WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2011 — The Defense Department continues to seek ways to enhance energy security while investing in alternative fuel resources, a senior Pentagon official said here today during a conference at Georgetown University.
“Military operations are a fairly energy-intense undertaking, and energy security is particularly important to our ability to project military power and to protect the nation,” said Edward Thomas Morehouse Jr., principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs.
“The availability of those transportation fuels is particularly critical,” Morehouse said. “Of all of the consumables, of all the commodities that we use in the Department of Defense, … energy and fuel have a particular [functionality].”
Morehouse participated in a seven-member panel that discussed alternative fuels and energy security during the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative Conference. He noted how critical fuel is on an operational level for the Defense Department.
“Without fuel, the airplanes don’t fly, the ships don’t steam and the tanks don’t roll, so this is a very important issue to us,” he said. “It was recognized in our 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review and we have a number of energy-related risks within the department.”
Morehouse noted some of the longer-term risks are strategic, global and related to energy markets and price volatility.
“[These risks are] related to the increasingly concentrated sources of petroleum worldwide getting in the hands of actors who are not always necessarily friendly to our causes,” he said. Morehouse also highlighted inherent risks the department faces while transporting fuel from the point where it is bought commercially to where it is used on the battlefield.
“First and foremost, our real near-term energy challenge is to reduce the amount of stuff we have to haul,” he said. “We buy it at a refinery, and we move it to forces that are forward deployed. Often times, we have to move that fuel through areas which are contested by our adversaries.”
Morehouse noted that the Defense Department now verifies that systems could use alternative fuels as they are developed.
“We were an early pioneer in certifying our own systems to use the fuel to provide confidence that the fuels were viable,” Morehouse said. “We have also continued that certification program to make sure that all the systems in our inventory are capable of using the fuels when they become available.
“We are also engaged in demonstration projects,” he added, “to buy fuels and to fly squadrons of airplanes, to sail fleets of ships and to demonstrate that these fuels have the potential to be used operationally.”
Morehouse shared some of the Pentagon’s future operational energy strategy.
“We’ve got a number of milestones laid in within our own programs about what we will certify by when and what we will demonstrate by certain time frames,” he said. “And those imply various purchases of fuel between now and 2016 and 2020.”
DOD officials expect investments in the alternative fuels industry “will get us to a place where alternative fuels are sustainable, scalable and affordable,” Morehouse said.
He praised the government-industry partnerships that address energy security and the need to development alternative fuels.
“I want to say thanks,” Morehouse said, “for all the great partnerships that we’ve had with the Department of Defense and our other agencies and with the civilian sector to move this issue along.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)