Army Lays Out Ambitious Goals to Combat Climate Change, Including Electric Tactical Vehicles

Louisiana National Guard tactical vehicles transport flood relief supplies
Louisiana Army National Guard tactical vehicles transport flood relief supplies in Denham Springs, August 15, 2016, after 30 inches of rainfall inundated portions of Southeast Louisiana. (Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Paul Meeker)

The Army wants to slash its carbon footprint, cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and have a fully electric fleet of vehicles in the coming years, according to the service's new strategy aimed at mitigating climate change.

But there are two problems: The Army has given no insight into what funding will be required to accomplish its mission and the ambitious goals could easily be derailed if a different presidential administration steps in by 2024.

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, who was appointed by President Joe Biden last year, has directed the service's attention to find ways to mitigate climate change.

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Among the chief concerns the Army has is the frequency of more severe weather events such as floods, droughts and famine throughout the world. More natural disasters could lead to more humanitarian deployments or even hoarding of natural resources by foreign governments or terrorist groups, which could increase the odds of conflict.

"The effects of climate change have taken a toll on supply chains, damaged our infrastructure, and increased risks to Army soldiers and families due to natural disasters and extreme weather," Wormuth said in the report.

The document, which the service is calling its "Climate Strategy," mostly focuses on domestic efforts to reduce the environmental impact Army bases and their equipment have in contributing to global warming.

The 20-page proposal was released Tuesday and includes specific goals such as accomplishing a "50% reduction in GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions," aiming to "reduce operational energy and water use," and "provide 100% carbon-pollution-free electricity for Army installations" within the next decade.

Notably, the Army's most aggressive proposal is a plan to replace many of its non-combat vehicles such as sedans, station wagons, utility vehicles, trucks, vans and buses with an all-electric fleet by 2027.

And, after that, the service wants hybrid-drive tactical vehicles by 2035 and fully electric tactical vehicles available by 2050.

When asked by at a roundtable with reporters Wednesday how the service would take on replacing such a large number of vehicles in such a short timeframe, Paul Farnan, the acting assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, said it has already started to phase out gas vehicles.

An Army mandate in September 2021 ordered that "all new vehicle leases, lease renewals, and purchases for AMC [Army Materiel Command] missions must select all-electric vehicles first, hybrids when electric solutions are not commercially available, and conventional gas vehicles by exception only."

But commercial electric vehicles and hybrids come with their own set of problems.

In a 2021 study,, a U.S.-based insurance referral website, analyzed data from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The group found that hybrid vehicles were more likely to catch fire than gas vehicles.

And while electric vehicles were low on the list of fires, experts note that blazes in battery-powered cars take much longer to extinguish. Manufacturers such as Hyundai, Chevrolet, Chrysler and BMW have all experienced recalls due to defective battery issues, according to

Farnan responded to those concerns, saying, "We're working with industry to make sure that we're not putting our soldiers or civilians or their families in unnecessary harm's way."

The Army was less specific on what tactical vehicles it would be eyeing to convert to fully electric by 2050 and if it was even possible, given the size and mission of Humvees, tanks and armored vehicles. Additionally, the service needs to address how it would charge those vehicles in a deployment or combat setting.

Of the nearly 30 items on the list of goals, none came with a funding estimate or cost associated with it. Farnan said a price tag for many of these initiatives is a "moving target."

Tackling climate change first became a major priority for the Pentagon under former President Barack Obama, but how aggressively the Defense Department confronts these issues has ebbed and flowed between Republican and Democratic administrations.

Notably, in 2017, then-President Donald J. Trump omitted addressing climate change from his administration's national security strategy, a stark contrast to his predecessor.

Farnan said priorities in the climate change report are subject to political change, but added that the threat of severe weather events cannot be ignored much longer.

"Any strategy or policy that an administration and the leadership puts in place is subject to the changes and whims of a following administration," he said. "I think what people are going to see ... is the growing recognition that climate change is in fact a threat to our nation's security."

-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.

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