change over the next 20 years.

I am not here to debate climate change, whether it is real or it is not, how it is created, how we fix it, and all that stuff. That is for another day. My point is that this shouldn’t be the priority of combatant commanders in our military. The United States military is currently operating in a very complex threat environment in which our country must be ready to face our adversaries.

Our country is facing direct threats from a myriad of sources, including Islamic extremists: ISIS, al-Qaida, the Taliban, Abu Sayyaf. The alphabet soup of names in that regard is continuous and unrelenting: North Korea, China, Iran, Russia, even in space.

Over the past 8 years, our military strength and readiness has suffered as a result of the underfunding and neglect from the previous administration that are in support of sequestration. Through the NDAA, we simply must prioritize, decide what is most important and be for that, and let our warfighters know where we stand.

These things must strengthen the rebuilding of our Armed Forces and resolve their focus on what they need to pay attention to. Literally litanies of other Federal agencies deal with environmental issues, including climate change. This Federal mandate detracts from the essential mission of the Department of Defense, which is to secure our Nation from enemies, and is best left to the agencies that are better suited to deal with these issues.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. LANGEVIN. Mr. Chair, I claim the time in opposition to the amendment.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Rhode Island is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. LANGEVIN. Mr. Chair, I yield myself 1 1/2 minutes.

Mr. Chair, this amendment would strike a provision that we have already thoroughly debated and approved in a bipartisan fashion within the Armed Services Committee. Section 336 acknowledges what Secretary Mattis has already said and what we already know: that a changing climate will affect our military’s readiness and alter the threat landscape for years to come, and that we must study these impacts to prepare for them.

I cannot see the harm in gathering information and doing an assessment. We already see the strategic implications of new sea lanes being cut in the melting Arctic, where countries are seeking an economic advantage. As we speak, along our coasts, rising seas are affecting our naval installations, including at Naval Station Norfolk, the home of the Atlantic Fleet.

The report required in section 336 is not about causes of climate change, nor do we discuss specific emissions, targets, or green energy goals. Instead, my section of the Armed Service Committee is very factual. We focus squarely on the readiness of our Armed Forces to combat the coming and existing climate threat, starting with a study of the 10 most vulnerable bases in each service, and a report on how a changing climate will affect combatant commanders’ strategic battle plans.

As Secretary Mattis has said, “the effects of a changing climate — such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others–impact our security situation.”

Mr. Chairman, we need to support our leaders in the military and intelligence communities in addressing these concerns, so I urge defeat of this amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. PERRY. Mr. Chairman, may I inquire how much time is remaining.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Pennsylvania has 2 1/2 minutes remaining. The gentleman from Rhode Island has 3\1/2\ minutes remaining.

Mr. PERRY. Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. LANGEVIN. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from New York (Ms. Stefanik), who is my good friend and the chair of the
Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities of the House Armed Services Committee.

Ms. STEFANIK. Mr. Chairman, today I rise in opposition to Mr. Perry’s amendment which would strike language that requires the Department of Defense to compile a report on the vulnerabilities of military installations and combatant commander requirements resulting from climate change. As we heard earlier today, this language passed by voice vote on a bipartisan basis during our markup in committee.

Increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, increases in natural disasters, damage to existing infrastructure, and other effects of climate change are drivers of geopolitical instability and degrade the security of the United States.

We would be remiss in our efforts to protect our national security if we do not fully account for the risk climate change poses to our bases, our readiness, and to the fulfillment of our Armed Forces mission.

This is about a report. Let’s get the information. This is why I believe we have bipartisan support within the committee. We must incorporate environmental factors in our threat assessments and contingency planning to ensure the long-term operational viability of our missions and the safety of our men and women in uniform.

Mr. PERRY. Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. LANGEVIN. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen).

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to this Perry amendment which will strip vital language regarding the impact of Department of Defense activities associated with climate change.

The Defense Department does so many vital things for the safety and security of the United States and the American people. We all owe the brave men and women who wear the Nation’s uniform a debt of gratitude that we can never truly repay. However, we must be cognizant of all the impacts that DOD activities have across the globe.

The Defense Department has such a large footprint, and the amount of military construction and other activity that it undertakes year round impacts our environment. How could it not?

We are talking about possible implications such as contributions to sea level rise — which is particularly important to my constituents in south Florida — that it would be irresponsible for us to ignore.

I have a Coast Guard base in my district, Coast Guard Miami Beach, located right there on the water in Miami Beach, and we know the impact of sea level rise in that area.

So as a member of the Climate Solutions Caucus, I urge my colleagues to oppose this Perry amendment. We have got to be clear-eyed, Mr. Chairman, about every possible impact of our military activities, and that includes the impact that we place on our environment.

Mr. PERRY. Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. LANGEVIN. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from California (Mr. Peters).

