Monday, June 8, 2009

DOD Energy Policy: A Study in Stasis

As much as I love to celebrate progress (or what seem like indicators of progress), every once in a while I get a slap in the face that reminds me we're largely treading water. A recent and very well timed timed slap, delivered by a gentleman who's been working DOD energy from the inside and outside for a long time, is one I hope you take some time to consider. It's essentially a call and response referencing excerpts from yet another good article by Sandra Irwin in the most recent National Defense: "Prolonged Wars Tax Military Capacity to Deploy Electricity ".

Some of the comments (below in bold) are purely mine, some are the contributer's, all are meant to be constructive, but you'll see they're all pointing in the same direction:
The Defense Department “still lacks an effective approach to fuel demand at forward-deployed locations,” said William M. Solis, director of defense capabilities at GAO. He spoke at a hearing of the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee.
Who in DOD sees the problems created by the fuel demand policy vacuum and is working non-stop to find a fix?
"Managing fuel at forward-deployed locations has not been a priority …. and reduction efforts have not been well coordinated or comprehensive,” said Solis.
Why, exactly, is that?
One reason why the Pentagon is having difficulties managing energy consumption at forward locations is the absence of data about fuel demand, said Solis. “We found that the information on fuel demand management strategies and reduction efforts is not shared among locations, military services, and across the department in a consistent manner.”
Why not? And who's taking the steps to make sure this problem is remedied stat?
The Army’s current generators are rugged enough for combat use but they are fuel hogs. The service is now testing a militarized generator — called the “advanced mobile power system” — that is expected to consume 10 to 20 percent less fuel. (AB note: this system is most often called AMMPS, as in "Advanced Medium-sized Mobile Power Source".)  A forward-deployed battalion typically requires about 24 60-kilowatt generators. The experimental generator is made by Cummins Corp., based in Minnesota. The company will ship prototypes to the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in June so they can be tested for at least a year before they are shipped to deployed forces possibly by 2010, [DDRE's Al] Shaffer said. “It’s not as fast as we would like to go, but we don’t want to field systems before we are sure that they won’t cause additional problems.” If the tests are successful, the Army plans to buy up to 67,000 of the advanced mobile generators in 2010 and 2011.
This has been going on for 3 or 4 years. Still another year to go just to test?
The Army also launched an energy-management experiment called “hybrid intelligent power generator,” or HI-Power.
Does anyone in the field know about this? Is leadership holding anyone accountable to get this technology into the field the instant it's ready to start helping?
The Pentagon should consider offering commanders financial incentives to consume less fuel, he said. GAO investigators at Camp Lemonier — a U.S. naval base in the Horn of Africa — found that base commanders had identified a number of ways to curtail fuel demand, but they saw little return on the investment because they would not be able to apply the savings toward camp improvements.
Again, what's the policy solution being worked here? Who's got the lead on this initiative?
Until more efficient generators and mobile grids become available, the Pentagon is seeking to drop fuel consumption in the field via common-sense techniques. One of the most successful has been to spray insulating foam on military tents.
This is activity we trot out every time ... what's next ???
Shaffer said it is difficult to establish “metrics” for energy consumption at forward bases because every operation is different and each confronts unique circumstances that may drive energy use up or down. “Deploying to Iraq, and air-conditioning tents in summer takes a lot more energy than deploying to some place where it’s a temperate region,” Shaffer told the subcommittee. “So I’d like to tell you we have good metrics. We do not. We probably need to get better metrics. But we don’t have specified goals other than down.”
Another recurring refrain: "metrics are difficult." Understood. But that doesn't justify complete stasis. Maybe something is going on somewhere. But I've asked around and found nothing. Where are the version 1.0 energy metrics we can learn from and build on going forward? What's being used in the JLTV program? What about you Air Force? Navy? Bueller?

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