A Matter of Time and Sea Levels

US Geological Survey researchers found rising sea levels might cause problems for the Air Force’s Space Fence program. In an unpublished study, the USGS found the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean that will house the ground-based orbital tracking radar could face yearly, island-wide flooding within the next several decades, The Associated Press reported. Construction on the facility began last year, and the system, for which Lockheed Martin was awarded a $915 million contract in 2014, is expected to reach initial operating capability in 2018. The projected sea levels are “not a concern to the Air Force,” the service’s civilian program manager Dana Whalley told reporters during a tour of Lockheed Martin’s operational test site in Moorestown, N.J., in August. “We did our studies, we looked at the floodplains, we looked at the historical projections for what the rising sea levels were, and I think the projections are well outside” the projected 25-year lifespan of the system, he said. But the Environmental Protection Agency of the Marshall Islands reported the original Air Force assessment failed to take recent data into account, according to the AP, and the USGS study suggests higher sea levels than previously expected. “While the Department of Defense is working with USGS on additional sea level studies, published studies indicate the site will be able to support the radar facility well beyond its useful life,” the Air Force said in a statement Wednesday.