How Energy Fits into U.S. Military Posture

Soldiers wait as bundles of fuel are air delivered to Forward Operating Base Waza Kwah in Paktika province, Afghanistan, Jan. 30, 2011.

Source: | Soldiers wait as bundles of fuel are air delivered to Forward Operating Base Waza K'wah in Paktika province, Afghanistan, Jan. 30, 2011.

Last week, the services of the U.S. military (and the JCS) released their respective posture statements, which are unclassified summaries of the roles, missions, accomplishments, plans, and programs of each branch. Essentially, these statements combine to represent the state of the military as a whole.

In a reflection of an emerging consensus, each statement devotes a substantial portion to energy issues, acting as a benchmark for our military’s energy reform efforts. Combined with the launch of the DoD Operational Energy website, found here, these statements have contributed to an eventful week on the military energy front.

The Army Posture was delivered by Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Chief of Staff George W. Casey, Jr. To the Army, energy security means that they can retain access to energy and can continue to operate when catastrophe strikes and energy supplies are disrupted, cut off or just plain difficult to secure. To achieve this, the Army has established a Senior Energy Council, appointed a Senior Energy Executive, created an Energy Security Office, and adopted a comprehensive energy security strategy. These efforts will not only lead to energy cost savings, but also help create a more sustainable force with increased endurance, resilience, and force protection. The primary example of their efforts in energy efficiency is Net Zero, a holistic approach to reduced installation consumption involving energy, water and waste. Net Zero ensures that sustainable practices will be instilled and managed throughout the appropriate levels of the Army, while also maximizing operational capability, resource availability and well-being. Of note are projects such as a Fort Sill microgrid, foaming tents, and “smart grid” capabilities for tactical command posts.

The Navy, which has played a leading role in the development clean energy initiatives in the military, had its Navy Posture delivered by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead before Congress. The Navy approaches energy in the context of a new carrier, unmanned underwater vehicles, shore readiness, training readiness, and a section on energy and climate. Building on the latter entity, Admiral Roughead writes that “reducing our reliance on fossil fuels will improve our combat capability be increasing time on station, reducing time spent along replenishment ships, and producing more effective and powerful future weapons.”

Examples of new technologies cited in the posture include operating the “Green Hornet” F/A-18 and MH-60S on camelina-based JP-5 fuel and the RCB-X riverine craft on algal-based F-76 fuels. On the efficiency side, the Navy has been implementing policies that encourage Sailors to reduce their personal energy usage. Furthermore, the Navy plans to invest in advanced metering and energy audits to help identify further opportunities for efficiency gains and alternative energy use. Energy security is certainly pervasive in the Navy posture, with even more examples including investment for building efficiency and reducing the cost of at sea training via modeling and simulation. These steps put the Navy in prime position to continue to make energy reduction strides in the coming years.

The Air Force posture, delivered by Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz, tackles energy considerations with a three-pronged approach: reduce demand, increase supply, and culture change. The latter prong means creating a culture that makes “energy a consideration in everything [they] do” and that values energy as a “limited mission-critical resource.” This is why the AF is requesting over $550 million in for energy initiatives ranging from investments in alternative energy to enhancing energy efficiency in FY12. From an energy security perspective, 99% of the USAF aircraft fleet is now certified for unrestricted use of synthetic aviation fuel bled, but this is only for coal and natural gas to liquid via Fischer Tropsch, a rather greenhouse gas intensive process (as a recent RAND report alludes to).

On the expeditionary front, the AF says that they will reduce their electrical load by 50% by using shelters with photovoltaic flys that generate a minimum of 3 kilowatts a shelter. Donley and Schwartz warn later on that, “while the peacetime flying hour program is fully funded, reprogramming may be necessary to cover increased fuel costs due to the volatility of fuel prices.” This volatility is certainly something the Air Force and the rest of the military will have to monitor given the recent events in North Africa and the Middle East.

The substantial inclusion of energy security in all of these statements – as well as the inclusion of energy and climate change in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review - demonstrates the military leadership’s commitment to reducing demand, smart distribution and alternative and renewable power production. We shall see whether the services back up these statements with the commitment of dollars, and if so at what magnitude. As in the past, the military has the opportunity to lead the nation by spurring innovation while simultaneously improving its mission readiness.


Andrew Schlossberg is a Contributor in AEL’s New Energy Leaders Project. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of AEL.

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