EWN for Department of Defense

On August 24th and 25th 2021, the Engineering With Nature Initiative hosted a virtual workshop to educate and ideate around expanding natural and nature-based features across Department of Defense (DOD) installations. Over 40 attendees from across the DOD, including representatives from across all of the services, private industry, academia, and non-governmental organizations participated. The workshop was hosted and facilitated by Toffler Associates, a future-focused strategic advisory firm assisting the EWN initiative in creating opportunities for nature-based solutions across the DOD.

The workshop opened with remarks from Mr. Richard Kidd, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Environment and Energy Resilience. Mr. Kidd emphasized the challenges facing DOD installations and their mission resilience as a result of climate change forecasts. He shared, “Engineering With Nature is front and center in DoD’s Climate Adaptation Plan.”

Three different domestic DOD installations provided practical examples of engineering with natural and nature-based features (NNBF). These installations illustrated triple-win outcomes – economic, environmental, and social benefits, as well as dispelled myths surrounding the implementation of nature-based solutions.

Participants immersed themselves in future scenarios based in 2050 where NNBF were key components in creating installation resilience against climate-based threats, such as rising sea levels, drought, wildfires, and extreme weather events. Participants initially brainstormed challenges, opportunities, and benefits presented within these scenarios, and ideated around what might be necessary to create the outcomes illustrated. Participants then identified critical partnerships, enablers, investments, and standards required to get NNBF better integrated into installations’ resilience planning efforts. The workshop concluded with determining immediate next steps, quick wins, and critical partnerships.

A preliminary outcome from the workshop included a list of benefits extending beyond installation resilience and mission assurance including reduction of long-term operations and maintenance costs, habitat protection, economic opportunities for communities, and improved quality of life.

It was also recognized that “nature knows no boundaries” and NNBF solutions frequently require the collaboration and cooperation of a broad set of DOD and community stakeholders to design, fund, and implement. This informed the approaches necessary for advancing the role of EWN on DOD installations.

In the coming weeks, the Engineering With Nature Initiative will further synthesize the data and outputs shared by workshop participants and create action plans identifying the next steps.

More about EWN for DOD and preliminary workshop outcomes are available here.