Heinrich Chairs MILCON, VA Subcommittee Hearing On Military Infrastructure And Climate Resilience

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, opened today’s hearing on Military Infrastructure and Climate Resilience.

VIDEO: Heinrich Chairs MILCON, VA Subcommittee Hearing On Military Infrastructure And Climate Resilience [HD DOWNLOAD LINK HERE] 

The hearing focused on climate resilience and how the committee can appropriate funding to ensure that the U.S. Department of Defense is building to the latest engineering standards, appropriately incorporating resiliency, and constructing facilities that most effectively decrease vulnerabilities.

Find a full list of witnesses and a video of today’s hearing by clicking here. 

Senator Heinrich’s opening remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

Good afternoon, everyone.

This hearing of the Military Construction Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee is now called to order.

I’d like to thank our witnesses for being here today:

  • From OSD we have Mr. Richard Kidd, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Environment and Energy Resilience.
  • Representing each of the services are Mr. Jack Surash, Senior Official Performing the Duties of Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy, and Environment,
  • Mr. James Balocki, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations, Energy, and Facilities,
  • and Mr. Mark Correll, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety, and Infrastructure.

Military installations are the backbone of our military’s readiness.

Among many other functions, they are the locations where we develop, test, and maintain equipment, vehicles, and munitions, where we base offensive and defensive systems, and where service members work, train, and often live. 

Ensuring that our military installations and the facilities on them are resilient is critical.

Today we will focus on climate resilience, and namely, the ability of installations to prepare for or minimize the effects of extreme weather events and other climate related disruptions. 

While DOD infrastructure funding and climate resilience needs cut across several DOD accounts, this subcommittee hearing is particularly framed around military construction funding. 

We need to understand how to appropriate limited funding, and must be confident that DOD is building to the latest engineering standards, appropriately incorporating resiliency, and constructing facilities that most effectively decrease vulnerabilities.

While climate threats are not new, the intensity and frequency of weather events has caused significant destruction to installations in recent years. 

We have spent more than $8.5 billion in military construction funding to rebuild facilities damaged by a half dozen natural disasters since 2018.

By contrast, in the twenty preceding years, we had collectively spent roughly $2.4 billion for the same purposes, more than 70% of which was attributable to just one storm, Hurricane Katrina, in 2005. 

Beyond the fiscal cost, there are operational impacts.

In the most prominent recent examples, we saw the destruction of Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida following Hurricane Michael, which caused the displacement of F-22s from the 325th Fighter Wing, as well as the storm surge and flooding destroying or rendering inoperable hundreds of buildings at Camp Lejeune, the East Coast Marine Corps hub, and Offutt Air Force Base, home to STRATCOM.

It is not just coastal and riverine installations that face threats from climate change; drought, desertification, and permafrost thaw affect bases all across the country. 

In my home state of New Mexico, we are seeing more extreme fires, longer droughts, drier summers and more severe floods when it finally does rain.

Energy demand and associated infrastructure is also critical to consider.

We need to ensure reliable access to energy using proven technology such as on-site battery storage and microgrids.

Recognizing the need to invest in climate resilience, the Committee has provided DOD with funding targeted for this purpose.

We regularly increase funding for the Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program (ERCIP) and in the past two years have appropriated $90 million in planning and design funds specifically for Military Installation Resilience.

I look forward to hearing from the witnesses about how this funding helps their services develop tools, conduct climate assessments, update building code, and plan, design, and construct projects to improve climate resilience – and any additional funding that is needed to accelerate this work.

While DOD has been taking steps, such as updating building code and developing the recently released DOD Climate Assessment Tool, it has also handicapped itself. 

DOD regularly defers investment in infrastructure, and within military construction accounts prioritizes new platforms over recapitalization of existing vulnerable facilities. 

As of last month, DOD had not yet issued guidance adding a military installation resilience component to installation master plans.

We have lists of the most vulnerable installations for each service, but it is not clear how that information is being used in planning and programming.

Deferring investment in the resilience of military installations, as climate risks become more acute and more frequent, is certain to exacerbate financial and operational strains across the Department of Defense. 

We know that many of the facilities destroyed by natural disasters were decades old, and that newer facilities have a greater survival rate.

I would argue that rather than just replacing facilities as they get destroyed, we need to target investment into constructing facilities that either directly improve resilience or mitigate risks at the most vulnerable installations.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about how we can best thread that needle.