DOD: USAF Bases Most At-Risk From Climate Change Threats

The 421st Fighter Squadron at Hill AFB, Utah, which the Defense Department says faces the highest risk of climate-change-related danger of all US military bases, received its first F-35A Lightning II on Dec. 12, 2018. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar.

The Air Force’s base infrastructure is the most at-risk of all services from climate change, with Hill AFB, Utah, facing the most danger, according to a recent breakdown from the Pentagon.

The Defense Department on March 22 sent an updated analysis of the military bases most likely to be affected by climate change, including recurrent flooding, drought, desertification, wildfires, and thawing permafrost. The list was originally sent to Congress in January but lawmakers criticized the report for not adequately addressing the threats.

The new list, which is broken down by the Departments of the Air Force, Army, and Navy, outlines current and potential threats, and finds there is a high threat—both now and in the future—of flooding, drought, desertification, and wildfires at Hill. The other at-risk Air Force installations, in order, are:

  • Beale AFB, Calif.
  • Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
  • Greeley ANGS, Colo.
  • Eglin AFB, Fla.
  • Patrick AFB, Fla.
  • JB Andrews, Md.
  • Malmstrom AFB, Mont.
  • Tinker AFB, Okla.
  • Shaw AFB, S.C.
  • JB San Antonio, Texas.

Using the weighted scale of the mentioned threats, these Air Force bases are more at-risk than all but Fort Hood, Texas, which also faces a high danger of current and future flooding, drought, and wildfires. The report does not list Tyndall AFB, Fla., which was nearly destroyed by a hurricane in October 2018. Even before the base could clear the debris, it was struck by a tornado, causing even more damage. Offutt AFB, Neb., also is excluded from the list, even though the base recently suffered from severe flooding.

The Air Force has said it will need nearly $5 billion in supplemental funding to rebuild the two bases, or else it will be forced to take that money from other mission areas, which will severely impact readiness.

The Navy’s most at-risk location is NAS Key West, Fla., with a current and future risk of recurrent flooding and drought.

The analysis was provided to Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), the chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on intelligence, emerging threats, and capabilities. In a statement, Langevin criticized the new analysis for not including overseas bases, and not even mentioning bases that have recently faced damage from natural disasters. It also does not propose solutions, he said.

“Most importantly, it continues to lack any assessment of the funds Congress will need to appropriate to mitigate the ever increasing risks to our service members,” Langevin said.