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Begich Urges Military in Alaska to Prepare for Adverse Effects of Climate

Report Conducted at Begich’s Request Finds Military Vulnerable to Impacts of Climate Change

U.S. Senator Mark Begich today released the following statement in response to the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) report on how the military can improve its infrastructure and planning to prepare for the negative impacts of climate change.

“Alaska is ground-zero for climate change and this GAO report confirms what Alaskans already know—it’s happening all around us.  The military owns a lot of real estate throughout Alaska, real estate that is essential to keeping America safe and secure and keeping our troops well prepared,” said Begich. “The military is important to Alaska, and Alaska is important to the military.  We need to get in front of these changes to protect the taxpayer, keep costs low, and keep Alaska ready to support the larger mission.”

In Alaska, the military contributes 10.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Defense jobs in Alaska in 2009 numbered 33,281 and the total annual payroll was $2.7 billion.  In the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the military accounts for 21 percent of our gross domestic product, 38 percent of community wages by dollar and, with an average annual wage of $78,285, is the fourth-highest paying industry. 

Alaska is a strategic position for the military and provides vast open areas for air, land, and sea training. This position is affected by the increased temperatures, melting permafrost, and less sea ice.  According to the report, climate change has already impacted Military readiness and training in Alaska in the following ways: 

  • There are runways the Air Force needs to keep the early warning system running that are falling into the sea.
  • The land is disappearing underneath radar communication stations because there isn’t sufficient sea ice to protect them from winter storms and erosion.
  • Training is suffering because of melting permafrost.
  • Over time, more and more buildings, runways, and facilities will be lost or diminished.

To download the full report titled “DOD Can Improve Infrastructure Planning and Processes to Better Account for Potential Impactsvisit GAO’s website.

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