Kyoto Protocol Puts National Security at Risk

Published October 1, 1999

“The core problem for Congress in terms of national security implications of the climate change accord appears to be the lack of clarity or candor on the Administration’s part over exactly what it and the Pentagon signed onto in Kyoto,” Jeffrey Salmon of the George C. Marshall Institute observed during a May 1998 Conference on American Sovereignty and Security at Risk.

Today, some 18 months later, the problem remains unresolved.

The federal government is the country’s largest consumer of energy . . . and thus the largest emitter of “greenhouse gases” in the U.S. The Department of Defense (DoD) accounts for 70 percent of the federal government’s share of energy consumption.

But the Kyoto Protocol raises national security implications not because there is doubt as to whether the military can meet the treaty’s goals for reducing energy usage. The Clinton-Gore administration’s downsizing of the military has already reduced its energy use by 20 percent since the Kyoto baseline year of 1990.

The real national security question lies in the international controls the treaty seems to place on the use of our military. That question, as well as the possibility of further energy cuts that might be imposed by the administration, have raised concerns in Congress and among many military experts.

The Threat to Preparedness

Salmon quotes Sherri Goodman, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Environmental Security, as saying the DoD would be a leader in addressing the “greenhouse problem.” While it is difficult to know what exactly such vague statements mean, the Clinton-Gore administration has already made deep cuts in the military. According to the Marshall Institute, the Pentagon has already published a paper detailing the impact on preparedness of just a 10 percent cut in energy usage.

Salmon quotes that report as concluding:

“For the Army, a 10 percent reduction in fuel use ‘would reduce OPTEMPO [that’s Pentagonese for the pace of operations] . . . to a level that would downgrade unit readiness and require up to six additional weeks to prepare and deploy. Strategic deployment schedules would be missed, placing operations at risk.’

“For the Navy, this 10 percent reduction would cut some 2000 steaming days per year from training and operations for deployed ships, causing cancellation of both bi-lateral and multi-lateral exercises. And, since reductions would not be taken from ships and aircraft deployed in trouble spots, other units would be required to take proportionately greater cuts, meaning less training and ‘a potentially significant threat to crew safety.’

“In the Air Force, a 10 percent reduction in fuel use ‘would result in the loss of over 210,000 flying hours per year.’ Readiness would be reduced ‘to the point [that the Air Force] would be incapable of meeting all the requirements of the national Military Strategy.'”

International Restrictions on Military Use

The Kyoto Protocol specifically exempts multilateral military actions from energy use limits. It does not address domestic military activities, such as training, or unilateral military action. Adding to the confusion is Goodman’s assertion that domestic and unilateral actions are exempt, even though no such language can be found in the Protocol’s text.

Therefore, Salmon said, “we are left with an entirely open-ended treaty whose meaning seems flexible to a dangerous degree. And, among the many confusions that have arisen in this atmosphere, not the least concerns the issue of American sovereignty.”