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Military Planners Push Back against House Climate Vote

PHOTO: Jon Gensler, who was a U.S. Army tank captain in Iraq, says he became concerned about climate change after seeing how America's energy policy was tied to the deaths of two West Point classmates there. Photo courtesy of Gensler.
PHOTO: Jon Gensler, who was a U.S. Army tank captain in Iraq, says he became concerned about climate change after seeing how America's energy policy was tied to the deaths of two West Point classmates there. Photo courtesy of Gensler.
June 2, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Advisers to the armed forces are objecting to a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to stop the military from planning for climate change.

The Department of Defense sees climate change as a serious threat to national security. Last month, however, the House added an amendment to the DOD's budget designed to stop military plans for dealing with it. That has sparked strong objections from the retired military and civilian advisory groups that often speak out on issues when those in uniform feel they can't.

"It's not appropriate for Congress to be telling the Department of Defense what is or is not a threat," said Andrew Holland, a senior fellow for energy and climate at the nonpartisan American Security Project. "This is clearly a political amendment, as opposed to something that's really about looking at our national security."

The House passed the amendment on a largely party-line vote, ahead of new carbon pollution rules expected this week from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., the amendment's sponsor, said he doubts that climate change is real and thinks planning for it is part of a politically motivated agenda. However, former Army tank captain Jon Gensler called that "a nearsighted blunder."

Gensler, who grew up in Huntington and has worked on energy issues since returning from Iraq, said he realized America's military situation is tied to its energy policy after seeing West Point classmates lose their lives.

"I buried two friends who were killed by advanced roadside bombs financed and deployed through oil money," Gensler said. "If we don't minimize our energy use, to minimize the threats that climate change is posing, we're going to continue to put our nation's sons and daughters at risk."

Gensler called the House amendment "nearsighted and misplaced." In his view, when planning for climate change, the armed forces are being hardheaded and practical about the threats - because they have to be. Gensler said McKinley should "face reality."

"Every hour that his office put into this is a huge, disappointing waste of time," Gensler said. "I would much rather that time be spent in trying to help the coal-mining communities in West Virginia prepare for the future."

Calls to McKinley's office requesting comment were not returned.

The text of the amendment is online at amendments-rules.house.gov.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV