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Remarks at the White House Energy Security Summit

As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn, III , Eisenhower Executive Office Building , Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thank you Brooke.

I would like to second Brooke in welcoming so many seminal figures from Congress and industry who have helped make energy innovation a national priority. 

Our panelists John Deutch, Jane Harman, and John Podesta are among the very few who truly understand the intersection between energy and national security.  You may have seen the 2008 report on energy innovation that John Deutch and John Podesta authored for the Center for American Progress.

Also with us this morning are Sharon Burke, Assistant Secretary for Operational Energy, and Dorothy Robyn, Deputy Undersecretary for Installations and Environment.

Today I would like to talk about the connection between innovation in energy technology and the projection of military power.  This is a linkage that has spanned history. 

Just as the shift from wind to coal revolutionized naval power in the 19th century, so did the introduction of nuclear-energy—on subs and aircraft carriers—transform the global balance of power in the 20th.  Our mastery of energy technology both enabled our nation to emerge as a great power and gave us a strategic edge in the Cold War. 

Today, energy technology remains a critical element of our military superiority.  Addressing energy needs must be a fundamental part of our military planning.

Our Department is operating in over 100 countries around the world.  We have troops fighting in Afghanistan, air crews flying over Libya, and relief operations underway in Japan. 

Everything we do—every mission we perform—requires significant amounts of energy.  Three-quarters of the energy we use supports military operations.  Ensuring our forces have access to the energy they need is not easy. 

Our forces in Afghanistan and Iraq have a long logistical tail.  More than 70 percent of convoys in Afghanistan are used for fuel or water.  We haul these supplies on roads laced with IEDs and prone to ambush.  More than 3,000 troops and contractors have been killed or wounded protecting those convoys.

This threat to our supply lines reflects how the nature of war is changing.  Rather than confronting our forces head on, adversaries are increasingly employing asymmetric tactics – and energy can be a soft target.  Whether using IEDs against supply convoys or cyber attacks aimed at our critical infrastructure, we face a wider range of threats, and must be prepared to defend against all of them. 

The nature of war is also changing in a second way.  Conflict is evolving from a focus on intense but short periods of combat that end decisively to longer, more drawn-out engagements.  As conflicts become longer in duration, and more expeditionary in nature, the amount of fuel it takes to keep our forces in the field is a significant vulnerability.  We must change how we manage energy on the battlefield, and strive to reduce demand at all levels of our forces.

To minimize our future energy footprint, we are building energy performance parameters into our requirements process.  This includes calculating the fully burdened cost of fuel used by potential weapons systems.  A new generation of military technologies that use and store energy more effectively will only emerge if we change how we do business. 

When it comes to that future, the Navy is leading the way.  Secretary Maybus has made energy performance a priority.  The Navy is not only incorporating more efficient propulsion technology, including hybrid drives.  It is also experimenting with biofuels and other sources of alternative energy.

Our push for highly efficient systems also extends to the individual soldier.  Over the past decade, our ground forces increased their use of radios by 250% and their use of information technology by 300%.  The demand for batteries has nearly doubled.  Today, soldiers on a 72 hour patrol in Afghanistan may be carrying 18 pounds of batteries.   All this extra gear means more capable forces, but it increases our reliance on energy in theater.

In Afghanistan, we are finding that clean energy technology is one way to lighten the load and give our troops more capability. 

In the 1990s, the engineers at Natick Soldier Systems Center developed flexible solar panels that could power a range of devices.  The Marines decided to deploy these panels to Afghanistan last fall.  Marines being Marines, they sent this new equipment right to the heart of the fight.  The regiment selected to trial the solar panels deployed to one of the most violent districts in Helmand province.  The operational gains were immediate. 

Marines ran two patrol bases completely on solar power, and cut diesel fuel consumption at a third by 90%.  On one three week foot patrol, flexible solar panels eliminated battery resupply needs entirely, ending supply drops previously required every 48 hours.

As this and other pilot programs show, our initiatives to develop new energy technologies provides material advantages to our troops in theater.  Especially at the tactical edge, new energy technology makes our warfighters more agile, allowing them to focus on the mission rather than their logistics chain.

It is important to note that energy on the battlefield is not only vulnerable in the last mile, when convoys come under attack.  Military installations here in the U.S. also provide direct operational support to troops in theater.  Today, the front lines extend to UAV operators in the United States.  Yet the facilities that directly support combat operations are heavily dependent on the civilian electrical grid.  As a result, energy security here at home is becoming increasingly important to operations abroad.

Disrupting energy supplies at any point along our logistics network undercuts our ability to project force.  So we are taking steps to enhance the resiliency of our installations. 

The power grid at most of our installations is no more sophisticated than a large on/off switch.   When the grid is under strain, everything loses power.

At Twenty Nine Palms, a Marine base in the Mojave Desert, we are demonstrating new micro-grid technology—a system of self-generated electricity and intelligent controls that can be operated independently if the commercial grid goes down.  Micro-grids improve energy efficiency, make it easier to incorporate solar and wind power, and ensure power can be directed to facilities that need it most.  Most importantly, they reduce the vulnerability of our power supplies to disruption.

Energy is also important to the Department as a budget item. 

Our military consumes more energy than is used by two-thirds of all nations on earth.  We account for 80% of the federal government’s energy use and about 1% of total consumption nationwide.  Our energy bills are already in the tens of billions of dollars.  With increasing volatility in energy markets and tightening of global supplies, our expenditures on gasoline alone are up 225% from just over a decade ago. 

Any step we take to lower our energy use will allow us to spend resources on other warfighting priorities.

In short, DoD needs to address energy needs as a military planning challenge.  Supply is limited.  Cost is increasing.  And with the changing nature of war, our current energy technology is not optimized for the battlefield of today or tomorrow.     

To remedy this, we are renewing our partnership with the Department of Energy.   We signed a memorandum of understanding last year.  This memorandum launched a committee of leaders from both departments to steer investments in specific technologies and to foster programmatic cooperation.  Already, we are working closely on microgrids, alternative fuels, batteries, and energy storage.  In the coming year, our collaboration will grow, targeting both energy reliability at installations and strike capability in operations.

The key to this partnership is focusing DOE’s unique knowledge on meeting defense requirements.  By taking technology from labs to the battlefield, the Department of Energy can once again enroll its scientific ingenuity in service of our nation’s most important mission—our national security.  Innovative energy technology can increase the operational effectiveness of our forces.

In addition, our Department can use its size to leverage technology development.  By serving as a sophisticated first user and early customer for innovative energy technologies, the military can jump-start their broader commercial adoption, just as we did with jet engines, high-performance computing, and the Internet.  By combining DOE technologies with DoD innovation, we can achieve a payoff that extends well beyond the defense sector. 

Under the continued leadership of President Obama, and with industry’s help, our partnership can transform how this nation develops and uses clean technology, laying the foundation for a future that is both cleaner and more secure.

I am now delighted to yield the floor to my good friend and colleague, Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Poneman.

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