In Chapter 13 of Trends Converging!, we wrote about the moves of President Barack Obama to instill greater sustainability policies and actions by the Federal government in all agencies and departments. President Obama had issued 228 Executive Orders through May 2016** (at the time of my writing), including a number of EOs related to US government sustainability.

The first (#13514) was issued on October 5, 2009, in the first year of first term of the Obama Administration: "Focused on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Preparedness." This was succeeded by EO #13693, issued March 19, 2015: "Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade." The latter was more sweeping in scope, giving the Federal departments and agencies marching orders, and environmental goals and objectives.

Keeping in mind that the US government is the world's largest buyer of goods and services -- and so over time there will be ripple effects for suppliers - such as those providing goods and services to the Department of Defense.

The future of the course set by these and other Obama Administration sustainability efforts was of course in question as a new administration came into office on January 20, 2017, and new department heads were confirmed and moved into their offices (at DOD, Energy, US EPA, and more).

Given the size of the Department of Defense -- employee count, buying power, R&D funding for future technologies and equipment, space occupied in the USA and around the world such as Air Force Bases -- an important question is "where are we today"?

Part of the answer comes in a current communication from The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington DC, which publishes "The Daily Signal" email news update. The headline:Most of Obama's Green Policies Persist at Department of Defense, a post by the White House correspondent, Fred Lucas.

Notes Lucas in his report: "As Congress considers green projects in a military spending bill, the Trump Administration hasn't staked out a strong case on whether to roll back the Obama Administration's aggressive push for biofuels, wind, solar, and other renewables in the military.

The latest managers to go through the congressional nomination process was nominee Richard V. Spencer, standing for the post of Secretary of the Navy at DOD. He told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he "was watchful of climate change," Lucas tells us. "The Navy is totally aware of rising water issues, storm issues, and we must protect our infrastructure...I will work hard to make sure we are keeping an eye on that, because if we lose infrastructure, we lose readiness."

The House of Representatives is working on the budget for FY 2017-2018 (starts in November). This includes the "National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2018." In these discussions (as in others regarding budgeting) the subject of climate change comes up.

Last month the House Armed Services Committee OK'd a directive to the DOD to assess 10 bases in each branch (Army, Navy, USMC, USAF, etc) to identify those that could be affected by climate change. And, instructed the DOD to consider climate change as a security risk.

Which the Department of Defense had done two years ago -- in 2015 the statement was:

"The DOD's primary responsibility is to protect national security interests around the world. This involves all aspects of the global security environment and planning appropriately for potential contingencies and the possibility of unexpected developments both in near- and longer-terms.

"...in this context the Department must consider the effects of climate change -- such as sea level rise, shifting climate zones...and how these could impact national security..."

Said the Department of Defense on July 29, 2015, in "Report on National Security Implications of Climate-Related Risks and a Changing Climate":

"Global climate change will aggravate such problems as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries."

Climate change is a security risk, the DOD leadership told the US Senate Appropriations Committee. Each of the armed services' combatant commands was asked to identify the most serious and likely climate-related security risks and describe the ways the commands were integrating risk management into their planning processes. The way that large private sector companies are doing in their sustainability journey and risk management planning.

The commands are responsible for such areas as the USA (domestic security), the Arctic, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and South America.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, Lucas noted in his Daily Signal report, had in 2015 said more than 100 bases could be underwater with rising sea levels.

Of course, there is Republican opposition: One representative sponsored an amendment to kill the Obama 2015 EO that ordered the military to meet certain emission reduction targets. Another want to remove language (the assessment) to "save money."

The Center for Energy and the Environment at the right-leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute noted that President Trump was already moving on "green energy programs" at the DOD.

President Obama's EO #13563 -- the first one for sustainability -- was rescinded by President Trump to directed government agencies to address climate change challenges.

DOD Secretary James Mattis -- a retired US Marine Corps general, and former commander of the US Central Command, which directs operations in the volatile Middle East, and parts of Africa -- and also known to his troops as "Mad Dog" and "Warrior Monk" -- is on record with the following to the US Senate: "Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating..."

As for President Trump's actions on President Obama's Executive Orders addressing sustainability, in issuing the EO (on March 28, 2017) -- "President Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth" -- there is the following language contained in the EO:

Section 3 - Rescission of Certain Energy and Climate-Related Presidential and Regulatory Action, the Following Presidential Actions are Hereby Revoked:

  • Executive Order #13653, November 2013, Preparing the United States for the impacts of Climate Change;
  • Presidential Memo of June 25, 2013, Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standard;
  • President Memorandum of November 3, 2015, Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment;
  • Presidential Memo of September 21, 2016, Climate Change and National Security.

The EO also rescinded two important reports:

  • The White House's June 2013 report on the President's Climate Action Plan; and
  • the report of the President, March 2014, Climate Change Plan Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions.

Of course, these are being challenged in various ways by Trump opponents, including in Federal court cases. We shall see where Trump Administration actions take the nation -- and the world -- on climate change actions and outcomes. For now, we know where President Trump stands on climate change issues, and where the Pentagon stands, at least from Mad Dog Mattis's point of view. 

President Barack Obama issued fewer Executive Orders on average since the 19th Century occupants of the White House, says Fact Tank. There were 277 issued over his eight years in office. Other actions could include President Memoranda and Proclamations. .