In Support of Hospital Ships:  A Need for Reform, not Rejection      

By Sebastian Kevany, Michael S. Baker, Deon Canyon, Al Shimkus, Wade Turvold, Mark Middleton, and Amy Russell.

A Noble History

 Hospital and medical naval ships are by no means a recent addition to the defense toolkits of many world powers, despite them, only in recent years, having achieved public notice and attention.  In the United States, red-cross style military vessels date back as far as the early 19th century; the USS Intrepid and Red Rover ships were designated almost exclusively as humanitarian aid vessels during the Spanish-American and Civil wars.  In the First World War, the USS Solace was used as a floating hospital; in the Second World War, the USS Relief contributed to repatriations of POWs, as well as the evacuation of Guadalcanal, and was equipped with specific facilities and design features to care for wounded patients.

Today, the USNS Mercy and Comfort, despite their limitations, have repeatedly demonstrated that (though with only proven utility in HADR response; not tested in major conflict) an afloat medical platform is necessary for the future. The looming retirement of these two ships that have served so well provides an opportunity to put the lessons learned from these platforms into the design and construction of the next generation. This will require a ship supporting kinetic operations in a contested area that can also be used to support HA/DR and humanitarian operations – or a ship that is specifically designed for the latter and which, with little or no modification, can support combat casualty care, including both trauma and infectious diseases.

 Troubled Waters amidst Pandemics

 Despite past successes, the hospital ship program has come under fire – metaphorically speaking – for being expensive, ineffective, and occasionally, critics say, even unhelpful or counterproductive.  At times seen as contributing to, rather than simplifying, the complexities of humanitarian or public health emergency responses, some in the humanitarian realm have also criticized the USNS Mercy and Comfort for interfering with nongovernmental organizations and other humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.  In parallel, some in the military realm have suggested that such efforts are inappropriate uses of military resources, while those concerned with associated budgets have raised concerns about cost-effectiveness.

History plays a part here, as well: the Navy acquired the USNS Mercy in 1986, and the USNS Comfort a year later. Each of these ex-oil tankers are run by a crew of about 80 mariners and staffed with up to a thousand medical personnel, and are part of the Military Sealift Command. Originally designed to care for 1,000 injured or ill service members, these ships have, since their inception, been underutilized, and are sometimes even viewed as a burden. Their combat-support role has also been peripheral, despite both ships present in the Middle East during the 1990-91 Gulf War, and the USNS Mercy returning to the theater when the Iraq invasion began in 2003. Since then, the bulk of their deployments have involved exercises, humanitarian visits, and a limited role in disaster response.

The global pandemic further deepened suspicion of the utility of hospital ships: the USS Mercy, in New York, served only a handful of patients, and at great expense. The risk of infections and outbreaks at sea are also exponentially greater than on land, making ships a questionable platform for epidemic response. Infection control is limited because of open bays and berthing. While USNS Mercy and Comfort have decontamination areas, the open-bay design and single ventilation system does not allow for separation of infected patients on ship without risking other patients and staff. That hampered treatment of patients infected with SARS CoV-2. Throughout the pandemic, the USNS Mercy and Comfort have thus often been notable by their absence – in spite of our experiencing the greatest medical, public health, security, and humanitarian disaster of the 21st century.   Yet such critiques may also be interpreted as a need to reform, rather than reduce, hospital ship efforts. But what needs to change for hospital ships to remain relevant and useful, going forward?

Complex 21st Century Operating Environments

The global commons is an increasingly risky place, with accelerating change from global warming; the Covid-19 pandemic spread; economic threats; ethnic conflicts, and rising levels of trans-national friction.  The world faces, also, increasing levels of asymmetric threats in the forms of heavily armed militias, as well as the emergence of cybersecurity threats to health facilities, infrastructure, and individuals. The world is also experiencing more complex, unpredictable, and prolonged crises due in part to climate extremes; rapid unsustainable urbanization; critical biodiversity losses; and other emergencies related to scarce water, food, and energy.

In turn, this drives prolonged crises via (for example) increasing numbers of migrants, refugees, and higher and higher levels of violence.  To compound matters, the victims of current conflicts and disasters are primarily civilian, not military. Further pressure comes from the emergence of both international and domestic terrorism; the increasing proliferation of autocratic regimes; loss of government authority; and the associated loss of health security. Reform of the hospital ship paradigm will need to be carefully mindful of these multiple operational threats.

 Lessons from Abroad: the Royal Navy Experience

 Currently, the United Kingdom has no designated hospital or humanitarian naval vessel.  The sole platform capable of providing such assistance, the RFA Argus, is due to be decommissioned in 2024.  Yet the Argus is technically viewed, because of her dual role, as a combatant ship.  There is, within the Royal Navy, interest in developing a new multi-role platform – but with a limited number of hulls and a multitude of interested parties, challenges persist (despite the fact that the UK’s commitment to NATO has increased its maritime hospital care demands).

 A strategic case for a British Royal Navy hospital ship, or the broader utility of a specifically designed HA/DR relief platform with a significant deployable hospital capability, has frequently been supported by both the medical and non-medical communities.  From a strategic perspective, it is projected that, by 2025, more than half the world’s population will live within 200 kilometers of the sea, and at least one-fifth of those living in low-lying areas (i.e. less than 10 meters above sea level) will be at risk from flooding and rising sea levels.

The impact of this twofold: (1) natural disasters will likely impact higher numbers of people more frequently; and (2) the ability of a region to deal with such crises within its own resource limitations becomes less likely.  In addition, it will increasingly be in the interests of the interconnected and mutually dependent global community to reduce the impact of such disasters, and to aid the recovery of a nation as soon as possible, in order to reduce the impact of any disaster on any other nation’s economy.

In order to respond to such challenges, in a timely fashion and in a way that produces meaningful impact, the most significant way that this can be achieved is from the sea:  modern militaries are now being specifically designed to support and deploy in support of public health, epidemic control, and other relief efforts.  The attributes of marine power – such as poise, sustained reach, flexibility, and the ability to self-sustain – also produce significant boons to the pre-positioning of responses without the need to commit a land presence, and can be deployed during emerging or seasonal patterns or threats. Extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Irma which devastated the Caribbean in 2017, are good examples of cases in which pre-positioned capabilities support the delivery of medical and HA/DR support to a littoral area affected by significant yet unpredictable events.

Within the British government’s recent Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, a commitment to responding to humanitarian disasters and reducing the impact of conflict within regions was restated.  Of note, this occurred at the same time as a ‘tilt’ towards the UK returning to operations in the Far East and Pacific region, where disasters are both more frequent and potentially affect larger areas.

Yet the need for a maritime medical forces is also to honour a support concept that is able to respond to war fighting, maritime security (including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR); constabulary operations; counter-piracy; counter-drug smuggling; counter human trafficking; non-combatant evacuation) and defense engagement operations.   This requires (1) a medical capability suitable for responding to a disaster or the impact of conflict, i.e. in the aftermath of a Caribbean hurricane or African Ebola outbreak; (2), a medical capability that supports deployed forces in a military operation within a littoral operating environment; and, (3) a medical capability that can be used to support of both civilian or military operations in order to build or enable resilience or growth in national capability.

In theory, these efforts could be delivered from a medical asset ashore, but the strategic and operational flexibilities which the use of maritime forces provide (freedom of access; poise; versatility; persistence; mobility) maximize the potential level of influence without the commitment needed or constraints imposed when deploying a land or air force medical asset.  The use of a maritime hospital capability can also be valued most significantly during the times of early onset disasters; deep water engagement; littoral operations; theatre entry; and theatre withdrawal.

It is during the latter times, where casualty rates are likely to be high for limited periods or events, and which will potentially stretch resources ashore or outweigh air assets, in which a maritime option offers both time and initial critical mass before other resilience initiatives can be put into place to resolve them.  The added flexibility of a declared and internationally protected platform also offers the greatest protection to those in need, without the fear of further repression or conflict.

 Reform Scenarios

 Faced with serious accidents, a growing Chinese maritime force, as well as rising maintenance costs, the US Navy intends to retire one current hospital ship (based on hull life rather than effectiveness concerns) and explore new options. Yet it is unthinkable that the hospital ship paradigm might be abandoned: opponents to such a step say that this would also, in an emergency, at the very least result in difficulty getting casualties off shore to definitive medical care in a timely fashion.

Fortunately, a number of notable and innovative alternatives have emerged. The first involves the establishment of a sea base, in the form of a ship that serves multiple purposes: the USS Lewis B. Puller is an Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) that is currently located in the Middle East, providing launch pad and counter-mine services; special operators are exploring options to install medical facilities in this highly flexible modular ship. Capacities range from discrete surgical modules to extensive medical capabilities with large numbers of patient beds, and the ship can be converted rapidly for different functions.

The second replacement consideration involves the construction of a variant of the San Antonio-class amphibious ship, which is around one-third the size of current hospital ships.  At $1.4 billion each, the LPD Flight IIA is 30% cheaper than a regular LPD, and uses a proven hull design with features that allow for five different configurations including categorizations such as ‘Humanitarian Operations’ and ‘Hospital Ship’.

