Rising waters and repeated flooding threaten the military’s ability to do its job, protect its members and the surrounding communities, and safeguard buildings from water damage. The Jackson Foundation recently brought national attention to this critical issue by partnering with the Washington, D.C. – based think tank, The Center for Climate & Security, to hold a briefing at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, highlighting military base vulnerabilities from sea level rise resulting from climate change. Coastal military bases face serious risks to how they operate, launch missions, and even how they and their families live because of rising waters and repeated flooding. Military sites in South Carolina and across the country must plan for these rapid changes.
The day featured an impressive array of retired military speakers, including Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, USMC (Ret.), the former Commanding General of Parris Island; and Rear Admiral Ann C. Phillips, USN (Ret.), former Director of Surface Warfare. Public officials from the region, including the mayors of Beaufort, S.C. and Charleston, added to the discussion of the military’s preparedness and challenges it faces.
Jackson Foundation Vice President Susan Wickwire attended the briefing and wrapped up the day with observations. In her closing remarks to the crowd, Susan highlighted three key points. First, on the significance of utilizing the military’s voice, she stressed, “The Jackson Foundation had a hypothesis a few years ago about the military and the effective messenger role it can play in communicating the importance of the issue, finding solutions, and bringing in a bipartisan audience. We’ve seen that today. The military has gained credibility through the experience of managing resources and personnel, carrying out the important mission that they do, and strengthening the vital connections to local communities. At the Jackson Foundation, we believe it will be local connections that will move this issue forward. This has resonated and been confirmed here.”
Second, she noted the depth of concern expressed by military and public officials alike, explaining that, “This issue matters here. We understand the alarm. In the Pacific Northwest, we share a number of similarities – including military bases that are housed close to water. There are lessons that can benefit us in the PNW and many other places around the country.”
Finally, Susan emphasized, “We can clearly see the problems but we want to link those problems to solutions. The military – with the work they do on their bases such as utilizing renewable energy – is a great model for what we need more broadly in the country.” She concluded, “We at the Jackson Foundation supported this effort and set it in motion. We hope it will lead to further collaboration and new action.”
Frank Femia, chief executive officer of The Council on Strategic Risks and co-founder of The Center for Climate and Security, found it encouraging to see what he called “five pillars of a vibrant democracy” represented in the room, including members of the armed forces, journalists, educators, city officials, and nonprofit organizations. He noted, “These kinds of conversations don’t happen often enough. We can’t thank the Jackson Foundation more for having made this happen.”
The briefing received national attention from the media, including this article in the Charleston, South Carolina’s The Post and Courier.
You may watch a full video of the briefing here.