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DoD Promotes Energy Initiatives to Stretch Dollars, Improve Efficiency

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2006 – The Defense Department is exploring ways to make its weapon systems and facilities more fuel-efficient and less vulnerable to market fluctuations and controls, senior defense officials told Pentagon reporters today.

John J. Young Jr., director of defense research and engineering, said DoD is putting more emphasis on improving the efficiency of its operations — for national security as well as financial reasons.

DoD is the United States’ biggest energy consumer, using more than 300 million barrels of oil every day. At those levels, a $10-a-barrel price hike puts a $1.3 billion dent in the defense budget and the funds appropriated to support the fighting force.

“When oil goes up $10 a barrel, there’s a billion dollars in things we don’t get to do… (for) the warfighter,” Young said.

But heavy dependence on oil has other repercussions for the military, too, he said. The United States imports 58 percent of its oil, so there’s no solid guarantee that it will always have access to the energy it needs.

A major goal in DoD’s energy program “is making sure we … have multiple options in a changing marketplace for assured access to the energy that is required for the military to provide the nation’s security,” he said.

And for deployed troops, oil dependence boils down to an even more basic vulnerability, Young explained. The more fuel they need, the more convoys they need to put on the road to deliver it, and the more frequently they expose themselves to improvised explosive devices and other threats.

He cited “a desire to have renewable-type (energy) sources in Iraq and deployed locations so we … potentially have to take less fuel to the deployed forces and therefore put fewer convoys at risk.”

About three-quarters of DoD’s oil consumption goes toward keeping the military on the move: its aircraft conducting sorties, its ships patrolling the seas and its wheeled and tracked vehicles patrolling the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The military is working to make these systems less oil-dependent without sacrificing capability, Young explained. It’s looking into composite materials that make vehicles lighter and more efficient, and fuel-efficient engines and alternative fuel sources to decrease its dependence on fossil fuel.

The Air Force, DoD’s biggest energy user, is considering setting a goal to reduce its fuel consumption in a way that doesn’t shortchange training or operations, he said. The Marine Corps recently issued a solicitation for a new heavy truck that includes “a very specific and precise goal that decreased fuel consumption something like 15 to 20 percent” over its current Logistics Vehicle System.

“And so in each program space, we are going to set … fairly aggressive goals for achieving additional efficiencies” that apply technological advances, he said. “And we have already been doing that.”

Many of those same strategies already are proving successful as DoD reduces the fuel needed to keep its 570,000 buildings and facilities around the world humming, Philip Grone, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, told reporters.

These facilities consume about 22 percent of DoD’s energy requirements, but more than 8 percent of the electricity they use comes from renewable energy sources, he said.

DoD hopes to raise that level to 25 percent by 2025, setting the standard for the rest of the federal government as well as industry, Grone told reporters.

Throughout the military, Grone said, he sees a continued trend toward tapping diversified energy sources -- particularly more renewable sources -- that offer more efficiency and reliability to the fighting force. “That is where I see us headed in the course of the next 10 to 25 years,” he said. “Conceptually, that is where we want to be.”

Whether from an operational or support viewpoint, all energy conservation ultimately supports the fighting force because it frees up defense dollars for critical training and equipment, Grone said. As these initiatives increasingly take shape, “resources will be freed up to go for higher priority efforts in supporting the mission … (and) the pointy end of the spear,” he said.

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Biographies:
Philip Grone

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