A third option is a modified dual-hulled Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF), with helicopter landing capacity and a significantly lower cost of $180 million. Current EPFs, previously known as Joint High Speed Vessels (HSV), possess a flexible and cost-effective hull that can be outfitted with a wide range of accessories, that include adding medical facilities, to enable the EPF to operate as a hospital ship. EPFs can also move at 50 mph, which makes them ideal as a provider of urgent medical services, potentially between (1) combat zones and ESBs or (2) land-based healthcare facilities. In all of the above, rotary wing access is, of course, a critical consideration.

Hospital ships must, then, be reconfigured for the 21st century world, not least to act as tools that can bestbe applied to the changing scope of warfare, public health; epidemics; disaster relief, and crisis response – which, in turn, today need to be focused more than ever before on civilian populations, rather than military.

In this regard, warships are very often forward deployed, and are significantly faster than current hospital ships, providing early and immediate aid in disaster scenarios. When teamed with faster forward-deployed hospital ships and used as a “combined soft power tool”, significant gains in U.S. image and goodwill have been noted via the use of both combat ships and hospital ships in Humanitarian Relief and Disaster Response (HADR).

 Cost-Effectiveness, Intangible Effects, and Smart Power Competition

 Another way of framing the hospital ship paradigm is in terms of U.S. Department of Defense strategic investment. In a theoretical scenario, what is better for national and international security: a dozen aircraft carriers, for example, or ten aircraft carriers combined with two hospital ships – in a situation in which there are already sufficient carrier battle groups required to meet mission?  Is there, in this regard, evidence that the US or other countries currently have ballistic or hard power naval shortfalls that require additional investments?

In contrast, the need for infectious disease and pandemic control investments has become a higher national security priority than ever before. If appropriately conducted, such investments (as demonstrated by the ‘vaccine diplomacy’ debate) also stand to have vital ‘hearts and minds’ (and therefore strategic and security) effects in potential international alliance and goodwill efforts.

Other countries, too, are gaining interest in the hospital ship paradigm. France, as part of its revised Indo-Pacific strategy, has increased humanitarian and other disaster relief investments; the Chinese Peace Ark has long been a prominent presence throughout the region in the HA/DR context. Rather than an arms race, therefore, the US may now face a far more benign, and potentially far more cost-effective, 21st century soft power and humanitarian assistance race. Again, referencing current developments in pandeimc diplomacy in the region – that demand enhanced effectiveness of and investment in such efforts.

Regional Power Competition and Global Health Diplomacy

The U.S. Interim National Security Guidance of March 2021 predicts the future global security landscape will consist of “pandemics and other biological risks, the escalating climate crisis, cyber and digital threats, international economic disruptions, protracted humanitarian crises, violent extremism and terrorism, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction” With much of our future therefore predicted to consist of health and humanitarian challenges, perhaps as never before, it is intuitive that the U.S. would wish to retain, and even improve, its capacity to provide assistance in this regard.

Moreover, hospital ships by their nature provide an intrinsic soft power element that many potential partners find attractive. Countries such as the PRC is also aware of such humanitarian dividends (as noted above), and uses its hospital ship Peace Ark with great effect. In this regard, the PRC recently commissioned a second hospital ship, the Nanyi 13, recognizing the soft and smart power value of these assets in the pandemic and post-pandemic contexts.

Future cooperative engagement with foreign nations, especially along the Pacific Rim, also requires that the U.S. maintain a continuing cooperation presence along with a rapid Humanitarian and Disaster Response (HA/DR) capacity. The related continuing regular contact with U.S. military forces through port visits, joint exercises, and regular assistance also fosters understanding, and builds bridges for interoperability.


 As the U.S. and other navies shift operations towards a more evenly distributed 21st century force, in terms of roles and responsibilities, having a number of smaller and more agile medical support vessels is a logical evolution in capacity.  Speed of response is often the most critical element of any HA/DR operation, an infectious disease outbreak, or a mass casualty combat event: the ability to gather biosurveillance information, and take fast action to move people, equipment, and supplies throughout the operational area almost always determines whether the operation will be effective.

A tactical and high-speed medical response vessel, whether converted from an existing hull or a totally new and modern platform is needed for future combat casualty response, humanitarian missions, and participation in cooperative security engagements. The future hospital ship should operate forward deployed in the theater on routine missions improving security cooperation, both independently and with the fleet forces to provide immediate combat support and humanitarian disaster response. Multiple, smaller, faster, and accessible hospital ships should be developed for 21st Century strategic aims.

New hospital ship designs and paradigms also need to be developed and continuously forward deployed with, or in proximity to, the battlegroups they support in order to provide for both the primary and secondary missions. This must therefore be a platform for the future of 21st century military operations – fast, tactical, defensible, interconnected, and above, all mindful in design and protocol of the primary threat of infectious disease control and response.  Such vessels must also be capable of making port visits to promote constructive and collaborative engagement, and act as a rapid responder (along with military assets and local security forces) in any humanitarian, pandemic, or other health-related crisis.

Communication with the fleet and with elements ashore is also essential – both (1) to function within the needs of the relevant command in a hostile action, and (2) to coordinate the resources of the broader group in a humanitarian action in support of the hospital ship. Smaller and more flexible platforms, which are distributable and can operate close into the littorals, may thus – as we have tried to demonstrate – be better suited to today’s global threat environment.

The real issue however, is not related to the specific platform by which HA/DR efforts take place – nor is it necessarily the associated personnel decisions that make this evolution an important, and potentially vital, element of national security. It is, rather, the capacity of hospital ships to support strategic, operational, and tactical objectives in the epidemic and pandemic realms which makes the capability to support either (1) a response to a disaster or (2) other humanitarian efforts.

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The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the DKI APCSS or the United States Government.
March 2022

Date: 2022/03/22

The Education Agenda: Enabling Meaningful Participation of Women in Peace and Security

By Dr. Saira Yamin[*]

The paper was presented by the author at a conference titled “1325 Women, Peace and Security Agenda: Ensuring Human Security, Promoting Sustainable Peace and Preventing Conflicts” October 28-30, 2020. The event was organized by the Moldova Ministry of Defense in partnership with UN Women.

“If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.” Plato. The Republic.

Keywords: Education, critical mass, diversity, gender inclusion, leadership, National Action Plans, participation, peace processes, security sector, UNSCR 1325, Women, Peace and Security.



 This paper brings the importance of women’s meaningful participation in building peace and security into sharp focus.   Acknowledging global trends in security sectors where gender inclusion is steadily advancing, it calls for increased and dedicated efforts to build women’s capacities. Integrating education agendas in National Action Plans aligned with UNSCR 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace, and Security offers a way forward.   Ideally, capacity-building efforts would focus on the following objectives: (i) Building a critical mass of women across a broad range of security sector institutions, (ii) positioning women as leaders and decision-makers in all spheres of national security alongside men, and (iii) diversifying women’s organizational roles and responsibilities.

Introduction: UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security

In October 2000, the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) sounded a clarion call for women’s increased participation in conflict resolution and prevention, peace processes, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding.[2] Looking beyond the traditional lens of women’s victimhood in conflict, crisis, and war, this landmark resolution broadened the understanding of women’s experience by acknowledging their contributions to international peace and security. UNSCR1325 and nine related Security Council Resolutions (Figure 1) reflect an ever-deepening commitment of the Security Council, UN agencies, member states, and civil society organizations to ensure women’s meaningful representation in national, regional, and international institutions. It is a transformative vision seeking women’s integration at all levels and in all phases of strategic planning and operations to generate outcomes advancing state and human security. While efforts to increase women’s participation in peace and security are underway, the emergent reconstruction of their roles challenges the historically masculinized parameters of peace and security functions. Rightly or wrongly, therefore, the UNSCR 1325 WPS framework is sometimes perceived as a radical concept.   Yet, it is a rational, reasonable, and realistic paradigm and not entirely novel.

At the most fundamental level, the WPS vision builds on several key characteristics of good governance. Traditionally, as primary caregivers of families, when women are politically empowered, they are able to hold governments accountable for the efficient provision of public services to communities, including for themselves, men, children, the elderly, and the infirm.[3] Their participation in decision-making processes is key to mitigating societal and structural inequities, promoting gender justice, and building social resilience.   Gender equality in good governance helps build the credibility and legitimacy of state institutions at the national and international levels, yielding additional benefits for everyone. Evidence suggests that women’s contributions to the workforce result in increased productivity and efficiency.[4] Their inclusion, in and of itself, helps to expand and diversify social capital and resource availability. As mothers and nurturers, when women are empowered economically, they are more inclined to invest in the quality of lives of their families.[5]  A study by Harvard Business Review establishes that countries promoting women’s equitable access to education and credit, and workforce participation, including in leadership positions, see significant increases in GDP growth contributing to overall development.[6]

Women bring diverse perspectives, skills, and resources to the table, both as policy formulators and foot soldiers. Their increased participation in peace, security, and conflict resolution processes is one of four foundational pillars of UNSCR 1325 and arguably the most important one.[7] Three other pillars underscore states’ obligations to women and girls: protection from sexual and gender-based violence; conflict and crisis prevention strategies and mechanisms; and access to disaster relief and recovery. Participation is fundamentally the anchoring pillar and enabler of the other three, providing policies and measures to deter violence, mitigate and alleviate the effects of humanitarian disasters, and effectively respond to the specific needs of girls and women. Increased and meaningful participation of women in policy formulation and implementation plans is fundamental for fulfilling the UNSCR 1325 agenda.[8]  Meaningful participation is also integral to incorporating a gender perspective in decision-making and crisis-response. While increasing women’s representation in security sector institutions is imperative, targeted efforts to build their capacities in diverse roles are critical and necessary. To be sure, gender diversity is the sine qua non for good governance, but optimal outcomes will depend on significantly greater opportunities for professional development.

