HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Of the 79 “mission-critical” United States military installations operating today, the Pentagon says Hill Air Force Base is the most at risk for negative impacts from climate change.
The Department of Defense recently sent federal lawmakers an addendum to their January report on how climate change could potentially impact the department, ranking the military installations based on their likelihood of five climate-related hazards: recurrent flooding, wildfire, drought, desertification and thawing permafrost.
In a letter to Congress, DoD Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said the installations were scored and then ranked based on the immediacy of the climate threats. The report addendum says that though it had no potential for thawing permafrost, Hill was high in 20-year potential for the four other climate hazards considered and received the highest weighted score of all the installations.
Lord said the report used an existing list of installations, based on the importance of their operational roles. “Using this list of 79 installations ensured that climate considerations were connected to continued operational viability,” Lord said in the letter.
Marine Corps installations were considered but ultimately not included on the list. Lord told Congress additional details about certain Marine bases could be discussed in a more “secure environment.”
Aside from the obvious perils of a flood or wildfire on base, the Pentagon’s report said the climate hazards like drought and desertification could also negatively impact base infrastructure and impair testing activities, albeit in less immediate manner.
Hill spokesman Donovan Potter said base officials are aware of the report but did not have any specific reaction to it.
The base has a lot at stake over the next 20 years.
Crews on the base are working to develop a replacement for the Air Force’s fleet of nearly 400 Minuteman III nuclear missiles under the force’s GBSD program by about 2030. According to the Congressional Research Service, the entire program will cost more than $60 billion and run for 30 years.
The base’s Ogden Air Logistics Complex performs maintenance on all Air Force F-35s and has done work on the Navy and Marine variants of the jet as well. The complex maintains the F-22 Raptor, F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10 Thunderbolt, C-130 Hercules and more. According to a base fact sheet, the complex employs more than 8,000 military, civilian and contract personnel.
Hill’s two fighter wings house the Air Force’s first operational F-35 combat fleet and will own 78 of the jets before 2019 is finished.