Thursday, December 11, 2008

National Defense President Nails It

Lawrence Farrell has written on energy before, but never better than just now in the December edition of National Defense Magazine. Farrell, a former 3 star USAF general (a Zoomie, I might add) and President of NDIA's National Defense, makes a powerful and succinct case that the DOD needs to get off oil post haste. And not just because some of it comes from messed up or outright hostile countries, meaning it's unreliable and purchase of it funds corrupt regimes and terror networks. 

No, all of those solid reasons have never been nearly enough to change DOD behavior. Farrell begins, "When it comes to military energy priorities, we must get beyond the traditional cost-benefit analysis that inevitably is tied to the price of oil." He points out that insulating tents yields huge financial savings, but follows that with the fact that it also takes 13 tanker trucks off the road every day. See, it's not the oil money, it's the logistical burden inherent in reliance on oil that's the killer, literally and figuratively. According to Farrell, 
Seventy percent of the convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan are for fuel and water. These convoys are at risk from roadside bombs and snipers. Just moving fuel entails great danger to US troops.... If we could cut the amount of convoys in half, the logistics tail would be significantly reduced. The result would be drastic improvements in the ratio of shooters-to-support personnel.  
You hear that Hoss? More teeth, less tail. As it turns out, in-theatre DOD energy security is largely independent of where oil comes from or how much it costs per barrel on any given day. Farrell concludes:
The problem with [current DOD energy strategy] is that it dictates a halt in the development of alternative technologies as soon as the price of oil falls.... This inevitable knee-jerk response to [oil price fluctuations] has got to go.
I'll keep beating my drum. This is why rapid departmental adoption of the Energy Efficiency Key Performance Parameter (KPP) is a must. Related to (but untethered from) life cycle expenditures, it better accounts for the most important costs of future systems and forces.

Iraq supply convoy photo: @ Flickr

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