Figure 1: UNSCR 1325 Plus

UNSCR 1325 Plus, outlined in Figure 1 above, refers to a package of ten related WPS Resolutions. It represents the Security Council’s formalized commitment to making it an internationally legally binding framework. Of note, 98 countries have developed associated National Action Plans (NAPs). [9]  The list grows every year. At the time of this writing, however, only 35 member states (36%) have allocated a budget for NAP implementation.[10] The perception that the agenda is “cost-free” continues to be a formidable challenge to women’s increased and meaningful participation in security sector institutions.[11]  Often, women’s professional development needs tend to be overlooked in predominantly male organizational cultures where gender equality policies are lacking. It may also be due to the low value ascribed to women’s work, low occupational status, or perceived scarcity of resources. Consequently, such environments do not harness the full benefits of gender inclusion.   Successful application of the 1325 framework rests on investments in the education and training of both women and men, civilians and military. The objective is twofold: (i) Advancing awareness and establishing UNSCR 1325’s relevance to organizational and national contexts, and (ii) building professional capacities at the strategic and operational levels to achieve sustainable and measurable results. Bringing women’s professional development requirements into sharp focus, this paper explores three associated objectives: (i) build a critical mass of women across security sector institutions, (ii) position them as leaders and decision-makers, and (iii) diversify their roles across the full spectrum of security sector institutions. It identifies security sector trends where gender inclusion is pursued through targeted efforts to advance durable peace and security.

Conflicts, Crises and Instability: The Imperative for a Gendered Perspective

To underscore the urgency of women’s participation in peace and security efforts, consider the Vienna Peace Process on Syria in October 2015. Except for one female delegate, this high-level meeting of nineteen foreign ministers was all male. Images of the peace table went viral on the internet to highlight women’s stark underrepresentation in international decision-making.[12] Women bring alternate perspectives, skills, and resources to the peace table, opportunities that are lost in their absence or token representation. Regrettably, this august gathering was not an exception. A study found that in major peace processes between 1992 and 2019, only six percent women were signatories, 6 percent mediators, and 13 percent negotiators.[13] On average, for every ten peace processes, only three involve women.[14] Evidence suggests that when women participate, there is a “20 percent increase in the probability of a peace agreement lasting at least two years. This percentage continues to increase over time, with a 35 percent increase in the probability of a peace agreement lasting fifteen years”[15]  Women broaden societal participation and widen community ownership in peace and security processes, making them significantly more sustainable. Nonetheless, the gender imbalance in problem-solving strategies affecting both male and female stakeholders has remained the norm at the turn of the 21st century.

Gender is a critical facet of vulnerability in fragile contexts. Women’s exclusion from decision-making processes, therefore, lends itself to blind spots and suboptimal solutions. Data from 21 international peace agreements in 2020 show that women’s and girls’ concerns were referenced in only six of them, about 28 percent of the sample.[16]   Exclusionary trends persist despite evidence that women have unique needs and are sometimes disproportionately impacted in conflicts and crises. Their experience is often shaped by socially constructed gender norms, socio-economic inequities, displacement, disruption of livelihoods, broken or inequitable access to public services and resources, and increased gender-based violence. Because women represent about half a nation’s population and are family caregivers in most societies, their vulnerability erodes social resiliency, the ability to recover from shocks, an attribute closely related to state stability and security.

Consider the implications of women’s vulnerability during disasters. Evidence suggests that 61% of maternal deaths worldwide occur in fragile contexts.[17] Maternal mortality adversely impacts childhood development processes and is associated with enduring political instability.[18]  In some situations, fathers too may have been separated or lost in the crisis, increasing children’s risk of exploitation and abuse. A study of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh fleeing from the ethnic cleansing campaign in Myanmar found that one in two children were orphaned, and more than 6,000 were unaccompanied a year after the crisis unfolded.[19] UNICEF reports that refugee, migrant, and displaced children are especially vulnerable to forced child labor and represent almost one-third of all human trafficking victims worldwide.[20]

Violent conflicts often present different risks to women and girls and disproportionately increase their suffering. This is particularly evident in the use of mass rape as a weapon of war to humiliate, terrorize and degrade the enemy. Rape was first recognized as a crime against humanity in the aftermath of World War II and then again in the Bosnian war (1992-1995), when more than 20,000 women were raped compared to an estimated 3,000 men.[21] In recent history, Rohingya women have been subjected to mass rape by the Burmese military in the majority of assaults against vulnerable communities.[22]  Mass rape was also reported in the three-month-long Rwandan genocide (1994), where between 100,000 to 250,000 women were raped.[23] Many other instances of the strategic use of rape in warfare can be found in history and active conflict hotspots.[24] Mass rape is often carried out with impunity. Several resolutions in the 1325 package address the systematic use of rape in wartime, yet lack of accountability remains fertile ground for sexual violence.

Women and girls’ death tolls during natural hydrological disasters such as floods, tsunamis, and cyclones attest to their much higher levels of insecurity.[25] The Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004), with four times more women than men killed in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India, is a case in point.[26] Women’s higher mortality rate is often attributed to gendered immobility through cultural norms constraining coping skills such as swimming or climbing trees. Additionally, there were context-specific factors, such as the tsunami hitting at a time when women were home and men were out on errands in Aceh, Indonesia.[27] Media coverage in the aftermath of the disaster suggests that the impacts on women survivors were also more severe, including forced marriage and rape.[28] [29] Overcrowding, inadequate lighting, and the lack of privacy in evacuation shelters increased their risk of sexual violence.[30]  Survivors were subjected to verbal and sexual harassment and strip searches in camps.[31] Single women and widows were marginalized during tsunami relief due to aid policies neglecting to recognize them as heads of households.[32]   During the past half a century or so, climate change and extreme weather events have caused a surge in natural disasters resulting in the destruction of infrastructure, disruption of livelihoods, conflict over resources, and displacement. These trends will likely continue, multiplying the security risks to women and the communities they nurture.

Transcending Vulnerability: Women’s Participation in Building Peace and Security

Looking beyond the lens of vulnerability, integrating a gender perspective in decision-making is an opportunity for innovative, efficient, and durable solutions to complex security challenges. Consider, for instance, women’s nuanced skills in engaging insurgents and armed groups in negotiations, a process that is complex, divisive, and long-drawn-out.   On the one hand, accessing rebel groups and getting them to the table is risky. On the other, rallying public support for reconciling with non-state actors generates social and political discontent. More inclined to rely on negotiation and soft skills and less on aggressive posturing, women are often perceived as less threatening and more trustworthy. History is replete with examples of women as safe conduits for initiating informal dialogues and in efforts to maintain communication. In Liberia, a grassroots women’s movement led to the termination of a bloody civil war that lasted from 1989 to 2003.[33]  In the Philippines, women have been on the frontlines of negotiations to quell a protracted armed insurgency in the southern Mindanao province. Although they were not included in talks until about 15 years after they began, women played a central role in negotiating peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest of several secessionist insurgent groups.[34]  Equally importantly, they galvanized public support for the process through extensive consultations with civil society.[35]  Dr. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, a university professor, and then President Corazon Aquino’s Chief Negotiator, led the effort to draft the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2014. She was a strong advocate of gender inclusion and is the first-ever woman signatory to a major peace accord with a rebel group. Of note, women comprised 22 percent of negotiating delegates and 27 percent of signatories to the peace agreement.[36]  To widen societal ownership, women’s groups in the aggrieved community representing Muslim and indigenous communities, and descendants of Christian settlers, were also involved in the peace process.[37]

Gender inclusion was also pursued as a vital element of the national strategy in Colombia’s peace negotiations (2012-2016) with FARC, a lethal terrorist group.[38]  Over 260,000 people are believed to have been killed and seven million displaced in the armed conflict.[39] [40]  Starting with only one woman negotiator in a team of 20, close to the finalization of the peace agreement, women’s representation had increased to 20 percent.[41]  The effort led to the dismantlement, demobilization, and disarmament of the militant outfit.   During this time, civil society women were flown to Havana, Cuba, to talk about peace, reconciliation, and social reintegration with ex-combatants, 43 percent of whom were also women.[42] Colombians have remained divided over the peace accord rejecting a national referendum by a narrow margin.[43] Instead of holding a second referendum, the Colombian Congress ultimately approved the peace deal. Nevertheless, because women wield influence over their families and communities, they were able to help shape public opinion, bringing much greater credibility to the process.[44]  Under the banner of “One Million Women for Peace,” they proved themselves an important peace constituency.[45]

Experience shows that women are highly invested in ending conflicts, advocating for, and helping to sustain peace agreements, especially when they participate as a critical mass.   As primary caregivers of families, they tend to be more attuned to community needs such as access to health and education and food security. Thereby they broaden the understanding of what it takes to build lasting peace and security.[46]  Their participation in elite peace processes enables them to remain involved in government affairs and ensure that their communities’ rights are upheld in post-conflict environments.[47] Their close ties with civil society help generate more resources for the sustainable long-term implementation of peace processes.[48]  For all these reasons, women’s visible inclusion, active participation, and leadership in official and non-official dialogues with non-state actors is critical. Their participation in governance must also be sustained in post-conflict contexts, in decision-making roles on behalf of governments, and as civil society representatives.


