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Congressman's Amendment Could Weaken U.S. Military

Updated on July 28, 2014

McKinley doesn't think the military can manage its own budget.

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Republican David McKinley Seeks to Ban Funding for Climate Readiness

In spite of a growing number of reports demonstrating that U.S. military facilities are experiencing the impact of rising seas, one Congressman recently sponsored an amendment that attempts to ban the U.S. military from reacting to climate change.

Congressman David McKinley (W.Va,), a Republican up for re-election in November 2014, sponsored the following amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act in May 2014:

None of the funds authorized to be appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to implement the U.S. Global Change Research Program National Climate Assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report, the United Nation's Agenda 21 sustainable development plan, or the May 2013 Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order.

Military Leaders: The Risk is Real

According to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), 30 U.S. military installations are already at risk from rising seas and stronger storms, including naval facilities at Norfolk, Virginia and around the globe. In fact, Norfolk, which is the largest naval base in the world, is listed as the fifth most at-risk facility in the world and is already experiencing noticeable increases in flooding.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Defense 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) requires DoD to conduct climate impact assessments at its permanent installations. As a result the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SSERDP) has funded research projects that examine climate change impacts on coastal military installations. McKinley's bill would ban such research.

Decision makers in Norfolk, Virginia don't share Congressman McKinley's beliefs. They see changes happening in their environment and are taking actions to reduce the risk to their homes, and yes, coastal military facilities.

But the threat impacts of climate change is not all about coastal facilities. In direct response to McKinley's Amendment, which passed along party lines, retired Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, now Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations & Environment, explained that climate change is a potential catalyst for global conflicts, for which the U.S. must prepare and about which "We cannot afford to be wrong."

Just as McKinley chose to ignore hard scientific evidence to advance his own political agenda, he also ignored the advice of senior military experts with over 500 years of combined leadership experience, who released a May 2014 report that states, "Political posturing and budgetary woes cannot be allowed to inhibit discussion and debate over what so many believe to be a salient national concern for our nation."

In fact, that report (National Security and the Accelerating Risk of Climate Change), which was authored by the CNA Military Advisory Board, states unequivocally that a politicized approach such as McKinley has taken puts our national security at risk and could have a "devastating impact" on U.S. military readiness.

Russia Seizing Advantage

Also at risk from the Senator's misguided amendment is funding for strategies to respond to America's geopolitical competitors, who are working to increase their own presence in the Arctic. In fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken the exact opposite approach by making a military buildup in the rapidly melting Arctic region a top priority, while also moving to protect Russian interest in drilling for oil and shipping through the region. Even China has shown interest in the potential of a new North Sea Route, which is expected to open during the next two decades.

In short, Congressman David McKinley's amendment represents the very worst that American party-line politics produces. McKinley has never served in the military, having avoided service during the Vietnam War, but he has no problem sacrificing our readiness to serve his political ambitions: a lifetime appointment as a perpetually re-elected West Virginia politician.

Bad Politics Trumps Good Policy

Congressman McKinley's amendment is neither wise nor sound and could actually be a threat to our National Security, if not for the fact the U.S. Senate will never allow such an idiotic amendment to pass. In his own words, the Congressman proves the illogical and political nature of his amendment, stating in a letter to his colleagues, that, "With all the unrest around the global (sic), why would Congress divert funds from the mission of our military and national security to support a political ideology?"

Indeed, why?

When senior military officials agree that real world measurements, the actions of our competitors, and increasing global threats due to climate change all demand long-term planning on the part of the U.S. military, why would Congressman McKinley want to tie the hands of DoD decision-makers by restricting where and how they spend their budgetary funding?

Even if he believes, as he apparently does, that a rapidly changing climate is not a risk to our military facilities or strategic global interests, why would he feel the need to dictate military strategy and override the advice of men and women whose entire lives have been devoted to U.S. national security? Could it be that McKinley was simply trying to cultivate votes from his pro-coal supporters, as was Congressman Nick Rahall, of southern West Virginia, who was one of only four Democrats to vote for the amendment? If anyone favors political ideology over national security it is Congressman David McKinley, who has attempted to obstruct the decision-making capability of the U.S. military in a way never-before witnessed in the U.S. Congress.

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      Howard Schneider 2 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      It is amazing as to what lengths these Far Right Republicans will act to block common sense scientific programs. They pander to the most ignorant among us but most especially to corporate interests. They are endangering our lives and absolutely threatening the lives of our children. This man is a national disgrace. The problem is he is not alone and has some power. I fear for our future. Excellent Hub, Greg.

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