approach to deal with uncertainties for which no reliable or credible probabilities can be obtained. While this 1987 report is dated from the observed sea-level rise data that it presents, its recommended approaches to deal with sea-level changes remain valid and should be considered by naval facilities management.30

FINDING 3.3: U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps coastal installations around the globe will become increasingly susceptible to projected climate change. Several assessments now under way on naval installation vulnerabilities appear to be focused primarily on static sea-level rise and coastal inundation only. According to these current assessments, some adaptive actions are indicated owing to already identified vulnerabilities at specific naval installations. The preliminary review of climate-change-related base vulnerabilities across the DOD—currently under way as directed by the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review31—does not include some important factors that affect coastal installation vulnerabilities, although it provides a baseline assessment across all branches of the armed services and serves as a starting point for more in-depth analysis and action.

RECOMMENDATION 3.3a: The Commander, Naval Installations Command, and the Navy Director for Fleet Readiness and Logistics should work with their U.S. Coast Guard and Marine Corps counterparts—and in conjunction with the other armed services and the Office of the Secretary of Defense—to ensure that a coordinated analysis is undertaken to address naval-installation vulnerability to rising sea levels, higher storm surges, and other consequences of climate change. In performing this vulnerability analysis, naval facility managers should recognize that each and every naval facility has a unique configuration and requires ongoing oversight of the changing risks as the climate system shifts. For example, local storm surge impact in climate-induced extreme storm events is likely to represent a bigger vulnerability than sea-level rise alone.

RECOMMENDATION 3.3b: For Program Objective Memorandum (POM)-14 planning purposes, the Chief of Naval Operations should prepare to invest in early-stage adaptation for targeted low-elevation naval installations identified in current vulnerability assessments as being at “very high risk” from more intense storm surges, sea-level rise, and other climate change impacts. Other risks for naval installations as a result of projected climate change require further analysis and planning at this time, but no immediate direct additional substantial investment beyond current budget plans.


The National Research Council. 1987. Responding to Changes in Sea Level: Engineering Implications, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.


Secretary of Defense (Robert M. Gates). 2010. Quadrennial Defense Review, Department of Defense, Washington, D.C., February.

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