Building a Critical Mass: Workforce and Leadership Development

An increasing body of literature suggests that adding more women to a team leads to more intelligent decision-making.[49] Arguably, increased participation of women in peace and security processes is the building block that must be considered in a strategic renewal of security sector institutions. The next step is to build women’s capacities, ensure their active participation in decision-making, and to empower them as leaders. These measures are prerequisites for systemic transformation at the institutional and national levels and are central to the WPS framework. Related efforts are underway in various combatant commands of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The U.S. Strategic Command is building the capacities of its workforce through education to enhance diversity and improve critical thinking in decision-making.[50]  The objective is to build a “base of eminently qualified personnel across all mission sets” to operationalize the principles of Women, Peace, and Security.[51] U.S. Southern and Transportation Commands have, for the first time, appointed women in top leadership roles.[52]  Until and unless a nation produces more women leaders, such that they represent a critical mass and provide opportunities to influence security outcomes in more meaningful ways, not merely as service providers but as decision-makers and strategic thinkers, the goals of gender equality will remain elusive.

It must be stressed that building a critical mass of women in security sector institutions is not akin to the just-add-women-and-stir approach.[53]   On the contrary, it demands proactive efforts to recruit, develop, retain, and promote talent. An organization committed to gender equality must systematically and periodically assess whether women are equipped with the tools, resources, skills, and equitable decision-making opportunities to optimize their impacts.   As an example of good practice, the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF) has recruited an unprecedented number of women and increased their opportunities for professional military education in the world’s best institutions.[54]  Policies have been developed to promote an inclusive culture within the organization focusing on improved recruitment, compensation, career management, family support, and climate assessments.[55]  The TTDF also provides women opportunities to command battalions, aircraft, and vessels.[56]

A critical mass of women is loosely defined as 20-30 percent representation in institutions and programs.[57]  Resonating with this view, the Foreign Policy magazine suggests that 25 percent women could dramatically reshape organizational culture.[58]  While these numbers are not proportionate to women’s actual strength, roughly about 50 percent of a nation’s population,  they help establish a minimum benchmark in planning for incremental organizational and cultural change. An incremental approach to women’s inclusion is modeled in the executive education programs of the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (DKI APCSS), one of six Regional Centers of the U.S. DoD building the strategic capacities of international civilian and military professionals. DKI APCSS has been at the forefront of U.S. WPS goals since the unveiling of the U.S.’s first NAP (2011, updated in 2016) and has been dubbed a success story.[59]  It builds the capacities of course participants through whole-of-government and whole-of-society solutions for good security sector governance to advance WPS.  More specifically, the program has accomplished the following: (i) steadily increased the number of female course participants to 25 percent in the initial phases, and more recently to about 33 percent, ii) integrated WPS in core and elective curricula, (iii) fostered male WPS championship in regional security sectors, (iv) expanded the scope of WPS offerings from in-residence courses to regional dialogues and workshops, (v) mentored the development and implementation of WPS projects regionally and in the U.S., and (vi) produced related research. The overarching objective has not been merely to increase the number of women in its programs but to create an enabling environment leading to enhanced productivity and efficiency of regional security sectors through gender-inclusive education and training. DKI APCSS recognizes that men need to be equally involved in the process and to that end, their understanding and capacities must also be developed.

One could present the counterargument that women’s increased recruitment in an organization would, in and of itself, help integrate a gender perspective. Women are more likely to receive peer support when voicing shared perspectives. They may also speak up more often without succumbing to the need to fit in with the mainstream or entertaining fears of being dismissed. Despite these likely gains, increasing women’s strength through numbers alone is never enough. Unless women lead, their perspectives are less likely to be translated into policy. Rising to the top has been recognized as a much more complex and slower process for women and they must be empowered.[60]  A study by Mckinsey & Company reports that women’s underrepresentation in leadership positions is a global issue.[61]  The absence of female role models also serves as a disincentive. True gender equality would advance women’s proportionate visibility in senior positions while also reaping the benefits of innovations in strategic thinking.

Security Sector Trends: Diversification of Women’s Roles

Women serve in many peacebuilding and security functions. They are highly efficient and much-needed nurses, doctors, police, lawyers, judges, administrators, negotiators, mediators, and diplomats. They excel in support roles in combat zones as drivers, technicians, and mechanics. They deploy on the frontlines as soldiers and pilots, as fighter squadrons and battleships commanders, in disarmament missions, and as gatherers of intelligence. They face injury,  risk captivity and losing lives. The UN seeks to further expand their functions across a broader spectrum of security threats through the application of UNSCR 2242. The Resolution is nested within the 1325 framework and recognizes that women are at risk across many traditional and non-traditional security dimensions, and their perspectives should inform solutions. It draws attention to the dangers of climate change and global health pandemics, the threats experienced and presented by refugees and internally displaced communities, and the dangers of extremism and terrorism. To support these efforts, the Resolution calls for increased funding for WPS. Engaging with women representatives of civil society is deemed particularly important as they provide a critical link between governments and communities. As primary stakeholders in security, women civil society groups stand amongst the foremost advocates of the 1325 agenda.[62]

It is worth noting that Resolution 2242 stresses the need for women’s leadership at all levels of decision-making and implementation plans. Unless women are included in policy formulation and the provision of public services, peace will remain elusive in many conflict-afflicted environments.   Considering Afghanistan, for example, a senior official of the International Development Law Organization emphasized that without women in the justice sector, “the fairness of judicial outcomes for women and their access to justice are compromised.”[63] To be sure, transitional justice and gender legislation reform are more efficient and fair when gender-inclusive. By the same logic, gender inclusion in Afghanistan’s justice system will be necessary for countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism. Elsewhere, in Southeast Asia, an increased police focus on crime prevention and community engagement relies on the increased recruitment of women and mixed-gender teams. Experience suggests that policewomen are less likely to use excessive force and are more effective in de-escalating tensions.[64]

The UN experience in conflict zones and refugee camps demonstrates that female officers facilitate access to justice and crime prevention as survivors of gender-based sexual violence are more likely to turn to them.[65] Women on the ground are increasingly considered an operational necessity.[66]  Their inclusion in peacekeeping operations improves access to local communities through relationships and trust-building.[67]  In Observer Missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Peruvian female officers helped provide better protection to women and children vulnerable to abuse and discrimination.[68]  Female Engagement Teams (FETs) provided training to improve women and girls’ nutrition, health and hygiene, self-esteem, and confidence.[69] In turn, community engagement provided information on armed groups, multiplying the FETs’ effectiveness.[70] They are considered vital for the safety of communities and mission credibility. In recent years, UN policy has consistently emphasized that the recruitment of women is an operational imperative, arguing that they “perform the same roles, to the same standards and under the same difficult conditions as their male counterparts.”[71] The organization has been working to increase women’s participation both horizontally and vertically to help restore peace and security in conflict zones.[72]

With the military’s evolving functions, women are increasingly recruited in the defense sector including in humanitarian assistance and disaster response. Their effectiveness in these roles in the U.S. National Guard has been crucial.[73] Because women broaden outreach to vulnerable populations, they become indispensable in increasing community access to relief and recovery. Whole-of-government approaches, the civilianization of security sector institutions, and innovations in technology are opening new opportunities for women. In Trinidad and Tobago, targeted recruitment is pursued in almost every defense specialization, including in “operations, logistics, human resources, legal, information and communication technologies, public affairs, intelligence, engineering, administration, project management, youth development, finance and force planning.”[74] In recent years, Japanese self-defense forces, including ground, maritime, and air units falling short of their recruitment goals, have increasingly opened up most roles for women. The Defense Ministry allocates money for everything from gender awareness programs to the establishment of daycare centers to strengthen gender integration.[75] The only restrictions on women mostly remain in the Ground Self-Defense Force in certain hazardous roles.[76]  These efforts may be replicated to help diversify the female workforce and optimize their contributions to national security.

Barriers to Women’s Increased and Meaningful Participation

Transformative change, the kind envisioned by UNSCR 1325, will take time and dedication. Although 98 WPS NAPs have been produced, implementation has been encumbered by limited resources and financing. Gendered stereotypes are deeply embedded in societal attitudes and are often difficult to overcome. Elsewhere, the absence of national mandates to promote WPS goals and low policy prioritization at the regional level attest to weak political will and commitment to agreed-upon international norms. In some instances, national security policies still retain the traditional state-centric blueprint where women are considered irrelevant or assumed not to have expertise. Barring some exceptions in roles, security sector institutions tend to be predominantly male in many states.   In some states, despite gender integration in the workforce, a lack of systematic research and documentation has led to a limited understanding and recognition of their impact. Data gaps undermine gender mainstreaming processes as they do not account for gendered needs and family-friendly policies. As a result, organizations are slow to diversify women’s roles and provide equitable leadership opportunities. Women’s participation in peace and security has increased over the years, but they are still vastly underrepresented in policy planning and implementation.


