Cover: Grounded: An Enterprise-Wide Look at Department of the Air Force Installation Exposure to Natural Hazards

Grounded: An Enterprise-Wide Look at Department of the Air Force Installation Exposure to Natural Hazards

Implications for Infrastructure Investment Decisionmaking and Continuity of Operations Planning

Published Aug 9, 2021

by Anu Narayanan, Michael J. Lostumbo, Kristin Van Abel, Michael T. Wilson, Anna Jean Wirth, Rahim Ali

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Research Questions

  1. What is the level of exposure of DAF installations to flooding, high winds, and wildfires?
  2. How could the DAF better position installations to become more resilient to flooding, high winds, and wildfires?

The authors of this report consider the exposure of Department of the Air Force (DAF) installations to flooding, high winds, and wildfires—hazards that have affected DAF installations in the recent past. The authors characterize exposure using three different types of data: base boundaries, geospatial data on airfield and select electric power infrastructure that supports DAF installations, and publicly available data on natural hazards. The presented analysis should be viewed as a first step toward more thoroughly cataloging installation exposure to natural hazards, rather than as a definitive or comprehensive assessment. Additionally, for the high winds hazard, the authors compare the policy options of preemptively hardening a set of installations and the potential costs of rebuilding post-disaster. Finally, they consider wider application of hazard seasonality data to inform the selection of backup sites for contingency planning in cases where a disruption forces a temporary mission relocation.

Some installations face high levels of exposure to the natural hazards considered in this analysis. The following coastal installations face multiple hazards: Eglin, Hurlburt, Keesler, Langley, MacDill, Patrick, and Tyndall. Although the DAF should be able to improve decisionmaking by making some decisions at the enterprise level, the uncertainties surrounding these decisions will be great, and there is no substitute for deeper-dive assessments conducted locally. The process and inputs that the DAF selects for making investment decisions regarding natural hazard resilience should be flexible, allowing for updates as new information becomes available.

Key Findings

  • The uneven exposure of installations and the presence of multiple hazards mean that for the DAF to get the most of its resilience resources, it should look critically at the entire enterprise.
  • Some installations face high levels of exposure to the natural hazards considered in this analysis.
  • For some hazards (such as flooding), although only a relatively small fraction of an installation might be exposed to the hazard, this exposure could have a disproportionate effect on mission performance because the exposure area intersects key mission-enabling assets.
  • A few installations facing multiple hazards deserve special attention because it will be difficult to formulate policies that effectively address multi-hazard exposure. The following coastal installations face multiple hazards: Eglin, Hurlburt, Keesler, Langley, MacDill, Patrick, and Tyndall.
  • Although the DAF should be able to improve decisionmaking by making some decisions at the enterprise level, the uncertainties surrounding these decisions will be great, and there is no substitute for deeper-dive assessments conducted locally. For instance, the actual future costs from storm damage are highly uncertain, and the frequency and scale of natural hazards could change in the coming years because of climate change.
  • The process and inputs that the DAF selects for making investment decisions regarding natural hazard resilience should be flexible, allowing for updates as new information becomes available. The combination of potentially large investment costs and uncertainty about their efficacy and the magnitude and scale of future hazards makes for an extremely complex environment for policy choices.

Recommendations

  • Ensure that the data needed to implement policies aimed at reducing flood risk are available.
  • Assess whether building standards are suited to historic and possible future wind exposure for each installation.
  • Work with communities to address regional flooding and wildfire concerns.
  • Pay special attention to installations that are exposed to multiple hazards.
  • Develop a capability to assess installation exposure to natural hazards, and establish requisite funding mechanisms and resources at the enterprise level to address identified problems—a prerequisite is to develop a system that tracks the frequency, severity, and costs of hazards.
  • Consider ways to incorporate natural hazard–related risks into key DAF decisions, such as new construction, major renovations, installation design, and mission assignment.

Research conducted by

This research was commissioned by the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection (AF/A4), and conducted within the Resource Management Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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