WASHINGTON –-Producing a fleet of field purpose-built, hybrid-drive tactical vehicles by 2035 and providing 100% carbon pollution-free electricity at Army installations by 2030 are among the goals outlined by the Army’s first Climate Strategy as the service adapts to the effects of changing weather.
Additionally, melting Arctic ice has opened new trade routes in the northern hemisphere while increasing great power competition for natural resources said Paul Farnan, acting assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment.
Extreme weather and natural disasters pose a looming danger to national security and Army installations. Changing rain and snow patterns threaten water supplies.
“We recognize that climate change is a threat to U.S. national security and the well-being of the American people,” Farnan said during a press event Wednesday. “But beyond that broader threat, it’s also already affecting our Soldiers in their everyday lives where we have to operate.”
The Army introduced the new strategy Tuesday as the service looks to bolster its installations against those dangers as well as reduce consumption of electricity and natural resources.
By reducing fuel requirements, electric and hybrid vehicles will help boost energy efficiency, Farnan said.
“We’re going to increase the efficiency of the force,” he said. “We can reduce the amount of fuel required for our vehicles systems. And that's less logistical power lines that we have to supply our forces. Which means greater on-station time for the combat vehicles [and] less combat forces are being pulled off the frontlines to protect these resupply lines.”
Farnan acknowledged that the service will face challenges in developing the capability to recharge electric combat vehicles in austere environments by 2050, which is a key objective stated in the strategy. The service has also been researching hybrid vehicle propulsion and power generation systems to fully incorporate the capabilities into its fleet.
The Army expects the Electric Light Reconnaissance Vehicle’s first prototype to enter testing in September 2023. The service also plans to field an all-electric, non-tactical vehicle fleet by 2035 and will explore using hybrid vehicles if supplies of electric vehicles do not meet requirements.
Army leaders hope that in turn the efforts will boost Soldier and installation readiness and effectively build a multi-domain, sustainable land force.
The strategy outlines three lines of effort: The first will be enhancing installation resilience and sustainability by adopting the Army’s infrastructure and natural environments to climate change’s risks, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions while securing access to training land.
“As the Army optimizes the use of fuel, water, electricity, and other resources, we increase our resilience while saving taxpayer dollars and reducing our impact on the planet,” said Secretary of the Army Christine E. Wormuth. “The Army will mitigate and adapt to climate change, and in doing so gain a strategic advantage, especially as we continue to outpace our near-peer competitors.”
Second, the Army’s acquisitions and logistics will increase its operational capability while conversely reducing sustainment demand and strengthening its climate resistance. Transitioning to using more electric vehicle options will help the Army achieve tactical self-sufficiency.
The Army spends a significant amount of its sustainment requirement on its tactical vehicle fleet. The transition to electric will reduce energy needs, Farnan said.
Finally, the Army will focus on training its Soldiers to prepare for operations amid the impacts of climate change. In recent years, active duty and Army National Guard soldiers have been called to help relief efforts in the aftermath of hurricanes and to help fight the California wildfires.
“You're always going to have to be able to operate regularly in extreme environments,” Farnan said. “They are getting closer to home, we're being called more and more often for humanitarian assistance. We’re dealing with these devastating storms that are increasing in frequency.”
Under the training line of effort, the Army has built “climate literacy” to help Soldiers prepare for climate threats including “Climate 101,” a course developed by Army Materiel Command to introduce installation and garrison commanders to climate science and impacts to natural resources and posts. According to the strategy, the Army will incorporate the latest climate science knowledge into its training modules.
The Army has also adapted to operations in extreme cold by increasing the frequency of cold weather exercises in Iceland, Norway and Canada, conducting six such exercises in 2020.
The service will strive to produce carbon pollution reduction solutions after producing 4.1 million tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere in 2020.
The Army’s innovation plans also include installing a microgrid, or self-sufficient energy system on every installation by 2035, as well as self-power generation at each Army post. The strategy calls for reducing GHG emissions 50% by 2030 and fully eliminating them from Army installations by 2050.
“We're also seeing that the best resiliency for an installation is to have a self-contained energy generation system, rather than counting on anything coming from outside of the base with has more vulnerabilities,” Farnan said. “It just happens that renewable energy -- renewable generation -- is a really good bet for self-contained generation system on the [post].”
The service also hopes to build an all-electric, light, non-tactical vehicle fleet by 2027.
Finally the nation’s largest military branch will incorporate climate changes security implications in its strategy, planning, acquisition processes and its supply chain.