Planning for an Education Agenda to Enable Women’s Meaningful Participation

Women are architects of society. Their increased participation in security sectors opens up a much larger talent pool, untapped reservoirs of knowledge, resources, and skills. Twenty-one years since the passage of UNSCR 1325, UN member states must consider more efficient pathways ahead. The importance of integrating broad-based educational plans in WPS NAPs could not be overstated in this regard. The WPS framework offers many opportunities to incorporate education as an integral element of its global campaign. The resolutions’ obligations extend from the international to the national levels and are binding on all member states. The role of men as allies and advocates is of the essence. Their understanding and capacities must equally be developed as stipulated in UNSCRs 2106 and 2242.[77] [78]  Importantly, UNSCR 2242 calls for increased funding and investments in global education would be imperative.

Beyond the 1325 agenda, several UN resolutions recognize women as agents of peace and security. Resolution 2538 (2020) speaks of bolstering their roles, both uniformed and civilian, at all peacekeeping levels. Stakeholders could leverage this as an opportunity to educate women. It may also be worth recalling the recommendations of the UN’s four World Conferences on Women. They helped establish concrete measures for women’s empowerment through education.[79]  It is important to stress the relevance of the Fourth World Conference (1995) whose main outcome, the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action is considered a key global policy framework even today. This landmark document makes several action recommendations to advance women’s education and training including: (i) eradicating illiteracy, (ii) improving access to vocational training, science, and technology, and continuing education, (iii) allocating sufficient resources/monitoring evaluation of educational reform, and (iv) promoting lifelong education and training for girls and women.[80] WPS NAPs should build upon these international agreements. Similarly, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a pertinent policy framework. While gender equality is one of its seventeen goals, most SDGs are not attainable without a gendered approach.[81] These documents are global commitments of member states and address the roots of gender inequality in many developing and fragile contexts. They must be highlighted to build a comprehensive education agenda as a national priority and call for stronger political will at the regional level.

Enabling meaningful participation of women through comprehensive educational plans at the national and regional levels would help build a diverse workforce comprising a critical mass of women who speak not only for themselves but also for the whole community from a different perspective. Today’s global security environment is characterized by changing patterns of conflict and new types of threats requiring out-of-the-box solutions. Gender inclusion as a strategic principle ensures innovative policy formulation and outcomes on the ground as it draws the experience and perspectives of the entire population, enabling and empowering all stakeholders including women and men.

[*] Dr. Saira Yamin is a professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (DKI APCSS) in Honolulu, USA. The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the DKI APCSS or the United States Government.

[2] United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Gender. [On-line]: (accessed on 10.4.2021)

[3] NGO Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security, “Liberia.”  [On-line]: (accessed on 11.1.2021)

[4] Saira Yamin, “The Future is Female: Positioning Women as Drivers of Economic Growth.” March 12, 2021. [On-line]: (accessed on 10.04.2021)

[5] Derek Thompson, “Women are More Responsible with Money, Studies Show.” January 31, 2011.[On-line]: (accessed on 11.1.2021)

[6] Harvard Business Review, “Women and the Economic of Equality.” April 2013. . [On-line]: (accessed on 10.13.2021)

[7] United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1325. p.1.

[8] Saira Yamin, UNSCR 1325 On Women and Peace and Security: Assessment and Recommendations. Keynote Interview with Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury. Honolulu, Hawaii. Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, 2021. p.5.  [On-line]: (accessed on 2.16.2021)

[9] Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, WPS National Level Implementation, PeaceWomen, 2020. [On-line]: (accessed on 9.29.2021)

[10] Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 1325 National Action Plan, PeaceWomen. [On-line]: (accessed on 10.04.2021)

[11] Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Keynote Address at the International Symposium on Gender, Peace, and Security. Kyoto, Japan. The Ritsumeikan University, 2012. p.7.

[12] Hillary B. Stauffer, Gender: At the Negotiating Table. Geographical, 2016. [On-line]: ( (accessed on 2.1.2021)

[13] Jamille Bigio, Rachel Vogelstein, Alexandra Bro, and Anne Connell, Women’s Participation in Peace Processes. Council for Foreign Relations, 2020. [On-line]: (accessed on 2.7.2021)

[14] Ibid.

[15]  Laurel Stone, “Quantitative Analysis of Women’s Participation in Peace Processes,” Annex II in Reimagining Peace Peacemaking: Women’s Roles in Peace Processes. 2015. p.34 [On-line]: (accessed on 1.13.2022)

[16] Laura Wise, “Peace agreements with a gender perspective are still an exception, not the rule.” London School of Economics, 2021. [On-line]: (accessed on 10.4.2021)

[17] Arthur Erken, “Maternal Deaths and Humanitarian Crises,” 2017. The Lancet. [On-line]:

[18] Muhammad Jawad et al. “Implications of armed conflict for maternal child health: A regression analysis of data from 181 countries for 2009-2019.”28 September 2021.  PLOS Medicine. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.1.2021)

[19] Save the Children UK, “Alarming Number of Rohingya Refugee Children Orphaned by Brutal Violence, New Save the Children Study Finds,” August 2018. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.22.2021)

[20] UNICEF, “Children make up almost one-third of all human trafficking victims worldwide,” 27 July 2018. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.4.2021)

[21] Balkan Diskurs, “Dealing with the Legacy of Wartime Sexual Violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” 2021. Global Voices. [On-line]: (accessed on 10.17.2021)

[22] Michael Hernandez, “UN Says Myanmar Uses Sexual Violence as Weapon of War,” 2019. Anadalou Agency. [On-line]: (accessed on 10.17.2021)

[23] UN Outreach Program on the Rwanda Genocide, “Sexual Violence a Tool of War,” 2014. [On-line]: (accessed on 10.17.2021)

[24] Joanna Bourke, “Rape as a Weapon of War,” June 2014. The Lancet. [On-line]: on 11.22.2021)

[25] WHO, “Gender and Health in Disasters,” Gender and Health. July 2002. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.1.2021)

[26] Rhona MacDonald, “How Women were Affected by the Tsunami: A Perspective from Oxfam.” Plos Medicine. June 28, 2005. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.1.2021)

[27] Ibid.

[28] Irish Times, “Women the main victims of tsunami disaster,” March 2005. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.26.2021)

[29] NBC News, “Tsunami ‘a crushing blow to women,’” March 2005. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.26.2021)

[30] UNOCHA, “Tsunami Response: Human Rights Assessment,” Relief Web, 2005. [On-line]: (accessed on 10.17.2021)

[31] Michael Casey, “Charity Reports Rising Abuse of Female Tsunami Survivors.” The Washington Post. 27 March, 2005. [On-line]:  (accessed on 11.3.2021)

[32] Ibid.

[33] Dewi Masitoh, “The Success of Women’s Participation in Resolving Conflicts in Liberia,” Journal of Governance. Colume 5, Issue 1, June 2020. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.4.2021)

[34] Conciliation Resources, Women’s Meaningful Participation in Peace: Lessons from the Mindanao, 2017. [On-line]: (accessed on 2.15.2021)

[35] Mary O’Reilley, “Why Women? Inclusive Security and Peaceful Societies,” Inclusive Security, October 2015.  [On-line]: (accessed on 11.26.2021)

[36]Council for Foreign Relations, “The Philippines: Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” Women’s Participation in Peace Processes. On-line]: (accessed on 11.1.2021)

[37] Conciliation Resources, Operatlionalising Women’s “Meaningful Participation in the Bangsamoro: Political Participation, Security and Transitional Justice, September 2015. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.26.2021)

[38] Virginia M. Bouvier, Gender and the Role of Women in Colombia’s Peace Process. UN Women, 2016. [On-line]: (accessed on 1.15.2021)

[39] Jamille Bigio, Rachel Vogelstein, Alexandra Bro, and Guest Blogger for Women Around the World, Women’s Participation in Peace Processes: Colombia.  Council for Foreign Relations, 2017. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.3.2021)

[40] Aljazeera, “More than 27,000 displaced in Colombia violence this year.” 26 April, 2021. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.3.2021)

[41] Jamille Bigio, Rachel Vogelstein, Alexandra Bro, and Guest Blogger for Women Around the World, Women’s Participation in Peace Processes: Colombia.

[42] Ibid.

[43] International Crisis Group “In the Shadow of ‘No’: Peace After Colombia’s Plebiscite,” January 2017. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.22.2021)

[44] Jamille Bigio, Rachel Vogelstein, Alexandra Bro, and Guest Blogger for Women Around the World, Women’s Participation in Peace Processes: Colombia.  Council for Foreign Relations, 2017. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.3.2021)

[45] Women’s UN Report Network “Colombia – “One Million Women For Peace” Demand Greater Role in Peace Process & Post-Conflict,” June 2016. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.22.2021)

[46] Marie O’Reilly, Andrea Ó Súilleabháin, and Thania Paffenholz, Reimagining Peacemaking: Women’s Roles in Peace Processes. International Peace Institute, 2015, [On-line]: (accessed on 2.1.2021)

[47] Jacqui True and Yolanda Riveros-Morales, Towards Inclusive Peace: Analysing Gender-Sensitive Peace Agreements 2000–2016. International Political Science Review 40, no. 1 (January 1, 2019): 23–40, [On-line]: (accessed on 1.15.2021)

[48] Jana Krause, Werner Krause, and Piia Bränfors, Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations and the Durability of Peace.  In: International Interaction. 44, no. 6 (November 2, 2018): 985–1016, [On-line]: (accessed on 1.15.2021)

[49] Anita Woolley and Thomas W. Malone, Defend Your Research: What Makes a Team Smarter? More Women. Harvard Business Review, 2011. [On-line]: (accessed on 10.10.2021)

[50] Jim Garamone, ‘DOD Officials Give Report on Women, Peace and Security Compliance,’ Air Force International Affairs. March 29, 2021. (accessed on 10.12.2021)

[51] Ibid.

