Pentagon, Warfighters Work to Cut Energy Needs

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 2010 — Mil­i­tary ser­vices and com­bat­ant com­mands are work­ing to reduce their use of fos­sil fuels, espe­cial­ly in Afghanistan and Iraq where trans­port­ing fuel is dan­ger­ous and expen­sive, the Defense Department’s direc­tor of oper­a­tional ener­gy plans and pro­grams said today.

“Ener­gy is an impor­tant enabler in our force and in how we fight, and what we learned in Iraq is that we need to count it as such,” Sharon E. Burke said in a joint inter­view with the Pen­ta­gon Chan­nel and the Amer­i­can Forces Press Service. 

“We need to think about how ener­gy makes us bet­ter, makes us stronger or, if we can’t get it, makes it hard­er for us to do our jobs,” she added. “We need to incor­po­rate that into how we’re plan­ning for the future.” 

Burke was sworn in June 25 as inau­gur­al direc­tor of the new office. Its mis­sion, she said, is to help ser­vices and com­bat­ant com­mands improve mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties, cut costs and low­er oper­a­tional and strate­gic risk through bet­ter ener­gy account­ing, plan­ning, man­age­ment and innovation. 

Oper­a­tional ener­gy — the ener­gy required to train, move and sus­tain forces, weapons and equip­ment for mil­i­tary oper­a­tions — account­ed for 70 per­cent of all ener­gy used by DOD in 2009, accord­ing to the agency’s web­site, Burke said. 

“Ener­gy is part of every­thing we do, whether it’s dri­ving our vehi­cles, cool­ing our tents and our bar­racks or heat­ing our food,” she said. “It’s also crit­i­cal to our com­mu­ni­ca­tions, crit­i­cal to our weapon sys­tems and to every­thing we do in the fight. So any­thing we can do to use ener­gy bet­ter is going to make the men and women on the bat­tle­field bet­ter and improve their capabilities.” 

Since about 2003, Burke said, the ser­vices have been work­ing to address the prob­lem of reduc­ing ener­gy in for­ward-deployed areas. 

The Army, for exam­ple, has been test­ing solar-gen­er­at­ed pow­er for the bat­tle­field along with tents that trap warm and cool air, she said. The Marines are deploy­ing an exper­i­men­tal for­ward oper­at­ing base that has solar pan­els built into the tents and into some of the equip­ment to try to elim­i­nate the need for fuel sup­plies, Burke said. And the Air Force and Navy, she said, are test­ing a range of tech­nolo­gies — things that are as sim­ple as dif­fer­ent kinds of flaps on ships and new kinds of hull coatings. 

“That may not sound quite as excit­ing as a solar-pow­ered refrig­er­a­tor that the Marines are going to deploy,” Burke said, “but they add up to sav­ings and all togeth­er what that means is we take [fuel] trucks off the road and we give our folks who are deployed bet­ter capa­bil­i­ties and a bet­ter way to fight.” 

The inno­va­tions range from large to small, she said, from a more effi­cient vehi­cle to longer-last­ing batteries. 

“A lot of weight on the back of a sol­dier or Marine is from bat­ter­ies,” Burke said. “Right now, the Marines are field test­ing bat­ter­ies that are solar recharge­able, which means that where you might have gone through eight large bat­ter­ies in a 24-hour peri­od, now you would go through one. So a whole range of solu­tions are being test­ed but the point is they have to be some­thing that’s ready now [for use in the field], and a lot of things are ready now.” 

It’s impor­tant for the men and women in uni­form to be aware that ener­gy can make them effec­tive or keep them from being effec­tive, Burke said, and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship plays a crit­i­cal role in such education. 

“A lot of our folks are very aware of the impor­tance of ener­gy on the bat­tle­field but you need to give them the tools, too, that make it pos­si­ble for them to use it bet­ter,” Burke said. “A big empha­sis in all the ser­vices now is find­ing ways to help peo­ple use ener­gy bet­ter. There’s noth­ing that rais­es ener­gy [aware­ness] like actu­al­ly putting solu­tions in somebody’s hands.” 

Octo­ber is Ener­gy Aware­ness Month and the Pen­ta­gon is par­tic­i­pat­ing by hav­ing each ser­vice dis­play inno­v­a­tive ener­gy tech­nolo­gies and tools in the Pentagon’s court­yard through­out the week. 

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will open a morn­ing pan­el dis­cus­sion, one of two dis­cus­sions to be held tomor­row. Burke will lead the morn­ing pan­el, which will include White House Chief Tech­nol­o­gy Offi­cer Aneesh Chopra and top Army and Air Force leadership. 

Leg­is­la­tion requires Burke’s new office to pro­duce an oper­a­tional ener­gy strat­e­gy for the DOD by the end of the fis­cal year and to cer­ti­fy the DOD bud­get for spend­ing on oper­a­tional ener­gy priorities. 

“We’re active­ly engaged in a dia­log with all of the ser­vices about what the pri­or­i­ties of that strat­e­gy should be and how they’re bud­get­ing for these pri­or­i­ties,” Burke said. “What we’ll see in that strat­e­gy is a series of near‑, mid- and long-term goals.” 

Near-term goals address how to get ener­gy solu­tions and tech­nolo­gies out to the men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq, she said. Mid-term focus will be on DOD lega­cy sys­tems — planes, tanks, vehi­cles and weapons that must be repaired and upgraded. 

Long-term goals will exam­ine how DOD does busi­ness and buys equip­ment and sup­plies required “to defense against the future we see,” Burke said. 

“Whether it’s a near‑, mid- or long-term goal, it’s all hap­pen­ing now. We’re fight­ing the fight and we’re get­ting ready for the future and we have to be able to affect it all now,” she said. 

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

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