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Official Describes Steps DOD Taking for Energy, Environmental Resilience

This year's Earth Day theme for the Defense Department is "Invest in Our Planet, Protect Our Future."

Brendan Owens, assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment, spoke today at an Earth Day event at the Pentagon.


The department's primary mission is to maintain a robust military force capable of deterring conflict while ensuring the nation's security, said Owens.

To effectively carry out this mission, the department must have access to essential resources like energy, land, air and water, he said.

"These are required for the development and training of our forces both now and well into the future. So, we are committed as a department to protecting our planet, and ensuring health and safety for our people," Owens said.

The department has made remarkable progress in various areas such as operational energy, climate resilience and environmental remediation, he said.

DOD is the leader on power beaming technology, he said

Man works on system.
Hybrid Power
An Army engineer works on a hybrid power system at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., June 16, 2020.
Photo By: Daniel Lafontaine, Army
VIRIN: 200616-O-AQ639-171

"Because of the investments that we've made, NASA and the Department of Energy are now racing to match and improve on our work to develop this revolutionary means of distributing energy," Owens said.

Spotlight: Science & Tech

Power beaming technology could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lead to space-based solar power, global energy distribution networks for humanitarian response and national defense, he said.

Last month, the department launched the first groundbreaking demonstration of optical power beaming in space, he said.

The department is also working on an all-electric autonomous vehicle designed to carry exportable energy to the point of need, he said.

"The ability to autonomously maneuver through battlefields and disaster events makes it a powerful resource in ensuring the safety of our warfighters while reducing our environmental footprint," he said.

The department has also made significant strides in preparing for the inevitable impacts of climate change, Owens said.

Airmen install a solar panel.
Solar Install
Airmen install a solar panel on top of a gazebo, Feb. 2, 2023, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Felicia Przydzial
VIRIN: 230202-F-MM027-0122C

The DOD Climate Assessment Tool improves the department's ability to make climate-informed decisions by estimating climate vulnerabilities for all major domestic and international installations, he said.

The department expects in the coming months to deliver this tool to six partner nations, he said.

The department has also developed water resilience methodologies that greatly advance its ability to assess water management and security at DOD installations, he said.

"The methodology provides us with consistent, comparable data and helps us evaluate water risks that DOD faces and helps us support decision making to ensure that our installations are resilient," Owens said.

The department is also working to restore lands that have experienced environmental impacts attributable to past military activities, he said.

Through the Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program, the department has remediated over 100 impacted sites and executed 369 cooperative agreements valued at over $179 million with Native American tribes, he said.

People clean up a field.
Trash Pickup
Installation community members pick up trash on the cantonment area April 29, 2022, as part of an Earth Day cleanup effort at Fort McCoy, Wisc.
Photo By: Scott T. Sturkol, Army
VIRIN: 220429-A-OK556-610

"The goal of this program is to prioritize health and human safety by restoring and protecting natural and cultural resources and return tribal lands to optimal use," he said.

"Key advancements in energy resilience, environmental stewardship, pollution prevention research and cleanup, and climate resilience will help us confront some of the greatest challenges the department is facing," Owens said.

"Military facilities must adapt to an increasingly challenging threat environment. Improving energy resilience and reliability is key to that adaptation," he said.

The department is also investing in microgrid technology and electric vehicles to support mission requirements, he said.

"We're also going to continue to improve energy efficiency of operational platforms to maximize our ability to operate in contested logistics environments," Owens said.

The department is pursuing game-changing technologies, such as adaptive cycle aircraft engines and blended wing body airframe designs, he said.

"These technologies can reduce energy use for our operational forces by 20 to 30%. compared to current systems. Our effort to hybridize ground vehicles and develop microgrids will also decrease our dependence on fuel convoys and increase operational capability," Owens said.

A man in military uniform sits in a vehicle.
Electric Vehicle
Marine Corps Capt. Daniel Kassebaum, the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar ordnance officer, explores the Arcimoto electric vehicle during the NavalX SoCal Tech Bridge's Electric Mobility Symposium hosted on Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, Calif., June 24, 2021.
Photo By: Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Marcin Platek
VIRIN: 210624-M-QX745-089

Hybrid technologies leverage auxiliary battery power to reduce fuel usage and emissions when tactical vehicles are idle. This also reduces heat signatures, he said.

Microgrids can provide stability of operations in installations as well as in the field, even when infrastructure is under attack, he said.

DOD manages nearly 27 million acres of unique ecosystems and habitats. This natural infrastructure is critical for providing realistic environments to test new technologies, train service members and mitigate climate change impacts, he said.

The department is steward of over 500 threatened and endangered species, 55 of which only exist on DOD lands. DOD is working to sustain and restore threatened, endangered and at-risk species, while carrying out its mission-essential activities, he said.

The department is also working with the Environmental Protection Agency to, measure and clean up contaminated sites at various locations, he said.

Joe Bryan, chief sustainability officer and senior advisor for climate to the secretary of defense; Caroline Baxter, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force education and training; and Regina Meiners, director, Washington Headquarters Service, also spoke at today's event.

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