|By Nick Simeone, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Climate and environmental change are emerging as
national security threats that weigh heavily in the Pentagon’s new
strategy, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told an environmental group
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta
speaks at an annual reception for the Environmental Defense Fund
in Washington D.C. Panetta thanked the organization for
recognizing Defense Department efforts to make military bases
and equipment more efficient and environmentally friendly.
(Photo by Erin A.
“The area of climate change has a dramatic impact on national
security,” Panetta said at a reception hosted by the Environmental
Defense Fund to honor the Defense Department in advancing clean energy
“Rising sea levels, severe droughts, the melting of the polar caps, the
more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for
humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” Panetta said.
Panetta cited the melting of Arctic ice in renewing a long-standing call
for the Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on Law of the
Sea. More than 150 nations have accepted the treaty, which has been in
force since the early 1990s, and a succession of U.S. government
administrations have urged ratification.
Among other things, the convention would guarantee various aspects of
passage and overflight for the U.S. military. Panetta urged his audience
to use their influence to push for treaty ratification.
“We are the only industrialized nation that has not approved that
treaty,” he said.
The secretary also said he has great concern about energy-related
threats to homeland security that are not driven by climate change.
“I have a deep interest in working to try to ensure from a security
perspective that we take measures that will help facilitate and maintain
power in the event of an interruption of the commercial grid that could
be caused, for example, by a cyber attack, which is a reality that we
have to confront,” he said.
Budget considerations compound the issue, the secretary said. The
Defense Department spent about $15 billion on fuel for military
operations last year.
In Afghanistan alone, the Pentagon uses more than 50 million gallons of
fuel each month on average. Combined with rising gas prices, this
creates new budget issues for the department, Panetta said.
“We now face a budget shortfall exceeding $3 billion because of
higher-than-expected fuel costs this year,” he told the audience.
Having grown up in pristine Monterey, Calif., Panetta said, he has a
lifelong interest in protecting the nation’s resources. He pledged to
continue to keep the Defense Department on the cutting edge in the push
for clean energy and environmental friendly initiatives, a chief reason
why the Environmental Defense Fund honored the department.
“In the next fiscal year, we are going to be investing more than a
billion dollars in more efficient aircraft and aircraft engines, in
hybrid electric drives for our ships, in improved generators, in
microgrids for combat bases and combat vehicle energy-efficient
programs,” he said.
“We are investing another billion dollars to make our installations here
at home more energy-efficient, and we are using them as the test bed to
demonstrate next-generation energy technologies.”