Pentagon Strategy Addresses Energy Challenges

WASHINGTON, July 20, 2011 — Reduc­ing demand, find­ing alter­na­tive ener­gy sources and improv­ing the ener­gy secu­ri­ty of mil­i­tary oper­a­tions are among the goals of the Defense Department’s oper­a­tional ener­gy strat­e­gy, a senior Pen­ta­gon offi­cial said here yes­ter­day.

Sharon E. Burke, assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for oper­a­tional ener­gy plans and pro­grams, described the strat­e­gy dur­ing an Army and Air Force ener­gy forum. 

[The strat­e­gy is] going to guide the entire depart­ment in how we use ener­gy for mil­i­tary oper­a­tions,” Burke said. “It’s the frame­work for mov­ing for­ward with our ener­gy chal­lenges.” Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta has warned of a chang­ing secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment and its effects on oper­a­tional ener­gy demand, she noted. 

Improv­ing our ener­gies could not only improve our mil­i­tary effec­tive­ness and our abil­i­ty to oper­ate in the world, but it is also impor­tant to our readi­ness,” Burke said. “Sec­re­tary Panet­ta, in his short time in office, has already cau­tioned us all that we need to have humil­i­ty in pre­dict­ing the shape or direc­tion of future con­flicts. … So ener­gy is a part of that chang­ing secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment, but it’s also part of that adap­ta­tion, and how we bet­ter pre­pare for this chang­ing world and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of strate­gic surprise.” 

Burke told the audi­ence that chang­ing the way the Defense Depart­ment uses ener­gy at home and abroad is strate­gi­cal­ly significant. 

In today’s oper­a­tions, we haul fuel and oth­er sup­plies across very chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances in Afghanistan, across dif­fi­cult ter­rain and dan­ger­ous roads,” she said. “At home, our crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture, which sus­tains mil­i­tary oper­a­tions abroad, depends on the civil­ian elec­tric grid. … The more that we can light­en that depen­dence — whether on the grid, or [by] our sol­diers, sailors, air­men and Marines over­seas — the more resilient we are to that chang­ing strate­gic landscape.” 

Burke also empha­sized the need for a respon­si­ble reduc­tion in gov­ern­ment spend­ing, and the role the Defense Department’s oper­a­tional ener­gy strat­e­gy plays in that effort. 

Man­ag­ing our mil­i­tary under these cir­cum­stances will be a chal­lenge for all defense pol­i­cy mak­ers,” she con­tin­ued, “and our chal­lenge is to adjust to our fis­cal cir­cum­stances and sus­tain our mil­i­tary effec­tive­ness today and far into the future.” 

Bud­get con­sid­er­a­tions should not dic­tate strate­gic pri­or­i­ties, Burke said. “But we will need to be real­is­tic with how we exe­cute that strat­e­gy with few­er resources,” she added.
That’s where the oper­a­tional ener­gy strat­e­gy unveiled last month by Deputy Defense Sec­re­tary William J. Lynn III has an espe­cial­ly impor­tant role, Burke said. 

For exam­ple, she said, an exper­i­men­tal site on Fort Devens, Mass., is test­ing a camp kit that incor­po­rates advances in pow­er gen­er­a­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion, inso­lat­ed shel­ters, water re-use sys­tems and waste management. 

In addi­tion, Burke said, the Air Force’s Air Mobil­i­ty Com­mand is mak­ing inno­v­a­tive process changes rang­ing from reduc­ing air­craft weight to more effi­cient rout­ing, to bet­ter car­go load­ing. “That’s expect­ed to save over a half-bil­lion dol­lars over the next five years,” she added. 

These pro­grams are tests, [but] we have more to do,” Burke said. “We need oper­a­tional ener­gy incor­po­rat­ed into our readi­ness train­ing, but this is real­ly impor­tant to be able to take this out to the field and show that it can work. And that it can give us bet­ter mil­i­tary effec­tive­ness on the ground with our soldiers. 

And the ser­vices aren’t wait­ing to do this — they’re doing [it],” she added. 

The strat­e­gy will not end or fade away with the return of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, Burke said. 

This is, fun­da­men­tal­ly, a readi­ness chal­lenge,” she said. “We always need to be ready to con­duct mis­sions wher­ev­er we are, and that means we have to be ready whether we have forces in the field or not. If we’re suc­cess­ful at look­ing at it that way, … we’ll have a mil­i­tary that’s bet­ter able to respond to any chal­lenge or any threat any­where in the world.” 

Ulti­mate­ly, Burke said, she hopes the changes brought forth by the new oper­a­tional ener­gy strat­e­gy will improve the nation’s over­all ener­gy readiness. 

I sin­cere­ly hope that in improv­ing the ener­gy secu­ri­ty and ener­gy readi­ness of our armed forces, that the depart­ment will have made a larg­er con­tri­bu­tion to the ener­gy secu­ri­ty of the whole nation,” she said. “I think [this new strat­e­gy is] the way we’re going to do it.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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