[52] Amanda Miller, “Richardson Takes over SOUTHCOM, Only the 3rd Woman to Lead a Combatant Command,” October 2021. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.29.2021)

[52] Ibid.

[53] Katelyn Jones, “’Just Add Women and Stir’ – A Perfect Recipe for Dashed Hopes and Disappointments.” The Hill (January 24, 2019). [On-line]: (accessed on 10.12.2021)

[54] William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, Twenty Years Twenty Stories: Women, Peace, and Security in the Western Hemisphere. 2020, p. 246

[55] Ibid. p. 245.

[56] Ibid. p. 246
[57] Jay Newton-Small, What Happens When Women Reach a Critical Mass of Influence. 2017. Time [On-line]: (accessed on 1.1.2021)
[58] Suzanne Nossel, The Women on Top Theory, 2016. Foreign Policy. [On-line]: (accessed on 2.15.2021)

[59] Joan Johnson-Freese, “Women, Peace and Security: Moving Implementation Forward,” War on the Rocks. 23 July 2021. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.04.2021)

[60] International Women’s Day, “Breaking down barriers for women in leadership,” 8 March 2021. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.4.2021)

[61] Jonathan WoetzelAnu MadgavkarKevin SneaderOliver TonbyDiaan-Yi LinJohn LydonSha ShaMekala KrishnanKweilin Ellingrud, and Michael Gubieski, The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Asia-Pacific, McKinsey & Company, 2018. [On-line]: (accessed on 2.5.2021)

[62] Saira Yamin, UNSCR 1325 On Women and Peace and Security: Assessment and Recommendations. Keynote Interview with Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury. Honolulu, Hawaii. Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, 2021. p.5.  [On-line]: (accessed on 2.16.2021)

[63] Womennewsnetwork, Afghan Women Need Inclusion in Justice Sector Jobs, Says New IDLO Report. 2014. [On-line]: (accessed 2.11.2021)

[64] UNODC, Women in Law Enforcement in the ASEAN Region. 2020, p.75. [On-line]: (accessed 2.18.2021)

[65] UN News, Feature: UN Peacekeeping – on the front lines to end violence against women. 2013. [On-line]: (accessed 12.4.2020)

[66] Renata Giannini, Mariana Lima, and Pérola Pereira, Brazil and the UN Security Council Resolution 1325: Progress and Challenges of the Implementation Process. Inclusive Security, 2016. [On-line]: (accessed 12.13.20)

[67] William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies. p. 267.

[68] William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies. p.221-222.

[69] William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies. p.236.

[70] William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies. p.237-238.

[71] UN Peacekeeping, Women in Peacekeeping: A Key to Peace. [On-line]: (accessed 2.14.2021)

[72] United Nations, “Empowering women in peace operations remains top priority, says UN peacekeeping chief,”  UN News. 25 March, 2021. [On-line]: (accessed 11.4.2021)

[73] Frank Grass “Female Citizen Soldiers and Airmen: Key Contributors to Worldwide Peace and Security,” Prism Vol. 6 No. 1. March 2016. [On-line]: (accessed 11.26.21)

[74] William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies. p. 246.

[75] Emiko Jozuka and Yoko Wakatsuki, “Answering the Call: The Women on the Front Lines of Japan’s Defense,” Action News Now, January 2019. [On-line]: (accessed 11.26.2021)

[76] Ibid.

[77] United Nations Security Council, Resolution 2106. June 24, 2013. [On-line]: (accessed

on 2.16.2021)

[78] United Nations Security Council, Resolution 2106. June 24, 2013. [On-line]: (accessed on 2.16.2021)

[79] UN Women, “World Conferences on Women,” [On-line]: (accessed on 11.4.2021)

[80] United Nations, Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The Fourth World Conference on Women, 1995. [On-line]: (accessed on 2.16.2021). Of note, the Beijing Declaration was unanimously adopted by 189 member states.

[81] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs,, Sustainable Development: The 17 Goals, 2015. [On-line]: (accessed on 11.29.2021)

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The views expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of DKI APCSS, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.
February 2022

Date: 2022/02/03

The U.S. Government & Climate Security: History and Prospects

Scott Hauger, Ph.D. [*]

In the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Obama Administration recognized climate change as a serious security threat. By 2014, policy documents reflected a “securitization” of climate change, recognizing it as an existential threat to global security. In 2015, the U.S. led in the framing of the Paris Accord.

In 2016, President Trump reversed course, in effect, undertaking a desecuritization of climate change. He declared economic security through energy independence as a security priority. He characterized the Paris Accord as a threat to that security and withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Accord, effective November 2020.

President Joe Biden campaigned on a resecuritization of climate change. Upon taking office he designated climate change as a profound global crisis, ordered federal agencies to address the crisis, re-joined the Paris Accord, and asserted a return of U.S. global leadership in addressing climate change.

There is a timely opportunity to initiate new projects between the U.S. and partner nations to prepare for and manage the impacts of climate change. Proactive American climate policies will continue if Biden is followed by a Democratic successor. With a Republican administration, expect an emphasis on climate adaptation vice mitigation, but not a revival of desecuritization of climate change.

Key Words:
Climate change, securitization, environmental security policy

1. The beginnings

Before the current century, the American security sector paid little attention to issues of climate change. Climate change entered the national and global policy arenas not as a security concern, but primarily as a scientific endeavor. The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), for example, had its origins in a Committee on Earth Sciences, established in 1987, within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). [2] The Global Change Research Act of 1990 provided a mandate for this interagency committee to develop and coordinate a comprehensive research program that included issues of climate change. At the international level, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created in 1988, with the support of the United States, as a joint project of the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program.[3]

For the next twenty years, as IPCC worked to characterize the phenomenon of climate change, policy discussions in the U.S. centered on issues of greenhouse gas mitigation. Mitigation was not at first conceived as a security sector issue, but primarily as a concern for the energy, transportation, and economic development sectors.

Climate change entered the domain of the U.S. security sector through the side door of environmental protection. In 1993, President Bill Clinton created within the Department of Defense (DoD) an Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Environmental Security [DUSD(ES)]. The office was primarily concerned with such environmental issues as remediation of hazardous wastes on military bases and reducing operational pollution. Clinton appointed Sherri Goodman to the post, who would become, in time, a key actor in the securitization of climate change. Seven years later, in November 2000, as the Clinton administration was coming to an end, Goodman released the first DoD document to specifically address climate change. Entitled, U.S. Department of Defense: Climate Change, Energy Efficiency, and Ozone Protection, the document stated that,

“…DoD is working to understand where and under what circumstances environmental issues may contribute to economic, political, and social instability and conflict. DoD’s international environmental cooperation efforts promote democracy, trust, and environmental stewardship while strengthening national defense. DoD works cooperatively with foreign militaries to promote regional stability and integrate environmental goals into defense operations.”[4]

At the end of the Clinton administration, in 2001, Goodman joined CNA, a quasi-governmental think tank, where she established a Military Advisory Board, an elite group of retired three and four-star flag and general officers, to consider the security implications of climate change. The Board’s 2007 report, National Security and the Threat of Climate Change, marked the beginning of an emerging effort to securitize climate change, i.e., to recognize climate change as an existential threat. The report found that “…climate change poses a serious threat to America’s national security,” with a potential “…to disrupt our way of life and to force changes in the way we keep ourselves safe and secure.” Its finding that “Climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world,” [5] became a catchphrase for future assessments of the security implications of climate change.

