▶ Watch Video: U.S. military bases take steps to reduce emissions, combat climate change

Military bases nationwide have begun to step up efforts to reduce their carbon footprint as part of an Army climate change strategy, coming on the heels of the Defense Department listing climate change as a national security threat.  

Bolstering energy efficiency and resilience is particularly top of mind at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland, which houses U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency.

“If anything, a 21st century warfare needs 21st century energy and resilience,” said Col. Michael Sapp, the garrison commander of Fort Meade. Sapp told CBS News that means beefing up clean energy on base; solar panels now top nearly 60% of the housing there.

Fort Meade also has plans to transform an empty landfill into a 60-acre solar farm, with a target date of 2026. The energy would help power the local grid, but also ensure the base is self-sufficient if the grid takes a hit.

“We can’t afford to lose power. Losing power means we lose training, and we lose operations,” Rachel Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, told CBS News.

The Army’s Climate Strategy includes building a microgrid on every base by 2035. The service is targeting 2030 for a 50% reduction in net greenhouse gas pollution and aims to get to zero emissions by 2050.

“We think it’s doable,” said Jacobson. “We think that we certainly have the capacity on military installations to try innovative solutions and technologies to achieve these goals.” 

“We’d love to work with industry, academia, other federal agencies to try out new experimentation on military bases,” she continued.

At Fort Bragg in North Carolina, new innovation includes a floating solar array, the largest of its kind in the Southeast. Fort Carson in Colorado is working on new battery technology, and Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri has added electric vehicle charging stations.

A floating solar array at Fort Bragg in North Carolina is the largest in the Southeast.

Department of Defense

Jacobson says plans also include converting tactical vehicles to a fully electric fleet in coming decades, as well as building greener facilities. 

“Part of our strategy is also to make our buildings smarter, to make our buildings more energy efficient when we’re either renovating or designing a new building to make sure we have efficient backup systems, to make sure we’re using sustainable building materials,” she explained.

Back at Fort Meade, Sgt. Brittany Washington currently lives in one of the apartment buildings topped with solar panels. “I think it’s amazing that they’re allowing us to be a part of the change as the Army chooses to be more progressive,” she said.

As a solider and mother of three, she knows tackling climate change cannot wait. “If we can get ahead of it now, then the future, of course, will be a better Army for it,” Washington said.