Military Spending Goes Up, Carbon Bootprint Goes Down

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U.S. Military Reduces Its Carbon BootprintYou wouldn’t know it by this week’s headlines, but the truth is that President Obama’s proposed military budget actually increases military spending by about 4%.  Much of the histrionics and hand-wringing about budget cuts concern specific unsustainable weapons programs like the F-22.  Well, as long as gearheads are running the newsrooms, gear will grab the headlines, but it’s military sustainability that’s the critical issue here.

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1.  The Military and Sustainability – Past

History is full of examples demonstrating that superior firepower is not always equivalent to winning any one particular fight.  One word: Spartans!

Firepower is not always equivalent to winning the war, either.  General George Washington managed to sustain a notoriously underfunded operation in a seven-year effort against a world superpower culminating in — well, let’s just say that if General Cornwallis had paid a little more attention to sustainability, he would have kept his army in readiness instead of chasing Washington’s protege General Nathanael Greene all over the map.  Cornwallis exhausted his stores and his men, setting himself up for an easy defeat by Washington at Yorktown (with a little help from the French, thank you).

2.  The Military and Sustainability – Present

Green Options has been reporting regularly on the U.S. military’s recent efforts to push sustainability in its operations and in its sustainability directives; we civilians would call it greening.  High-tech solutions like green ammunition and jet fuel from algae are just two of the recent manifestations of this effort.  At the end of 2008, the Army demonstrated its commitment to a comprehensive approach by releasing its first ever sustainability report.  The bottom line?  A small but growing chunk of our defense budget is dedicated to sustainability.

Troop safety is a strong factor in focusing on military sustainability, one example being fewer fuel convoys to escort.  Saving the planet is also pushing the trend, as reported in an article on the U.S. Military home page that highlighted the army’s recent proof-of-concept study to measure greenhouse gas emissions at twelve of its bases.

Another indication that the military is serious about tackling global warming: the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently announced that it would turn its attention to a geoengineering solution.  As a matter of overall policy, White House chief science adviser John Holdren has made it clear that geoengineering is not a substitute for other actions, but based on past experience with DARPA programs (it invented the Internet, after all), the research could lead to unanticipated breakthroughs.

3.  Why Cut the F-22?

The F-22 is a perfect example of an militarily unsustainable weapons system that is sustainable mainly by virtue of a political equation, jobs = votes.  That equation is a powerful driver for programs that don’t make too much sense in military terms.  When jobs are in short supply, support for these programs naturally ratchets up, not down.  But with President Obama intent on increasing or at least maintaining the military budget at present, it’s not a stretch to assume that somewhere in the halls of policy-making, the policy makers are taking into account the job creating potential of pushing military sustainability, and counting on green collar jobs in the defense sector to replace those lost to cutting unsustainable weapons programs.

Image: j. botter on flickr.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

Tina Casey has 3244 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey