Reenergizing America's Defense

Climate change, national security and energy dependence are interrelated global challenges. U.S. dependence on foreign sources of energy constitutes a serious threat—militarily, diplomatically and economically. And climate change is expected to act as a “threat multiplier,” stoking instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world and, in turn, threatening America's security.

Defense and intelligence experts have found that climate change can worsen instability as water and food supplies dwindle, storm intensity increases, agricultural patterns are disrupted and human migration across borders increases because of conflict or resource shortages.

Such effects also could increase U.S. military missions as troops are called on for support domestically and internationally. At home, the armed forces could be needed to support civil authorities, as they did during Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina. Abroad, the military's capabilities could be required in a range of humanitarian and security missions, from responding to natural disasters to assisting nations stressed by hunger and drought.

The U.S. military has a broad mission, including managing ambiguous or incomplete pieces of information, anticipating threats and, not least, keeping Americans safe. The military and the intelligence community monitor and analyze information and factors that can destabilize foreign states or may require humanitarian assistance. It is in this context that defense specialists and the military are addressing climate change and the U.S. “energy posture,” an umbrella term that encapsulates how DoD approaches its energy use, consumption, costs and sources and how these patterns, in turn, affect the readiness of the armed forces.

This report provides a brief overview of the important initiatives DoD has undertaken to lead in energy strategies and technologies. From operational effectiveness and energy conservation initiatives to renewable energy investments and digital grid research, the military is working to better understand the nature of these challenges and to find solutions that will help protect the United States and ensure prosperity, leading the way toward a cleaner, more secure energy future.

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Tracy Schario

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Phyllis Cuttino

Phyllis Cuttino is director of Pew's Clean Energy Initiative, which works to accelerate the clean energy economy in order to seize its economic, national security and environmental benefits for the nation. Pew advocates for national energy policies that enhance industrial energy efficiency, expand energy research and development and deploy advanced transportation and renewable technologies. She joined the Pew Charitable Trusts in 2007 as project director for the Pew Campaign for Fuel Efficiency, which played a critical role in passage of the first increase in federal fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks in more than 30 years. Cuttino has a background in policy, strategic communications and campaigns. In the policy arena, Cuttino worked on the senior staffs of two United States senators. In philanthropy, she served as vice president of public affairs for Ted Turner's $1 billion gift to U.N. causes. As a senior vice president at a consulting firm in Washington, Cuttino helped Fortune 500 companies and nongovernmental organizations to influence public policy and increase awareness of critical issues. Cuttino has directed issue advocacy campaigns and served in various roles for political campaigns. Cuttino holds a bachelor's degree in political science and history from Furman University. View Profile