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Letter: Climate change is serious national security concern
Offutt Air Force Base.jpg
A hangar at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebrask, is flooded by waters from the Missouri River, Sunday, March 17, 2019. About a third of the base flooded, including about 3,000 feet of the base's 11,700-foot runway. - photo by Associated Press

If you consider national security a priority, please attend a presentation by retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Rick Devereaux at 5 p.m. on Monday, April 8, at the Hoag Auditorium on the campus of UNG Dahlonega. Devereaux is former director of Air Force Operational Planning and Policy, and head of strategy at the Pentagon. He will address the issue of how climate change is threatening national security and what the military is doing about it. The event is free.

One can debate whether or not an enhanced border barrier increases our national security, but it seems beyond question that the loss of two air bases and a navy shipyard will diminish our national security.

The recent flooding in Nebraska submerged the runway, halted flights, inundated dozens of buildings, and damaged one-third of Offutt Air Force Base, crippling operations at one of America’s most important air bases. This air base is essential to national security because it is home to the U.S. Strategic Command that oversees our nuclear strategic and strike capabilities.

The risk to the base has been known for a long time. In 2011, floodwaters reached within 50 feet of the runway. The military waited six years to get approval to reinforce a 19-mile stretch of levee. Approval came in 2018. Bids were approved in early 2019. Construction is ready to begin as soon as the ground dries out, which could be June.

The Department of Defense has recognized the risk of climate change for 15 years. In 2018, the Defense Department released a survey that highlights the security risks of climate change  to 3,500 military facilities. A 2019 Pentagon report warned that climate change is a national security issue.

Last October, Hurricane Michael damaged a dozen stealth fighters undergoing maintenance as well as 95 percent of the buildings at Tyndal Air Force Base in Florida. The U.S. Air Force estimates that it needs $5 billion in additional funding over the next two-and-a-half years to cover the costs of rebuilding Offutt and Tyndal Air Bases.

Not to be left out, the U.S. Marines have said that it will take over $3 billion to properly rebuild the damage done by Hurricane Florence at Camp LeJeune.

Meanwhile Norfolk Naval Shipyard is a victim of sinking land and rising seas. The sea level here has risen at twice the global average. This shipyard is essential for maintaining our nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers. In 2018, the Navy submitted a 20-year, $21 billion plan to modernize four shipyards. Norfolk is among our military’s most vulnerable sites to climate change.

Politicians and pundits can use humor and bluster in an attempt to con the public into believing that climate change is not occurring, but the safety of our service members is no laughing matter. Politicians can ignore science, but not nature. As Bob Dylan says, “You don’t need a weatherman to tell you which way the wind blows.”

Brian E. Moss


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