Mr. PETERS. Mr. Chairman, last year the Pentagon released a directive stating that the Department of Defense must be able to adapt to climate change in order to maintain an effective and efficient U.S. military. General Mattis — now Secretary Mattis — during his Senate confirmation said: “Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.” Bases in the region I represent in San Diego — which is home to the largest concentration of military forces in the world — are already facing challenges from sea level rise, drought, and reliable energy sources.

For years, the most decorated military leaders in our country have been telling us that climate change is a national security threat. Congress cannot afford to make this debate about politics or ideology.

We don’t have to agree on what causes climate change. We only have to agree with our military leaders that the effects of climate change are altering the security environment and the threats we face.

Mr. Chairman, I oppose this reckless amendment and ask my colleagues to do the same.

Mr. PERRY. Mr. Chairman, how much time remains?

The Acting CHAIR (Mr. Collins of Georgia). The gentleman from Pennsylvania has 2 1/2 minutes remaining. The gentleman from Rhode Island has 30 seconds remaining.

Mr. PERRY. Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. LANGEVIN. Mr. Chairman, as we noted in our committee markup, there would be nothing controversial about studying this threat and being prepared to mitigate the risks. In fact, that is our responsibility.

The support for this climate resiliency language was truly bipartisan in committee, and I hope we will send a strong message of support to the servicemen and -women who will have to lead with the effects of climate change by opposing this amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. PERRY. Mr. Chairman, it seems to me the Secretary of Defense doesn’t need Congress to tell him what the threats are. He knows what the threats are.

I can tell you as a person who has been privileged for over 30 years to wear the Nation’s uniform — the Army, the military’s uniform — and as a person who was privileged to lead troops in combat in the Middle East, I didn’t need Congress to tell me who the enemy is or was. We know that. We also don’t need Congress to tell us to report the issues that we might have in defending the Nation to the Congress or to the Commander.

We know our duty, and we will do our duty. If we have issues that need to be reported–whether it is sea level rise or the enemy has a new weapon or we can’t feed our troops or what have you — we will report it, and we will resolve it. We don’t need people in Washington, D.C., telling us how to run the war. That is our job. That is the military’s job.

This amendment simply says that we ought to prioritize that. We ought to let them prioritize that. We ought to let combatant commanders–we ought to let the men and women who wear the uniform and defend our country focus on the enemy. If the enemy, indeed, is climate change, then they will focus on that as well, and they will submit information so that we can make decisions.

The point is, should somebody — should all of us in this uniform in Washington, D.C. — be telling the fine men and women in uniform across the globe defending our country that we know better? That is exactly what I am trying to avoid here. Little by little, drip by drip, we have watched our Nation’s and military’s focus eroded — this and that. Believe me. I have filled out the reports. As an officer, I have filled out a whole bunch of reports on a regular basis that have nothing to do with completing the mission of securing our Nation and defeating the enemy — nothing to do with it. This is just one in the long line of them.

My only goal is to send this to where it needs to be — the agencies best adapted to deal with it and take it out of the agencies that shouldn’t be dealing with it and should be dealing with securing our Nation and fighting the enemy.

Mr. Chairman, I ask my colleagues to support the amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. CURBELO. Mr, Chair, Naval Air Station Key West provides key training and support for the nation’s military operations and readiness. The base trains fighter pilots from all branches and is home to the Joint Interagency Task Force South, which combats illicit narcotics.

However, most of the land in the Florida Keys lies at elevations 3 feet or less above sea level, making the Naval station extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise. But this threat is not unique to that station; many of our bases across the, country and around the globe are susceptible to the effects of climate change.

Recognition of this threat, and prudent planning for these contingencies, are vital to our military bases and maintaining the national security interests of the United States abroad.

I congratulate the gentleman from Rhode Island, and the Committee, for recognizing this and including language in the underlying bill asking the Pentagon to report on the vulnerabilities posed by climate change so we can responsibly identify and implement adaptive measures.

This includes an honest discussion of the realities of our changing environment.

As co-chair of the Climate Solutions Caucus, I urge all my colleagues to reject the Perry Amendment.

The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Perry).

The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the ayes appeared to have it.

Mr. LANGEVIN. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.




Perry of Pennsylvania Amendment No. 4



REPUBLICAN     185    46                 8
DEMOCRATIC    188    6

TOTALS              185    234              14




References: (Via Strategic Demands’ Associate GreenPolicy360)

Climate News

New Definitions of National Security

Earth Science, NASA, Data & Politics

Sea-Level Rise

International Climate Agreement


References: StratDem

Environmental Security

New Definitions of National Security


An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security


Imagining the Unthinkable

Security by Design: Environmental Security Is Homeland Security


Deep Cost, Costs of War