WASHINGTON, DC - Today, - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) released a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report they requested on potential threats to national security resulting from the impacts of the climate crisis on defense contractors and the defense supply chain, and the extent to which the Department of Defense (DoD) addresses climate change and other environmental risks during the contracting process. 

The climate crisis is an existential threat and we are seeing its effects every day, with record floods, terrifying wildfires, devastating hurricanes, and severe health impacts and the poisoning of entire communities -- especially communities of color. But it is also a national security threat long acknowledged by the DoD. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Pentagon officials have repeatedly confirmed to Senator Warren the threat climate change already poses to U.S. national security and strategic interests around the world. In addition, Senator Warren introduced the Department of Defense Climate Resiliency and Readiness Act in May 2019 to require DoD to better adapt its infrastructure and operations to address the climate crisis and improve its energy efficiency in order to strengthen military readiness. Contractors play a significant role in Department of Defense (DoD or the Department) operations. From FY 2017 to FY 2019, DoD obligated more than $1 trillion for contracted goods and services. However, while DoD has assessed the impact of climate change on military facilities in the past, it has not examined the risks posed by climate change on the network of military contractors that provide mission-critical goods, services and research and development to the Department.

After a yearlong audit, the GAO report concluded that DoD "has not systematically incorporated consideration of climate change into its acquisition and supply processes ... (and) has not fully assessed risks to commercially owned facilities that support critical missions as part of its mission assurance process." The report also concluded that these deficiencies are particularly disturbing because they pose a risk that DoD will not be able to prepare for coming climate threats to its facilities and "jeopardize DoD's ability to carry out its missions." To address these deficiencies, GAO recommended DoD incorporate climate adaptation, consistent with the Department's Directive 4715.21 on climate change adaptation and resilience, into its acquisition and supply guidance and issue or update guidance on mission assurance-related assessments for mission-critical commercial facilities.

DoD concurred or partially concurred with each of the six GAO recommendations and the senators urged the Department to implement them rapidly. The senators wrote: "We recognize that incorporating climate risk analysis into the DoD's contracting processes in a systematic way is a challenging task, but the potential risks to DoD operations and mission-critical assets are significant. If DoD fails to identify and address the impacts of climate change to its contracts and supply chains, it could jeopardize DoD's ability to carry out its missions." 

The senators asked DoD to inform them of their progress implementing the recommendations, including requesting a staff briefing no later than September 15, 2020.