Military tells GOP: Climate change is a national security issue
In a dramatic event on July 13, 2017, 24 Democrat and 22 Republican members of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus and 24 other Republicans voted against an anti-climate change amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2018. Members of CCL’s Climate and Security Action Team (CSAT) mobilized to encourage their members of Congress to cast a pro-climate vote.
By LtCol George Kralovec and Alex Amonette
Citizens Climate Lobby
Let’s take a look at this action team’s mission, history and recent efforts.
CSAT’s mission and history
CSAT works to inform and persuade citizens and members of Congress about the emerging harms to our national security from climate change. Since its formation, CSAT has accomplished this by:
- Providing the latest information on national security impacts of climate change
- Arranging for senior retired national security leaders to speak at events, to members of Congress (MoCs) and staff, and with CCL volunteers
- Providing suggested films useful for community outreach events
- Notifying volunteers and liaisons with relevant, timely information they can take to their Senators and Representatives.
- Providing internal and external resources for local outreach including panelists, media news, authoritative studies, briefing slides, and upcoming events
- Providing suggested media for letters to the editor, op-eds, and for letters to MoCs
- Working with our military leaders who convey with authority and clarity the impacts our military are experiencing now from climate change
CSAT began in 2014 with around 40 volunteers. Among its members is LtCol George Kralovec, U.S. Marine Corp (Ret.) and veteran Marine F-4 “Phantom” pilot.
In 2015, CSAT grew in response to the persistent and, in many cases, successful efforts by some MoCs to block the Defense Department from addressing climate change impacts to national security. MoCs would introduce harmful floor amendments to the annual Defense Authorization and Appropriations Acts, which were tough to push back against.
LtCol Kralovec said, “This was difficult due to the short notification of floor votes concerning these amendments. To respond rapidly, CCL created an ‘Action Alert Team’ that worked with external organizations who monitor these bills for time-critical developments. The team contacted CCL volunteers and liaisons immediately with recommended ‘asks’ to send to their MoC offices—primarily asking the MoC to vote against the harmful amendment.”
When the formation of the Action Alert Team was announced at the Climate Change and National Security panel at the 2016 June conference, over 50 volunteers signed up! There are 95 CCL volunteers receiving these Action Alerts today.
CSAT’s first test
In November of 2016, the office of a key member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus contacted their CCL liaison and asked for CCL to help with an “all CCL” effort to help defeat language in the House National Defense Authorization Act for 2017. This language would have prohibited the DoD from using any authorized funding to prepare the military for climate change, so the team sprang into action.
The CSAT team drafted a letter with input from internal and external experts. CCL’s Executive Director, Mark Reynolds, addressed the letter to the four Chairs and Ranking Members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees (comprising MoCs from both sides of the aisle). Mark requested they forward the letter to all 84 remaining members of their respective committees. They replied that they would do that. In addition, the CSAT team worked with Max Broad’s CCL Envoy Team of volunteers to hand-deliver hard copies of Mark’s letter to all 88 Senate and House offices—in just one day.
LtCol Kralovec recalled, “As volunteers arrived at offices to deliver these letters, they often found office military aides already hard at work preparing recommended positions for their Senators and Representatives to take at the Conference Committee sessions.”
He added, “We will never know exactly how much influence Mark’s letter had on the happy outcome, but it certainly left a good impression at the offices we hand delivered it to. A purely volunteer organization like CCL had come in that day with this kind of timely, concise, and well-constructed request for their MoC.”
Boots on the ground
An even tougher challenge came on Thursday, July 13, 2017. In the early afternoon, the CSAT team received an alert from the American Security Project about the existence of the anti-climate Perry amendment. With debate on amendments scheduled for 3 p.m. and floor voting on them possibly following immediately afterward, the CSAT team lost no time. They put together an urgent Action Alert to the team, provided background on the issue, and suggested wording of a brief “ask”: vote NO on the Perry Amendment. They sent urgent calls and emails to their MoCs’ offices.
LtCol Kralovec said, “The alert was released at 2:28 p.m. Eastern Time. The Action Alert Team volunteers and liaisons – those that even saw it that day – only had as little as 30 minutes to get their messages out before the 10-minute floor debate began.”
He added, “Fortunately, the floor vote was delayed until around 5:30 p.m. This provided more time for more CCL volunteers and liaisons to get their messages through to their MoCs. The Climate Solutions Caucus and other advocacy organizations also worked to get the word out to their congressional offices with the request to vote against the Perry Amendment.”
All together, CSAT Action Alert Team members and liaisons reported getting through to at least 24 Republican MoCs in time for the vote. Thirteen of those were members of the Climate Solutions Caucus and 12 of them cast a pro-climate vote.
LtCol Kralovec said, “We will never know how much impact the CSAT calls and emails had. And, clearly none of this would have been possible without the political ‘cover’ the Climate Solutions Caucus provided. But the feedback from CCL volunteers with the results of their efforts was encouraging.”
Andrew Holland, Director of Studies and Senior Fellow for Energy and Climate at the American Security Project sent a congratulations message after this success, saying, “CCL’s ‘boots on the ground’ proved to be invaluable in alerting members about this.”
Future plans: A call to action
With more potential time-critical points coming up in the process to reach final reconciled versions of the Defense Authorization and Appropriations Bills, there may be more Action Alerts coming in the days and weeks ahead.
If you’re a liaison or volunteer who wants to receive these CSAT Action Alerts so you can urge your MoC to vote the right way, email LtCol George Kralovec at moc.liamg@641kwgand ask to join. Include your CCL chapter, House district, city, state, and the name of your liaison. You can make an especially great impact if your Senator or Representative is part of the Senate or House Armed Services Committees.
LtCol Kralovec said, “The effectiveness of the Action Alerts is dependent on how many liaisons join the CSAT Action Alert Team,” so sign up today!
LtCol George Kralovec leads the Climate and Security Action Team. His career includes 26 years with the Marines, followed by 20 years with McDonnell Douglas and Boeing as a manager of aviation training and support programs. For more from him on the history of the military’s reports on climate change, head over to CCL Community.
(Climate change security infographic by EuropeanClimate.)