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DoD Must Account for Extreme Weather Events

March 29, 2024

DoD Must Account for Extreme Weather Events to Secure Supply Chains and Bolster the Defense Industrial Base

Extreme weather events are becoming the norm rather than the exception, and their impacts on global supply chains represent a critical security risk for national defense. As the Department of Defense seeks to embolden the private sector, domestic production, and streamline acquisition processes, officials must consider the intersection of severe weather and supply chains to truly harden our nation’s defense capabilities. Failing to do so will leave our defense industrial base vulnerable to unpredictable disruptions, weaken our strategic position on the global stage, and potentially compromise our ability to respond swiftly and effectively to national security threats.

This oversight could result in critical delays in the deployment of essential military assets, undermine the reliability of our defense supply chains, and limit our military’s operational readiness in times of crisis. To prevent such outcomes, the Department of Defense must adopt a proactive approach, not only in strengthening supply chain resilience but also in comprehensively understanding how extreme weather events will interact with key defense assets. This entails detailed risk assessments, climate modeling, and scenario planning to anticipate and mitigate the impacts of severe weather on critical infrastructure, ensuring that our defense capabilities are safeguarded against the unpredictability of climate-related disruptions.

The inaugural National Defense Industrial Strategy (NDIS) released last year lays a comprehensive framework for fortifying America's defense industrial base against the multifaceted threats of the 21st century. It prioritizes resilient supply chains, workforce development, flexible acquisition processes, and economic deterrence. However, as we chart the course toward a future where extreme weather events become increasingly frequent and severe due to climate change, it becomes imperative to integrate supply chain security measures that account for these environmental variables. In short, we need a strategic evolution of the NDIS to explicitly address the risks posed by climate-induced disruptions to our defense industrial base.

Our strategic competition with global powers such as China and Russia requires a defense industrial base that is not only robust but also adaptive to technical, geopolitical, and environmental shifts. The Achilles’ heel of this complex ecosystem could very well be its vulnerability to the cascading effects of extreme weather events that are now the norm across the nation. Hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and other extreme weather phenomena do not respect national borders or the boundaries of strategic importance. They have the potential to cripple critical infrastructure, disrupt manufacturing processes, and hinder the timely delivery of essential military components.

Commanders, operators, and logisticians within the Department of Defense (DoD) are briefed daily on local weather conditions yet face the complex task of deciphering these reports to make critical go/no-go decisions. To enhance the decision-making process, it is vital to provide in-depth insights on how weather phenomena will impact the mission of securing the defense industrial complex. Weather, as a domain of combat, necessitates clear decisions on when, where, and how we execute our National Defense Industrial Strategy (NDIS). This is crucial for ensuring operational readiness and strategic advantage in an environment where extreme weather events are increasingly common.

As we endeavor to bolster our on-shore and near-shore capabilities, building climate resilience into our logistic supply chain becomes imperative to prevent disruptions. The advent of AI tools from companies like Kontur has revolutionized our approach to climate resilience, enabling us to proactively identify potential risks and decide on corrective actions—whether to divert, hold, or take calculated risks. Such technological advancements are pivotal in maintaining the integrity of our logistic operations and ensure our supply chains are robust and adaptable to the unpredictable nature of climate-induced challenges.

Incorporating these considerations, the DoD must refine its strategy to encompass enhanced weather insights and climate resilience. By doing so, we not only secure our defense industrial base against the vagaries of extreme weather but also ensure that our military remains ready and capable in the face of any adversity. The integration of advanced weather forecasting and AI-driven risk management tools into our operational planning will significantly contribute to the resilience and reliability of our defense supply chains, thus safeguarding our national security interests in an era of strategic competition and environmental unpredictability.

To create a truly resilient defense industrial base, future iterations of the NDIS must prioritize the development of strategies that mitigate the risks posed by climate change to supply chains. This involves conducting comprehensive risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities in the defense supply chain related to extreme weather events. Furthermore, it necessitates investing in infrastructure that is designed to withstand such events to ensure that critical defense manufacturing and supply chain processes are not disrupted.

Enhancing collaboration with private industry and international partners, as highlighted in the NDIS, is crucial in this regard. Public-private partnerships can drive innovation to create more resilient supply chain solutions, including diversification of supply sources and the adoption of technology-driven supply chain risk management tools, and other capabilities to see over the horizon when it comes to bolstering the resilience of defense assets. Similarly, international collaboration with allies can help establish global standards for supply chain resilience that take into account the need to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of extreme weather.

Economic deterrence and workforce readiness, two foundational pillars of the NDIS, are directly linked to the necessity of fortifying supply chains against the impacts of extreme weather events. A workforce adept in disaster-resistant engineering, technologies, and emergency logistics can significantly bolster the defense industrial base’s resilience to such events. By focusing on the development of skills and technologies aimed at minimizing the disruptions caused by hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and other climate-related disasters, the defense sector can secure its supply lines and infrastructure. Leveraging economic deterrence through the implementation of resilient and adaptive practices ensures the United States maintains operational readiness and strategic superiority even in the face of increasing environmental challenges. This strategic focus not only protects critical defense assets but also supports the overall readiness and effectiveness of the nation’s military capabilities in unpredictable conditions.

While the 2023 National Defense Industrial Strategy sets a solid foundation for strengthening America's defense industrial base, it is essential to recognize that the future security environment is not only shaped by geopolitical rivalries but also by the global threat of extreme weather. Incorporating explicit measures to ensure supply chain resilience in the face of extreme weather events into future NDIS assessments will not only safeguard the nation’s defense capabilities but also demonstrate leadership in addressing one of the most pressing global challenges of our time. In doing so, the defense industrial base can remain a beacon of national strength, innovation, and resilience, prepared to face both the strategic competitions of today and the environmental uncertainties of tomorrow.

The Department of Defense must act with urgency to adapt its strategies and operations to this evolving threat landscape. By prioritizing the integration of climate resilience measures into the defense industrial base and supply chain management, the DoD can ensure that the United States remains at the forefront of defense technology and capability, ready to meet any challenge with robust, resilient, and rapid responses. The commitment to understanding and mitigating the impacts of extreme weather on national defense is not just a matter of maintaining operational efficiency but is fundamental to preserving national security in an increasingly unpredictable world.

Hoa Nguyen currently serves as the Chief Innovation Officer for Kontur, a geospatial intelligence company that leverages computational models to provide predictive analytics and insights. He's a Google alumnus and Air Force veteran.

This article was originally published by RealClearDefense and made available via RealClearWire.
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