The Pentagon put together their first Energy Plan. This is important because it does a little more to legitimize the sector as a whole. This article was in the Wall Street Journal.
In a bid to save lives and money, the Department of Defense on Tuesday presented its first plan to change how it uses energy on the battlefield.
The strategy, which will be fleshed out this summer with a more detailed implementation plan, constitutes the Pentagon’s promise to develop more energy-efficient weapons, embrace non-oil energy sources and demand more energy-conscious behavior from the troops.
The plan is the Pentagon’s broadest effort yet to come to grips with its huge and growing reliance on energy to carry out military operations. That energy dependence has proved especially costly in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, leading to soaring fuel bills and a dangerous reliance on vulnerable fuel convoys.
“The less [energy] we need, the more operationally resilient we will be,” Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn said at a briefing. “We will increase military effectiveness while lowering our costs.”
The goals of the new strategy are to cut energy demand by forces in the field and to accelerate the development of alternative-energy supplies, such as renewable sources and biofuels. The military hopes the new plan will pay dividends both on the battlefield, by creating more lethal and more agile troops, and in budget-conscious Washington, by saving money over the long term with more-efficient gear.
The Defense Department is the biggest single energy consumer in the U.S., spending $15 billion on fuel last year. The Air Force alone uses more oil than some small countries. Some 80% of convoys in Afghanistan are devoted to carrying fuel. Because of the threat from roadside bombs and ambushes, Marines estimate one service member is killed or wounded for every 24 convoys.
The new strategy’s focus is on operations, including training, deployment and support of military forces in the field. Those activities account for about 75% of the Pentagon’s energy use. Only one quarter of the energy is consumed on bases.
While the energy strategy is new—the product of a congressional mandate in the 2009 defense authorization bill—separate branches of the service have been grappling with energy problems for years, with mixed results.
The issue has gained greater urgency due to the high price of oil and the experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, where U.S. forces over the last decade have gotten bigger and heavier and gobbled up increasing amounts of energy that require a costly and vulnerable supply system. In World War II, a soldier consumed an average of a gallon of fuel a day; in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers consume about 20 gallons a day, with half going to electricity generation.
“It’s absolutely necessary, because the cost of energy has become a critical aspect of military operations,” said Anthony Cordesman, a defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
But he said the real test for the Pentagon’s new plan will be how it is executed over the long term and across the different services.
At combat outposts in Afghanistan, the Army is already fielding a new generation of more efficient electric generators and experimenting with smart grids that can further reduce fuel needs. Both the Army and the Marines are using small, portable solar panels to help troops in the field power their ever-increasing array of batteries.
The next priority is to diversify energy supplies, with a special focus on reducing the military’s dependence on oil by increasing investments in biofuels and renewable energy. “The realities of global oil markets mean a disruption of oil supplies is plausible and increasingly likely in the coming decades,” the energy strategy concludes.
The Navy, for example, has experimented with biofuel-powered F-18 fighter jets and is developing the “Great Green Fleet,” an aircraft-carrier strike group that will be powered exclusively by alternative fuels and aims to ship out by 2016.
Vice Adm. William Burke, the deputy chief of naval operations for fleet readiness and logistics, recently described such acquisitions as the most important part of the Navy’s energy-saving push.
He advocated an acquisitions policy “such that we are willing to spend an extra dime here to save a dollar down the road, rather than the other way around, which is what we frequently have done.”
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