NEWS > Climate Change and Military Contracts - Why Resilience Matters More than Sustainability.

4 min read

As the world turns its attention to COP 26 this weekend, business leaders are focused on the opportunities arising from shifting Government climate policies. Corporate marketing materials are rife with the latest sustainability buzzwords of the day, think ‘upcycling’, ‘net zero carbon’ and ‘green technologies.’

Yet, as companies seek to gain a foothold in the massive annual military spend – they would do well to realize that some of these buzzwords have little resonance in military circles.

To prove this point, we reviewed the 2021 Department of Defense (DOD) Climate Adaption Plan or CAP. For those doing business with DOD, it is useful to understand the language the military uses to describe its changing priorities, as well as where the responsibility lies within the DOD.

The DOD published their CAP in September, and the three Military Departments (Army, Navy and Air Force) will soon follow with their own CAPs. In fact, at the October 2021 Association of the US Army’s National Convention, the Army announced their CAP would be published shortly.

While reviewing the DOD’s CAP, one thing stood out to us. In the 28-page document, the word ‘resilience’ was used 87 times, whereas the word root word ‘sustain’ was used less than half of that (41), and half of those mentions in turn were references to position titles or logistics references. Only 21 mentions of the word ‘sustaininfer a sustainability and climate change focus – a quarter of the mention of the word resilience. The word ‘green’ is not used.

The DOD also just published its Climate Risk Analysis this October. Again, a quick word search confirms the same use pattern. The word ‘resilience’ is used 23 times, whereas the word ‘sustainability’ is only used once in reference to a report title.

DOD’s word choices are important because it reveals where their priorities lie. The DOD defines* resilience as follows: The ability to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to changing conditions and withstand, respond to, and recover rapidly from disruptions. Reviewing this language, it is easy to see why it is so important for the DOD in the context of their Climate Adaption Plan.

Another useful insight for businesses is understanding which department of the DOD wrote the CAP. The DOD Office responsible for the CAP is the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment. Acquisition and Sustainment focus on procurement and logistics, respectively. In turn, an Assistant Secretary for Defense (ASD) is responsible for acquisition/procurement, and another is responsible for Sustainment/ logistics. The ASD for Sustainment has a Deputy Secretary of Defense (DASD) responsible for Environment and Energy Resilience.

Who wrote the report matters, because it reveals which departments are likely to prioritize the CAP directives. It also reveals the word ‘sustain’ is – at least historically - better understood in the context of the ‘sustaining’ or ‘sustainment’ of operations, rather than in the context of sustainability.

In summary, DOD’s Climate Adaptation Plan is focused on resilience, and companies seeking to do business with the military would be wise to take note of this. Ultimately, what matters, most is not only how their products or services can support the priorities identified in the CAP document, but how their capability/solutions can close a gap or requirement that is not being met. For help with the latter, please contact us for a free initial consultation.

WBMV Consulting specializes in helping small and medium size companies that fill a unique gap for the DOD identify the right strategy, connections, partners, and timing.


* DOD Directive 4715.21, Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience.