The Defense Department doesn’t know the full cost or scope of threats posed by severe weather and cyberattacks to its bases around the globe, according to a USNI News report last Thursday.
Robert McMahon, assistant defense secretary for Sustainment told House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities lawmakers that the majority of facilities were constructed without considering how severe weather or cyber threats could affect the military’s readiness now or in the future, according to the report.
“Building standards need to be continuously updated, with what his happening with climate change and expenses incurred because of climate change,” McMahon said. “We need to be more proactive.”
Severe events at four military bases alone will cost roughly $10 billion, according to DOD estimates. In late 2018 Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., were damaged by hurricanes. In March, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., flooded from overflowing rivers and in June earthquakes struck Naval Weapons Station China Lake, Calif.
The Pentagon has more than 500 installations with more than 500,000 buildings valued at more than $1 trillion, according to DOD.
The HASC subcommittee has asked DOD for an assessment of the Pentagon’s risk exposure to extreme weather or cyber attacks, according to the report.
“I must say I have been disappointed in the department’s response to our oversight,” said Subcommittee Chairman Pete Langevin (D-R.I.) during opening remarks.
“The initial accounting of at-risk bases we received did not include Camp Lejeune or Tyndall Air Force Base at all. If those are the low-risk bases, one can only wonder what we are likely to see soon from the installations the department identified as being of particular concern. We need a clear accounting of the risks – with dollar figures attached – or else we will continue the cycle of throwing good money after bad, which is not only fiscally irresponsible but places our service members and readiness at risk,” he added.
The Pentagon is also required to conduct a comprehensive review of its cybersecurity vulnerabilities, though any review and corrective actions remain incomplete, according to subcommittee Ranking Member Elisse Stefanik (R-N.Y.).
“I fear we have not yet even identified the scale and scope of our problems, let alone begun to mitigate our most concerning shortfalls,” Stefanik said, according to the report.
“What I can tell you is, recently there’s $4 billion worth of damage at Tyndall Air Force base, there’s roughly $4 billion of damage at China Lake,” McMahon told lawmakers, “so as you look at that and try to apply that across the enterprise, there’s a significant bill out there that I don’t think we fully understand or comprehend the full cost of just on the facilities, let alone when we start talking about counter-[unmanned aerial systems], start talking about cyber and the other elements.”
“I don’t think collectively we understand what the full assessment is,” he added.
McMahon did stress he has requested each service provide him with estimates of necessary funds when considering the potential damage to military facilities, the report said.
ADC photo by Will Noonan