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Wilson Statement at Readiness Hearing on Installation Resiliency

WATCH HEARING HERE

WASHINGTON – Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) delivered the following opening statement at a House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness hearing on “Installation Resiliency: Lessons Learned from Winter Storm Uri and Beyond.”

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Domestic military installations are critical to our military readiness. They house training, mission execution and sustainment operations, and serve as a home to our servicemen and women and their families. Over the past several years, extreme weather events such as severe flooding in the Midwest, hurricanes in the Gulf and East Coast and crippling winter storms have exposed vulnerabilities at our installations.

These vulnerabilities include outdated and unprepared infrastructure, concerns over energy resilience and dependence on commercial grids and access to clean water. Each has the potential to undermine everyday activities at our installations, and ultimately, the critical work of our armed services.

In February, Winter storm Uri wreaked havoc across the United States, highlighting weather-related threats to our bases and yielding important lessons.  Thankfully, installations such as Offutt Air Force Base – headquarters of U.S. Strategic Command — demonstrated their resilience during the storm by disconnecting the base from the commercial power grid and operating off the two power plants on-site with no disruption to operations. Other installations did not fare so well, experiencing prolonged power and water loss.

Over the years, Congress and DOD have looked to prioritize investments in resilience projects and better manage risks posed by extreme weather. I look forward to hearing today how the services are implementing provisions to strengthen our installations.

Better planning is a key part of this process. So-called ‘black start’ tests have been employed to test the reliability of existing back-up power and identify areas that require additional resiliency measures.  

‘Black starts’ have underscored the importance of micro gridding or islanding – which generally means that an installation can maintain power when one or more of the connected power sources experiences an outage or is not currently generating power. This, along with other energy resiliency mechanisms, are worth furth employing.

The military services have accepted risk in their installation portfolios for years.  The cost of that risk is now apparent. The estimated recovery costs for hurricanes Michael and Florence in the military construction accounts alone are over $4 billion. The services must do better to assess risks and vulnerabilities at their installations to sustain installation operations and save taxpayer dollars in the wake of these events.    

Sensible, cost-effective investments will be key to mitigating future risks. Better facility, energy and water resilience is directly tied to the safety and security of our installations. We must do better as a nation to understand, plan for and mitigate the threats posed by severe weather. I want to thank the witnesses for your engagement today on this important topic and I look forward to hearing how your service is taking action.  

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