President Trump’s nominee to oversee Navy facilities said Thursday she would make handling threats from climate change and rising sea levels a top priority for the service if confirmed.
Phyllis Bayer testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that climate change is already causing issues for the Navy and she would delve even deeper into the issue than required by Congress, which has ordered a report on the 10 military facilities most threatened by changing climates.
“I commit to you, senator, that in the effort that the Department of the Navy will be contributing to that study for the Department of Defense I will look even further into those issues,” Bayer told Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, a committee member.
The report was part of Congress’ annual National Defense Authorization Act, which also deems climate change a “direct threat” to U.S. national security that is endangering 128 military bases.
Trump signed the NDAA but the law is at odds with his new National Security Strategy, which dropped the past administration’s references to climate change in favor of focuses on the U.S. business and economic climate.
Climate change and sea level rise “is one of my top priorities if confirmed in the job,” said Bayer, who is nominated to be assistant Navy secretary for installations, energy, and the environment. “It’s affecting the infrastructure and it’s adding to the expense of the department’s infrastructure costs and maintenance.”
Bayer, whose nomination was announced in November, said measurements at Navy facilities in Norfolk, Va. — the largest in the world — have shown a sea level rise of 8-10 inches over the past century. She is a graduate of the National Defense University and has held several management positions at the Pentagon and was most recently chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for readiness.
King had asked Bayer to commit to doing a study on naval assets around the world and how they would be affected by sea rise.
“We can talk about climate change in a variety of ways but one is sea level rise and it’s happening, it’s visible and it seems to be accelerating,” King said. “I think we need to know where our problems are.”
A Navy study would identify the most serious threats and allow the public to understand rising sea levels are a “practical, dollars-and-cents problem” and not an abstract problem, he said.
“Exactly, senator, it’s a real problem,” Bayer replied.