While China builds hypersonic missiles, Biden admin adds ‘climate czar’ to Pentagon

The Defense Department is planning to add a so-called “climate czar” to its policymaking apparatus whose role and responsibility will be to respond to climate change, according to a top official.

Though the Pentagon has already adopted policies prioritizing the issue, DoD undersecretary for policy Colin Kahl said that the division he manages is “one place where we haven’t done enough frankly.”

“If we’re going to say that this is a national priority and it’s a priority for the department, then it needs to be a priority for my organization too,” he noted at an event last week hosted by New America, according to Defense One.

“So we’re going to be making some organizational changes in the coming weeks and months to make sure we have an organization that champions these issues and that it is resourced to champion these issues, to make sure it gets integrated into all the various documents we oversee,” Kahl added.

When he was asked if DoD was planning on creating a new policy directorate that is focused on the Arctic and climate change in general, Kahl did not provide any additional details other than a general overview that someone was being considered to take charge of the issue.

“We will have a senior person who deals with the whole range of these issues, and we’ll probably announce that in the next few weeks,” he noted.

Last month, the Pentagon released a report stating that climate change has become an “existential threat” to U.S. national security.

“Climate change affects many facets of the military including bases being at risk in increasingly dangerous storms, the national guard being stretched thin responding to more frequent natural disasters and overall global instability driven by a warming climate that could require more military response,” Defense One noted.

Despite that, however, the Pentagon did not send senior officials to Europe this week to accompany President Joe Biden at the UN’s COP26 climate summit.

“You can expect the Department of Defense to be there when the agenda suits the topics where our expertise I think can be most brought to bear,” Kahl said. “You can also expect that in our bilateral and multilateral defense engagements, that climate will be on the table in a way it hasn’t previously been before.”

Meanwhile, the United States’ chief competitor, China, recently conducted a successful test of a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that travels at speeds too great for existing U.S. missile defense systems to interdict.

The Chinese “tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August that circled the globe before speeding towards its target,” said a Financial Times report, adding that the test caught U.S. intelligence officials off-guard.

“We have no idea how they did this,” one unnamed U.S. official told the outlet.

The report went on to note that China’s missile missed its target by about 24 miles, but the test was nevertheless considered a success.

Mike Pompeo, who served as CIA director and secretary of state under former President Donald Trump, went on to issue a stark warning about emerging Chinese capabilities.

“What we did for four years was make clear to the people of Taiwan that we’d be there to support them, to provide what they needed so they could defend themselves. And we made clear to the Chinese Communist Party that it was completely unacceptable if they took military action against the island of Taiwan,” Pompeo said.

“Those two basic facts were things President Trump was very clear he was prepared to defend. They could see that we did that elsewhere in the world when we struck Qasem Soleimani, when we fired rockets into Syria, when they use chemical weapons crossing President Trump’s red line,” he added.

The U.S. Air Force during the Trump administration launched a program to rapidly develop a hypersonic missile, and the U.S. Navy also has a program under development. But both are considered to be behind both China’s program and one under development by Russia.

A U.S. hypersonic test failed last month.

“Because the rocket failed the Pentagon was not able to test the hypersonic glide body, which is the key component needed to develop a hypersonic weapon,” CNN reported.

Jon Dougherty


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