The Army has to boost energy efficiency and prepare for extreme weather at installations worldwide in line with the Pentagon's new roadmap on climate change as a national security threat, Army officials said Tuesday.
"We're seeing the impacts" from global warming across Army facilities, said Katharine Hammack, assistant Army secretary for Installations.
"Wildfires, changes in precipitation, and increased extreme weather events are growing in frequency and intensity," Hammack said at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual conference in Washington, D.C.
"Twelve of the hottest years on record occurred in the last 15 years," Hammack said in describing the impact of climate change on Army life.
At the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, in the Mojave Desert, the troops recently went through flooding in one month, followed by drought the next month, Hammack said.
All Army installations in California have been coping with drought, and nationwide Army bases have been experiencing a four-fold increase in power outages, Hammack said Tuesday
To meet the challenge, the Army must do a better job of managing its energy, water and waste, Hammack said.
Sequestration has squeezed funding for installations, Hammack said, leading the Army to enter partnership arrangements with the business community to finance energy-saving projects.
Under the arrangements, businesses provide the money up front for the project and then earn a profit from the projected savings.
"The alternative financing is absolutely essential," said Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostwick, head of the Army Corps of Engineers.
Bostwick pointed to several base projects to save energy – a solar wall for heating buildings at Fort Drum, New York; a ground source heating pump at Fort Carson, Colorado; and solar hot water panels at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.
Energy costs were the "second largest single expense on installations after the civilian payroll" and had to be reined in, said Lt. Gen. David Halverson, the Army's assistant chief of staff for Installations Management.
In his foreword to the Pentagon report released Monday titled "2014 Climate Adaptation Roadmap," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said "we refer to climate change as a ‘threat multiplier' because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today -- from infectious disease to terrorism."
"Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict," Hagel said.
On installations, the roadmap said the potential effects of climate change could lead to increased maintenance and repair requirements for infrastructure, training sites and equipment.
One of the top priorities for Hammack in cutting energy costs was to get base commanders to pay attention to the meters measuring electricity usage.
Only a few years ago, "most bases had one meter and that was at the main gate," Hammack said. Meters are now in place at 96 percent of facilities in the U.S.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at email@example.com