2. The Obama Administration and the securitization of climate change

The CNA report recommended that the next Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) should examine the capabilities of the U.S. military to respond to the consequences of climate change.[6] Indeed, the next QDR, released in February 2010, became the first comprehensive American security policy document to recognize climate change as a security threat.[7]

Following the issue of the QDR, a series of policy papers and reports expanded on the theme of climate security. These included the U.S. Navy Climate Change Roadmap which, with reference to the QDR, established a three-phased program to integrate climate change considerations into Naval plans and operations.[8] In 2011, the Defense Science Board offered specific recommendations for improving security policy and practices in the face of climate change in a report addressed to the higher levels of the American security sector, from the White House through the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the geographic combatant commands. [9]

In 2012, the first DoD Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap presented several claims that would provide a basis for the further elaboration of U.S. security policy with respect to climate change: (1) Environmental threats constitute threats to national security; (2) There will be a growing demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions; (3) DoD needs better information and integral planning to address the threat; and (4) “Managing the national security implications of climate change will require DoD to work collaboratively, with both traditional allies and new partners.”[10]

The security sector’s engagement with the threat of climate change had its impetus from the highest level. In November 2014, President Obama and President Xi of China met in Beijing and agreed to work together to promote what became, one year later, the Paris Accord to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Their joint announcement was in the form of a securitization claim, “The United States of America and the People’s Republic of China have a critical role to play in combating global climate change, one of the greatest threats facing humanity. The seriousness of the challenge calls upon the two sides to work constructively together for the common good.”[11]

In February 2015, an updated National Security Strategy reflected this evolution of awareness and promulgated an official policy response to climate change as a security threat. In his cover letter, President Obama characterized the accelerating impacts of climate change as a serious challenge to national security, while calling attention to, “…the groundbreaking commitment we made with China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – to cement an international consensus on arresting climate change.” The document identified climate change as one of eight top strategic risks to American security. [12]

President Obama clearly articulated the concept of climate change as an existential security threat in a speech to the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic, in September 2015,

“We know that human activity is changing the climate. That is beyond dispute…. But if those trend lines continue the way they are, there’s not going to be a nation on this Earth that’s not impacted negatively. People will suffer. Economies will suffer. Entire nations will find themselves under severe, severe problems. More drought; more floods; rising sea levels; greater migration; more refugees; more scarcity; more conflict.” [13]

In December 2015, 196 nations agreed to the Paris Accord, and on September 3, 2016, the U.S. and China formally entered into the agreement, which came into effect on November 4, 2016.[14] The President chose not to submit the treaty to the Senate for ratification, so according to U.S. law, the Paris Accord remained an executive agreement, binding only upon the current administration.[15]

During the second term of the Obama administration, then, climate change came to be framed as a security threat or threat multiplier, and policy and plans within the security sector reflected that understanding. This understanding was rejected and reversed under President Trump.

3. The Trump Administration and the desecuritization of climate change 

Even before his campaign for the presidency, Mr. Trump endorsed climate skepticism. Between 2011 and 2015, he posted 115 tweets expressing skepticism or denial of climate change or global warming, [16] a perspective he maintained throughout his presidency. In October 2016, as the Paris Accord was about to go into effect, the Trump campaign called the accord a “bad deal” that would “impose enormous costs on American households through higher electricity prices and higher taxes.”[17]

The Trump administration saw a dramatic shift in U.S. rhetoric and posture relating to climate change, as the President emphasized energy security over environmental security. The precedence of energy security over environmental security was institutionalized in the President’s Executive Order of March 28, 2017. Titled, “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” the order sought to unburden federal regulations impacting the development of domestic energy resources with particular attention to fossil fuels. The order noted that prudent development of the nation’s energy resources was essential to geopolitical security. [18] It rescinded Obama’s Presidential Memorandum of September 21, 2016, Climate Change and National Security, which had declared that “Climate change poses a significant and growing threat to national security, both at home and abroad.”[19]

On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. His core argument was an economic one. He spoke of the cost to the U.S. of participating in the UNFCCC Green Climate Fund and of the “harsh economic restrictions” that the Paris Accord imposed on U.S. citizens. He characterized the Paris agreement as, “…a massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries.” “It would once have been unthinkable that an international agreement could prevent the United States from conducting its own domestic economic affairs,” he declared, “but this is the new reality we face if we do not leave the agreement or if we do not negotiate a far better deal.” [20]

Trump’s statement turned on its head Obama’s argument that climate change is a security threat. There was a security threat, the new President explained, but it was not climate change. It was the global agreement to combat climate change, made by the Obama administration, that threatened American security. The Trump administration expressed these themes as policy in its December 2017, revision of the U.S. National Security Strategy. [21] That document notably dropped the Obama administration’s high-priority security goal to confront climate change.

These key documents of the Trump administration desecuritized climate change by treating it as less than an existential threat, and by explicitly undoing the securitizing moves of the Obama administration that led to the Paris Accord. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy that, as in the Obama administration, Trump’s actions impacting climate change policy and programs were in the form of executive actions and orders that lacked the force of law and are thus readily reversible under subsequent administrations.

President Trump appointed political leaders who agreed with and promoted his climate change policies to domestic cabinet posts including the Departments of the Interior and Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. These agencies de-emphasized or denied the security threats of climate change and crafted their programs accordingly. It is noteworthy that these actions at the federal level were opposed and countered by several state and local governments and by many environmental NGOs.[22]

In the Department of Defense, and in science-based agencies such as NASA and NOAA, the understanding that climate change posed a security threat held strong. For example, in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2017, Secretary of Defense, James Mattis said, “Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today…. It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.”[23]

Maureen Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health, later observed that Mattis had set the tone on climate change for the Department from the beginning of the Trump administration. [24]

The major effect of White House climate change policies on the security sector were to cause its agencies to reduce the visibility and alter or avoid the vocabulary of climate change, while nonetheless pursuing science-based responses to the threat. For example, in 2017, Jeff Goodell wrote of the threat of rising sea levels to U. S. Naval Station Norfolk:

“But out on the base, nobody wants to talk directly about spending money to deal with sea-level rise, mostly because they are worried about drawing scrutiny from climate deniers in Congress who are happy to redline any expenditure with the word ‘climate’ in it. Instead, many people in the military end up talking about climate in much the way that eighth-graders talk about sex—with code words and winks and suggestive language.” [25]

In 2018, the National Defense Strategy (NDS) replaced the Quadrennial Defense Review. The unclassified NDS summary omitted any mention of climate change. In an advance press briefing, however, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, explained, “We don’t specifically address climate change… There is only so much, you know, depth and breadth… it really reflects the high priorities of the department…. It doesn’t mean that it is not a priority or that it is a priority. What it says is in the national defense strategy, we don’t address it.” [26]

In short, leaders in the security sector sought to lower their agencies’ political visibility with respect to the term “climate change.” At the working level, however, security practitioners in defense, development and diplomatic agencies, under this cover, largely continued to address the issues of climate security and to engage with their international counterparts.

4. The Biden Administration and the resecuritization of climate change

Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (Joe Biden) made a commitment to combat climate change a key element in his presidential campaign. On Inauguration Day, January 20, the new President petitioned to re-join the Paris Accord, an action that took effect on February 19. One week after assuming office, on January 27, he issued an “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” that stated:

“It is the policy of my Administration that climate considerations shall be an essential element of United States foreign policy and national security. The United States will work with other countries and partners, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to put the world on a sustainable climate pathway. The United States will also move quickly to build resilience, both at home and abroad, against the impacts of climate change that are already manifest and will continue to intensify according to current trajectories.” [27]

The order reinstated President Obama’s September 2016 memorandum on “Climate Change and National Security” (see above). It ordered the Secretary of Defense to develop and implement a climate risk analysis and to provide an annual update on progress in incorporating the security implications of climate change into defense documents and processes.[28] It also pledged to hold a Leaders’ Climate Summit in advance of the UNFCCC 26th Conference of the Parties, an important review of the Paris Accord scheduled for November.

In March 2021, the White House issued an Interim National Security Strategic Guidance. The document acknowledged climate change to be an existential risk.[29] It committed the U.S. to, “…move swiftly to earn back our position of leadership in international institutions, joining with the international community to tackle the climate crisis and other shared challenges.”[30]

Executive Branch agencies moved swiftly to implement the executive order and to adopt guidance and procedures to address climate change issues in their activities and programs. Within the security sector, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin immediately endorsed the President’s executive order, noting that DoD had considered climate change a threat since 2010. He committed DoD to implement the President’s orders, stating, “There is little about what the Department does to defend the American people that is not affected by climate change. It is a national security issue, and we must treat it as such.”[31]

Secretary Austin elaborated on this theme when called upon to address the Leaders’ Summit on Climate, where he said, “Today, no nation can find lasting security without addressing the climate crisis. We face all kinds of threats in our line of work, but few of them truly deserve to be called existential. The climate crisis does.… Climate change is making the world more unsafe and we need to act.”[32]

The resecuritization of climate change is being embraced and implemented locally by security practitioners in the field. In the Indo-Pacific region for example, in April 2021, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Hawaii to collaborate in innovation and technology development to promote regional stability, sustainability, and resilience to the threat of climate change.[33] In June, the newly-appointed USINDOPACOM commander established a Climate Change Impacts Program within the Center for Excellence for Disaster Management.[34]

Across the United States government, then, the year 2021 has seen a resecuritization of climate change. The President appointed former Secretary of State John Kerry to be his Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and former EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, to be White House National Climate Advisor. Jane Lubchenko, former Administrator of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is serving in the new position of Deputy Director for Climate and Environment in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The President replaced senior officials in EPA, Interior, and Energy, and canceled or reversed many Trump-era policies that favored fossil energy over environmental security. The depth and breadth of the new administration’s approach was summed up by Jody Freeman, Harvard University’s Archibald Cox Professor of Law and director of the School’s Environmental and Energy Law Program, as reported in The Harvard Gazette:

“’This is climate change like we’ve never known it in the federal government,…’ Freeman said the White House strategy is new because it takes a ‘whole government’ approach to climate change, enlisting not only agencies with traditional environmental oversight duties, like the EPA and the Interior Department, but every agency, such as the Defense Department, the Treasury, and the Agriculture Department, to consider how their operations may impact climate change and what can be done within their bailiwicks to fight it.”[35]

5. Prospects and ways ahead

In the United States, as globally, there is a strong scientific consensus regarding the phenomenon of anthropogenic global warming and climate change. A political consensus, however, has yet to emerge. The issue is politically polarized between those who emphasize environmental security and the need for action to counter a long-term, existential threat; and those who emphasize energy security with vested interests in the near-term economic advantages of a fossil fuel-based economy.

