President Joe Biden's $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan includes funding to help the Pentagon go green.
The proposed plan targets $180 billion toward emerging technologies, including investments in environmental programs at the Defense Department.
Among the items included was funding for the use of renewable energy instead of fossil fuels for military vehicles, and mandating all non-combat vehicles be electric by 2030.
The Biden administration considers climate change a top priority, and the Pentagon, the world's single largest energy consumer, will play a key role.
"Moving off fossil fuels into renewables will have first just the direct effect of reducing the carbon footprint dramatically," Ray Mabus, a former Navy secretary and climate change advocate, told Politico.
"Where the military goes, the civilian world often follows," he added, noting that electric vehicles "could catalyze an industry that will have those impacts more widely."
The effort to combat climate change must compete with other top Pentagon priorities — modernizing the nuclear triad, developing new technologies (e.g. artificial intelligence, hypersonic weapons) — amid a flat defense budget.
Critics of Biden’s plan told The Washington Free Beacon in November that leaning hard into green policies could harm a national security already facing issues. One example: simulations project U.S. forces losing in the event China invades Taiwan.
Biden's proposed plan also would invest billions into the China-dominated technology of semiconductors, used in advanced military equipment.
Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., vice ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the administration should prioritize the current strength of the Defense Department instead of environmental changes.
"We need to get more out of our dollar than the Chinese get out of their yuan or the Russians get out of their ruble," Wittman said. "If we have an astronomical increase in costs, we need to think twice about those efforts. ... I don't think that we should do things that sacrifice our ability to counter threats out there solely at the expense of environmental issues."
Republicans previously attacked the Navy’s first attempt at transitioning to renewable energy — led by Mabus — by incorporating biofuel into the fleet, a plan that raised costs at the expense of readiness.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin established a Climate Working Group in March to coordinate the Pentagon response to climate change.
"Climate change presents a growing threat to U.S. national security interests and defense objectives,” Austin wrote. "The department will act immediately to include the security implications of climate change in our risk analyses, strategy development and planning guidance."
The effort to combat climate change must compete with other top Pentagon priorities amid flat defense budgets. Modernizing the nuclear triad, and developing new technologies ranging from artificial intelligence to hypersonic weapons, are other such concerns.
A spokesperson for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told Politico climate programs distract from the military's "core mission."
"Sen. Cruz believes the Pentagon's job is to be big enough to deter America’s enemies and adversaries, and to be strong enough to take necessary and successful military action if deterrence fails," Cruz spokesperson Jessica Skaggs said. "Allowing climate alarmists and Green New Deal enthusiasts to undermine or distract from that core mission is the height of irresponsibility and endangers the safety and lives of Americans."
The Defense Department is implementing other changes, too.
Trump-era policies that largely banned transgender people from serving in the military will be replaced with new rules offering them wider access to medical care and assistance with gender transition, defense officials told The Associated Press.
Transgender people who meet military standards will be allowed to enlist and serve openly in their self-identified gender. They will be able to get medically necessary transition-related care authorized by law, said the officials.
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