U.S. Rep. Jason Crow on Thursday announced an initiative to convene military, defense industry and environmental experts in a series of discussions of how the Department of Defense, the world’s largest energy consumer, can operate more efficiently as the military grapples with threats posed by climate change.
The proposal comes on the heels of legislation introduced late last month by Crow, an Aurora Democrat and U.S. Army Ranger veteran, that would require the Defense Department to assess the climate vulnerabilities faced by military installations, including Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora.
“By making us a leader in sustainability and resiliency, we can promote our broader efforts to take on climate change and make ourselves more secure — and save taxpayers money,” Crow told Colorado Politics.
“It happens to be at the convergence of climate change, national security, good government and taxpayer prudence, but it’s being driven by concrete data.”
Crow said the roundtable discussions — dubbed the Sustainable Power Initiative — would kick off before the end of the year in Colorado and Washington, D.C., and are intended to develop proposals to improve energy efficiency and resiliency at military installations.
“What this is doing is taking the Department of Defense — one of the more conservative and bureaucratic agencies in the U.S. government — and looking at a need they have identified not because of politics, but because it’s an operational need,” he said, noting that Congress this week approved spending more than $2 billion to repair Air Force bases devastated by hurricanes.
“Nobody knows the level and temperature of the oceans better than the Navy,” he added. “It’s based on data, it’s based on what they’re seeing in their operations, and they’re asking for help.”
The Military Installation Resilience Assuredness (MIRA) Act, which is also being incorporated in the annual defense appropriation legislation currently under consideration, would require the Pentagon to assess weather vulnerabilities and come up with plans to mitigate problems, including for bases that don’t currently have such plans.
It would also set what Crow called “authoritative sources for data for extreme weather projection” even as the Trump administration “continues to delegitimatize scientific sources.”
The discussions, he said, “will leverage partnerships with private industry, government, nonprofits” to promote existing, innovative efforts to make military operations less reliant on fossil fuels.
“One example we can do is metering,” he said, noting that more than 500,000 Department of Defense buildings don’t have electric meters. “We don’t know how much energy those buildings are using.”
The first step, Crow said, “is you have to establish a baseline — fully understand the threats you’re facing. What this provision is going to do is create AN assessment so we can understand the threats and vulnerabilities and then start planning to address them.”
“I’ve learned in the Army that the first step of any operation is the need to assess the threat and create a baseline understanding,” Crow said. “The MIRA Act allows us to understand the threat extreme weather events pose to our military installations. By understanding the threat, we can better equip our military to handle our changing environment helping save taxpayers money, secure our national security, and — most importantly — protect service members. This measure and the Sustainable Power Initiative is driven by our military’s operational needs and will allow us to help lessen our dependence on fossil fuel and improve energy usage.”
Crow, who served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he saw first-hand the vulnerabilities posed by an over-reliance on fossil fuels in the field.
“From an operations perspective,” he said, “we lost soldiers because the loud diesel generators were used by insurgents to focus their rocket attacks. Our reliance on fossil fuels has caused casualties and caused vulnerabilities. We need to be a sustainable, resilient and independent force, and by moving toward wind and solar technology, electric vehicles, we can address climate change, reduce carbon footprint and make us a more secure and independent force.”