Over the past twenty years, American political parties and individual and corporate stakeholders have aligned with these polar positions. Consequently, American climate policy has vacillated according to which party has held political power. Thus, at the level of the federal government, we have seen the securitization, then desecuritization, and now resecuritization of climate change. Since it is the federal government that is responsible for national security and foreign relations, U.S. climate policy has shifted with the political and contextual (i.e., scientific, social, ideological) commitments of the President. Moreover, under the last three administrations, U.S. Presidents have largely promulgated climate policy through executive orders. Thus, those policies have been and remain readily reversed or redirected by a new administration.

It is important to note that the U.S. government is not monolithic. Congress has a potential role to play in supporting or constraining the Executive Branch through the power of the purse and through the Senate’s power to approve Presidential appointments and to ratify treaties. In recent years political polarization over climate change has been reflected in the composition of Congress which, in the absence of a conflicting consensus, has generally acceded to Presidential prerogatives. This political balance is subject to change, however, if a political consensus on climate change should emerge.

Political power is also shared among federal, state, and municipal governments, which are politically diverse. Civil sector organizations including universities think tanks, and advocacy groups also influence government policies. Many state and local governments actively dissented from the climate policies of the Trump administration. For example, in 2017, California Governor Jerry Brown and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched “America’s Pledge on Climate Change.” The U.N. Climate Change Program noted that,

“Since the White House announcement of its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an unprecedented number of U.S. states, cities, businesses, and colleges and universities have reaffirmed their support for the Paris Agreement through collaborations including the “We Are Still In” declaration, the Climate Mayors coalition of cities, the U.S. Climate Alliance group of states, and others.”[36]

State and local governments have little direct impact on international climate policy, nevertheless, they represent a political reservoir of dissent that may achieve power at the federal level in the next election.

The decentralization of governance in the U.S. system makes prediction difficult, but it is certain that under the Biden administration the U.S. is actively pursuing internal efforts and external collaborations to address the issues of climate change. All departments engaged in foreign affairs, including Defense, State, and USAID, are currently reviewing and updating their policies as per the January 27, 2021, Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. They are looking for opportunities to take a leadership position on global and regional issues of climate change. They are looking for opportunities to collaborate with partner nations to address climate mitigation, adaptation, and response, at all levels. There could not be a better time for U.S. allies and partners to reach out with proposals for cooperative ventures. Proactive American climate policies and programs will almost certainly continue for the course of the current administration and beyond if followed by a Democratic successor.

What may happen if the next administration is headed by a Republican President? The major factor will likely be that of public opinion, based upon growing personal exposure to extreme weather events and a potentially growing acceptance of the science-based consensus regarding the future course of climate change and its impacts upon their livelihoods and their children.

There is evidence that recent climate-related phenomena are already shifting public attitudes. For example, in May 2021, the Brookings Institution reported that Republican voters were ahead of their representatives in Congress in their concerns about climate change, reporting that, “A poll just before the 2020 election showed more than three-quarters of Republican voters favor government action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”[37] On September 3, 2021, the New York Times reported that the year’s heatwaves, wildfires, and drought were causing Members of Congress to acknowledge the reality of anthropogenic climate change. The article noted, however, that these Republicans were typically opposing mitigation strategies based on reducing the consumption of fossil fuels, while favoring increased investments in climate adaptation, and technology innovation, such as carbon scrubbing.[38]

It is also true that the professional civil service and military scientists and engineers provide a level of institutional inertia and continuity between administrations. Professionals in the security sector, for example, during the Trump administration, continued to address the impacts of global warming such as changes in Arctic sea ice, or sea-level rise affecting naval bases, whether or not climate change was acknowledged as a source of the phenomenon and its security threat.

Security sector activities, especially at the level of the combatant command, are more directly concerned with adaptation to climate change impacts (to promote security through resilience), and the ability to respond effectively to meet increasingly complex challenges to disaster management (to restore security and promote stability). Greenhouse gas mitigation is nonetheless important to the security sector because the extent of its success or failure will determine the future level of need for adaptation and response.

If the political trends noted in the New York Times continue, then we can expect American political polarization over the need to address climate change to decrease and to shift from a debate over WHETHER to address climate change to a debate over HOW to address it. An emerging policy emphasis on adaptation and response would increase the importance of the security sector in planning for and managing the impacts of climate change.

These four factors – increasing public concern in the face of extreme weather events, a predicted shift in the political debate from whether to address climate change to how to address it, the diversity of power centers with different perspectives on climate change in a federal system of governance, and the continuity provided by a professional civil service in the Executive Branch of the national government – support a conclusion that there will be a greater level of continuity in American climate policy whenever a political shift in the White House next occurs.

In conclusion, under the Biden administration, the U.S. is undertaking a rapid resecuritization of climate change policy at all levels. This is explicitly the case in international relations, including agencies for defense, development, and diplomacy. There is a timely opportunity therefore for the initiation of new projects and programs with partner nations to prepare for and manage the impacts of climate change. Such partnerships in the security sector will likely have cross-administration longevity, as the public experience of extreme weather events increases, and leads to some level of political agreement on the need to build resilience to the impacts of climate change.


[*] Dr. J. Scott Hauger is a former DKI APCSS faculty member and has written this research paper as an alumnus in his personal capacity. The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the DKI APCSS or the United States Government.

[2] Roger A. Pielke, Jr., Policy History of the US Global Change Research Program: Part I. Administrative Development, Global Environmental Change Vol 10, 2000, pp. 9-25.

[3] Michael Oppenheimer, “How the IPCC Got Started,” Climate 411, November 1, 2007.

[4]U.S. Department of Defense, Climate Change, Energy, and Ozone Protection, [2001],

[5] The CNA Corporation, “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” 2007, p. 6,

[6]Ibid., p. 7.

[7] U.S. Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review, Washington, Feb 2010,

[8] Task Force Climate Change / Oceanographer of the Navy. U.S. Navy Climate Change Roadmap, April 2010,

[9] U.S. Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Trends and Implications of Climate Change on National and International Security (Washington, D.C., October 2011) p. 143, .

[10] U.S. Department of Defense, Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, Section 1, 2012.

[11] The White House. Press release: “U.S. – China Joint Announcement on Climate Change,” Beijing, China, 12 November 2014,

[12] U.S Executive Office of the President, National Security Strategy, February 2015.

[13] U.S. The White House, Press release: “Remarks by the President at the GLACIER Conference – Anchorage, AK,” 1 September 2015,

[14] The White House, Press release, “President Obama: The United States Formally Enters the Paris Agreement,” Sep 3, 2016.

[15] Josh Busby, “The Paris Agreement: When is a Treaty not a Treaty?” Global Policy, 26 April 2016,

[16] Dylan Matthews. “Donald Trump has tweeted climate change skepticism 115 times. Here’s all of it,” in Vox, June 1, 2017,

[17] Ballotpedia, “Donald Trump presidential campaign, 2016/Climate change,”,_2016/Climate_change

[18]Donald J. Trump, Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, Executive Order 13783 (Washington, D.C., March 28, 2017)

[19] Barack Obama, Presidential Memorandum – Climate Change and National Security (Washington, D.C., September 21, 2016)

[20] Donald J. Trump, “Statement by President Trump on the Paris Climate Accord,” June 1, 2017,

[21] Donald J. Trump, National Security Strategy of the United States of America, December, 2017.

[22] Elizabeth Bomberg, The environmental legacy of President Trump, Policy Studies,16 May 202,

[23] Andrew Revkin, “Trump’s Defense Secretary Cites Climate Change as National Security Challenge,” ProPublica, March 14, 2017,

[24] Dave Mayfield, “”DoD: Mattis Won’t Ignore Climate Change Threats despite White House Pressure,” Task & Purpose, October 29, 2017,

[25] Jeff Goodell, The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World. New York: Little Brown and Company, 2017, p. 200.

[26] Reuters Staff, “Pentagon Strategy Document Will Not Include Climate Change: Official,” Reuters, December 21, 2017,

[27] Joseph R. Biden, “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” Jan 27, 2021,

[28] Ibid.

[29] Joseph R. Biden, Jr., “Interim National Security Strategic Guidance,” March 2021, p. 17.

[30] Ibid., p. 11.

[31] U.S. Department of Defense, “Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” January 27, 2021,

[32] David Vergun, “Defense Secretary Calls Climate Change an Existential Threat,” U.S. Department of Defense News, April 22, 2021,

[33] University of Hawai’I News, “Climate change, tech, and workforce development focus of new collaboration,” April 21, 2021,

[34] The author serves as Senior Advisor to the program.

[35] Alvin Powell, “Biden’s reversal of Trump’s environmental legacy swift, far-reaching,” The Harvard Gazette, April 9, 2021,

[36] United Nations Climate Change, “Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg Launch “America’s Pledge” in Support of Paris,” (29 October 2017,

[37] Samantha Gross, “Republicans in Congress are out of step with the American public on climate,” Brookings, May 10, 2021,

[38] Lisa Friedman and Coral Davenport, “Amid Extreme Weather, a Shift Among Republicans on Climate Change,” New York Times, September 3, 2021,

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©2022 J. Scott Hauger. All rights reserved.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the DKI APCSS or the United States Government.

January 2022


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