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DOD, Service Energy Programs Share Common Thread

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 2, 2014 – At a cost of about $20 billion a year, the Defense Department is the country's single-largest consumer of energy, the assistant defense secretary for operational energy plans and programs said today.

The services and the department each have specific roles and missions relating to that energy use, Sharon E. Burke said at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Readiness And Management Support.

“But, we also have a common narrative that unites us, and that is by design,” she said.

Last year, then-Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter directed the department's senior leaders to develop a shared narrative to guide the full range of defense energy activities, Burke said. This instruction included operational and facilities energy and the energy related elements of mission assurance, she noted.

The narrative should be finalized soon, the assistant secretary told committee members. “But, I believe it's very fair to say that the basic principles already guide our activities and have for some time,” Burke added.

The assistant secretary provided a preview of the policy for the committee.

“The Department of Defense will enhance military capability, improve energy security and mitigate costs in its use and management of energy,” she said.

It will improve the energy performance of weapons, installations and military forces, Burke said, by diversifying and expanding energy supplies and sources -- including renewable energy and alternative fuels; by analyzing the requirements and risks related to energy use; and by promoting innovation for equipment and education and training for personnel.

The policy, she said, affirms the value that the Defense Department places on energy as a mission-essential resource that can also shape the mission.

The president's fiscal year budget request advances the goals of the common narrative, Burke said.

“Energy, and liquid fuel in particular, is the lifeblood of military operations. It powers our vehicles, our ships, our aircraft and the generators that, in turn, provide electricity to a range of systems,” she said.

“It can also be a vulnerability on the battlefield,” Burke noted, “and our adversaries in Afghanistan have targeted our supply lines at times. And, while we've had no operationally significant disruption of those fuel supplies, the opportunity cost, including in lives lost, has been higher than it had to be.”

As the department rebalances to the Asia-Pacific region, this vulnerability has potential to be an even bigger concern, she said.

There, the assistant secretary noted, “full-spectrum operations over vast distances create even greater logistical challenges.” A range of potential adversaries in the region are growing capabilities to constrain or deny logistics and are developing more precise weapons, Burke added.

While the demand for operational energy varies from year to year based on mission requirements and operational tempo, she said, in fiscal year 2015 the department estimates it will consume 96 million barrels of liquid fuel at a cost of approximately $15 billion.

“In FY 15 we will also invest $1.7 billion in initiatives to improve how we consume that energy for military operations, and about $9 billion over the future year defense program,” Burke told the committee. “More than 90 percent of that investment will go to improve the energy performance of our weapons and our military forces.”

Those improvement efforts include procurement of equipment, the assistant secretary noted, such as the Army's efficient generator program, and major innovation efforts, such as engine programs for fighter aircraft and helicopters.

Of the overall investment, she said, 7 percent will go to diversifying and securing operational energy supplies, including the Marine Corps program to procure tactical solar generation and solar battery charging systems.

“Underlying all of these investments are efforts to develop better analytical tools for the whole force development process,” Burke said. These tools will inform strategy development, plans, requirements and the acquisition process, she noted.

This effort has been a key focus of Burke’s office since it was established about four years ago, she said. In that time, there has been a “great deal of progress,” the assistant secretary added.

Energy and energy logistics are increasingly incorporated into major war games, she noted, and a mandatory key performance parameter for energy is included in the requirements process enforced by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In addition to focusing on future force development, Burke said her office will continue to promote operational energy innovation, including through its own investment fund.

“We will continue to study and analyze how global energy dynamics affect national security and shape the defense mission,” she said. “We will continue to analyze how climate change will affect our operational missions.

“And finally,” she continued, “we will continue to look for ways to support deployed forces with operational energy solutions. From rapid fielding of new technologies, to adapting war plans, to incorporating energy into international partnerships, and we are gathering and applying the lessons learned in Afghanistan.”

(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @rouloAFPS)


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Sharon E. Burke

Related Sites:
Special Report: Operational Energy Strategy

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