GAO report: Climate Change Adaptation - DOD Can Improve Infrastructure Planning and Processes to Better Account for Potential Impacts

According to this report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on behalf of the Department of Defense (DOD), American military installations across the world are to be severely impacted by climate change. The GAO was asked to assess DOD's actions to adapt its U.S. infrastructure to the current and projected challenges of climate change.

This report (1) describes potential impacts identified by DOD that may affect its infrastructure; (2) evaluates DOD's efforts to conduct vulnerability assessments; (3) assesses how DOD is accounting for climate change impacts in certain planning efforts; and (4) evaluates the extent to which DOD incorporates adaptation into its infrastructure-investment efforts. GAO reviewed DOD documents on climate change, infrastructure planning, and funding processes; interviewed officials; and visited or contacted a nongeneralizable sample of 15 sites in various regions and from each military department.

GAO representatives visited 15 military installations to more closely investigate climate impacts, and at 12 of them officials had already observed not only rising temperatures, stronger and more frequent storms, and changing precipitation patterns, but had also seen how those changes created “potential impacts of mission vulnerabilities,” according to the report.

Examples of direct climate impacts reported include:

  • A coastal Air Force installation in Alaska, rising sea levels, melting sea ice and thawing permafrost has eroded roads, sea walls, infrastructure, runways and 40 feet of shoreline, preventing large airplanes from landing and restricting flights to only small planes and helicopters.
  • In a training area associated with Marine Corps Base Hawaii, drought sharply increased the risk of wildfires, forcing officials to reduce live-fire training and limit the types of ammunition used. When wildfires did break out, they forced officials to restrict certain training operations, wholly suspend others, and prevent aircraft from landing due to limited visibility from smoke.

GAO recommends that DOD develop a plan and milestones for completing climate change vulnerability assessments of installations; provide further information to installation planners, clarifying actions that should be taken to account for climate change in planning documents; and clarify the processes used to compare military construction projects for funding, to include consideration of potential climate change impacts. DOD concurred with GAO's recommendations and explained how they will be implemented.


Publication Date: June 30, 2014

Related Organizations:

  • U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
  • U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment


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