Christine Parthemore, director of the Natural Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, will leave the think tank tomorrow to begin a new post at the Pentagon next week.
Parthemore has been with CNAS since its inception in 2007 and has helped drive the conversation about the relationship between natural resources, environmental issues and national security. In a farewell blog post, Parthemore writes that it’s a relationship that has changed in the last handful of years.
This sub-field of examining how resources and environmental trends affect U.S. national security interests has changed dramatically in my time here. When CNAS first started up the dominant conversation in Washington was whether or not energy policy needed to account for its climate change impacts in considering the security implications of the country’s policy choices. Today DOD is making historically large alternative fuel purchases to diversify and strengthen its ability to operate globally, the Hill is calling hearings on how minerals are entangling our foreign relations in Asia, and the NIC is assessing the nexus of water, stability and conflict. This is great news, as the issues we cover are largely solvable (before they result in major conflict) with this kind of dedicated attention. And though it still happens on occasion, it is far less frequent that I hear people call resource and environmental issues “soft” security. As if we don’t write reports focusing on military operations and logistics, defense supply chains, and tensions among the world’s remaining and emerging powers.
And it’s something the Pentagon is clearly taking seriously. In 2010, it established the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy. This summer, it unveiled its first Operational Energy Strategy.
Pathemore’s new role will continue to overlap with her natural security expertise in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs and s he will also continue to teach energy and environmental security at Johns Hopkins.