The far left's campaign to treat climate change as a national security threat could hamstring President-elect Joe Biden's Pentagon and cause significant threats to military readiness, lawmakers and experts told the Washington Free Beacon.
Liberal lawmakers have already signaled an interest in shifting defense priorities toward climate change instead of military superiority. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, which is co-chaired by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), announced in July that it would oppose a defense budget that does not include a 10 percent cut in military spending, citing climate change as a major concern. Representative-elect Cori Bush (D., Mo.) said she hopes to defund the Pentagon during her term. Senators Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), and Ed Markey (D., Mass.), meanwhile, have touted a similar defense budget cut resolution with the support of Greenpeace and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
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Such misplaced priorities could cause significant problems for America's national defense, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.) said. "Cutting the defense budget because you're too much of a coward to do anything about entitlements is going to be the one thing that guarantees a future conflict."
The same group of lawmakers advocating for Pentagon budget cuts have also supported an expansive domestic agenda that includes the Green New Deal and Medicare For All. Recent changes to House Democratic leadership rules stand to boost progressives' influence.
"If we're not careful, we push ourselves into positions where we sub-optimize defense in favor of climate change," Heritage Foundation Center of National Defense director Thomas Spoehr said. "I think it just dilutes what the Department of Defense is really trying to get after."
Outgoing House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mac Thornberry (R., Texas) said the campaign against fossil fuels would hinder military readiness.
"Where we get into trouble is if there's some other sort of agenda to ban fossil fuels or something like that which would significantly impair our ability to conduct military operations," Thornberry told the Free Beacon. "You can't just take a pause and fix everything just the way you want it. The world doesn't allow you to. We have to maintain the highest levels of military readiness while these other technologies are being pursued."
It appears that many costly environmentalist ideas could influence a Biden administration's Department of Defense. Michèle Flournoy, President-elect Biden's presumptive nominee to lead the Pentagon, has spoken about the need to develop and put climate-change initiatives into operation in the department. Flournoy, former president Barack Obama's number two at the Pentagon from 2009 to 2012, speaks regularly about the idea of "greening" the Department of Defense through initiatives such as creating a new office for energy innovation that would focus on adopting green technologies and combating climate change from the national-security side.
"Climate change is a national-security threat because it's going to affect vital American interests," Flournoy said in a 2019 video from National Security Action, a left-leaning PAC started by Obama administration alumnus Ben Rhodes. "The [Trump] administration has put its head in the sand on this."
Experimenting with a more environmentally friendly approach to the Pentagon has been tried—and has failed—before. In 2010, Obama Defense Department appointees tested expensive biofuels as a replacement for typical fuels for the Pacific fleet, running up a $12 million dollar bill. Republicans blasted the attempt as deeply irresponsible, as biofuel cost $27 per gallon compared with the $3.50 per gallon spent on conventional military fuel.
Spoehr warned that an overemphasis on the environment could also allow U.S. adversaries, such as China, to gain the upper hand in defense production. Unencumbered by the same environmental regulations, China is able to produce navy destroyers and aircraft carriers at a rate far surpassing America's, closing the ship gap rapidly, Spoehr said.