Northeast Florida is home to several key military installations and hundreds of thousands of veterans. It is a crucial area not only within Florida but for broader US national Security.
Naval Station Mayport – Home to the 4th Fleet and third largest fleet concentration in the United States.
Naval Air Station Jacksonville – The third largest naval installation in the nation, home to 21,000 service members, including the Navy’s Anti-Submarine Weapons School.
Marine Corps Support Facility Blount Island – A port and logistics facility supporting Navy and Marine Corps deployments worldwide.
Northeast Florida is at risk from severe flooding, sea level rise, hurricanes, and extreme heat, all of which can disrupt training and affect readiness for military units. Between the St. Johns River and the Timucuan Marsh, the area is hydrologically complex and susceptible to storm surge as well as sunny day flooding from rising sea levels.
Recent resilience action on the part of the City of Jacksonville, like the hiring of a Chief Resiliency Officer, bodes well for the future. Progress will depend on complex coordination between the local government, state entities like the Department of Environmental Protection, Federal agencies like the Corps of Engineers, DoD, and FEMA, and even private organizations like the Pew Charitable Trust.
Investments in city infrastructure and updated building codes must be combined with multi-partner projects to keep Northeast Florida resilient in the face of climate change.
Panama City and Northwest Florida became the unfortunate poster child for military installation susceptibility to climate change in 2018, when Hurricane Michael damaged 95% of facilities on Tyndall AFB resulting in $4.7 billion in costs to Tyndall AFB. Tyndall is the training hub for the most advanced fighter jet in the world, the F-22, several of which were damaged in the storm. This key training program was disrupted for over a month due to the hurricane.
Northwest Florida and the Panhandle are home to several other crucial facilities, including the Navy’s primary aviation training bases NAS Pensacola and Whiting Field, and Hulbert Field and Eglin AFBs, home to the Air Force’s Special Operations Command.
As hurricanes slow and become more frequent, the damage and risk to areas like the Gulf Coast of Florida will only increase. Hurricane resistant infrastructure on Florida bases is crucial. New facilities must be built to withstand storms and older facilities must be retrofitted to resist the increasing threat.
Home to MacDill AFB and two of eleven worldwide Combatant Commands, Tamba Bay is one of the most strategically important military locations outside of Washington D.C. It is also squarely in hurricane alley, suffers from increasing flooding, including on sunny days, and will be experiencing higher numbers of extreme heat days – all of which negatively affect operations and training on the base.
The Air Force has taken steps to increase base resiliency, including installing an independent power plant which can keep the base running in the event of outages outside the gate. The greater Tampa area has also taken several steps, including Resiliency Officers for each county and an infrastructure bill worth nearly $3 billion to fix drainage and flooding related to climate change.
Florida plays an important role in U.S. national security. It is home to the headquarters of three Combatant Commands: U.S. Central Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, and U.S. Southern Command. It houses over 20 bases, representing every branch of the U.S. military. It provides key access to irreplaceable training grounds for U.S. pilots in more than 180,000 square miles of Department of Defense (DoD) controlled airspace over the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. However, climate change poses clear risks to these security assets.
Threats Facing Florida Military Installations
Scientists and the Pentagon agree: climate change–rising sea levels, recurrent flooding, hurricanes, extreme storms, increasing temperatures, and drought–already threatens Florida’s military installations, and the risks are expected to worsen over the coming decades. Florida’s bases must adapt infrastructure and prepare personnel to maintain force readiness and protect national security
Our military is already dealing with climate change:
Eglin and MacDill Air Force Bases (AFBs) have experienced persistent coastal erosion resulting from higher storm surges. and recurrent flooding, which threatens roadways and other key infrastructure. These AFBs have partnered with local restaurants to fortify the coast with discarded oyster shells, which dampen wave energy and will help reduce erosion.
Patrick Space Force Base has imposed strict building code updates to protect mission-critical infrastructure and prevent flooding-induced facility closures. Floor elevations have increased for all new construction based on updated flood plain and storm surge data.
The climate threats to Florida’s national security infrastructure are expected to worsen. Without action to improve Florida’s military base resilience, our national security will be degraded, and we will continue to pay for inaction. Our report on the climate threats to Florida’s military installations highlights steps Congress and the Department of Defense can take to improve resilience and our national security.
- National Security Implications of Climate Change in Florida
- ASP in the News: Gainesville Sun
- From 2008 to 2018, extreme heat-related injuries cost the U.S. military almost $1 billion.
- Our elected officials and the public should take a lesson from the military.
- As Climate Change Worsens Storms, the US Military Must Prepare
- Presidential Views of Climate Change as a National Security Concern
- ASP’s Senior Fellow Andrew Holland talks Climate Change on Florida Public Television