Monday, February 1, 2010

QDR 2010 Directly Addresses DOD's Operational and Facilities Energy Issues

I admit it: back in June of 2009 I had my doubts. But the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is finally out, and energy got its due - approximately one page out of one hundred twenty eight. Not bad, when you consider previous QDRs never considered the topic. Starting on page 84 of the report, I've captured and reprinted the 4 energy specific paragraphs here and will break it down, with the points I consider most important / helpful highlighted in yellow.

First, I like that they take a stab at defining energy security, and when they do it's kept short and sweet:
Energy security for the Department means having assured access to reliable supplies of energy and the ability to protect and deliver sufficient energy to meet operational needs.
There's a lot they leave out that others try to cram in. I say: good job. Re: the definition - just want to make sure we don't spend so much time and energy on the protect and deliver parts that we significantly impair our ability to prosecute war ... or whatever else it is our troops are told to accomplish. The QDR addresses that concern in the next sentence:
Energy efficiency can serve as a force multiplier, because it increases the range and endurance of forces in the field and can reduce the number of combat forces diverted to protect energy supply lines, which are vulnerable to both asymmetric and conventional attacks and disruptions.
... and points out additional benefits to fielding a leaner, meaner force. So how's this goodness going to come about? By baking better energy thinking in right up front the way it's already been told to do by congress, and the way two Defense Science Boards and the GAO have already recommended:
DoD must incorporate geostrategic and operational energy considerations into force planning, requirements development, and acquisition processes. To address these challenges, DoD will fully implement the statutory requirement for the energy efficiency Key Performance Parameter and fully burdened cost of fuel set forth in the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act.
Who's going to make this happen? Why the DOD Energy Boss, of course. The QDR language makes it sound like a fait accompli:
The Department will also investigate alternative concepts for improving operational energy use, including the creation of an innovation fund administered by the new Director of Operational Energy to enable components to compete for funding on projects that advance integrated energy solutions.
Sounds good, but I've got the feeling they're being a little too optimistic on this one. See here.

I like everything in this next two paragraphs, but I'm going to let them ride without comment and just a few highlights:
The Department is increasing its use of renewable energy supplies and reducing energy demand to improve operational effectiveness, reduce greenhouse gas emissions in support of U.S. climate change initiatives, and protect the Department from energy price fluctuations. The Military Departments have invested in noncarbon power sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass energy at domestic installations and in vehicles powered by alternative fuels, including hybrid power, electricity, hydrogen, and compressed national gas. Solving military challenges—through such innovations as more efficient generators, better batteries, lighter materials, and tactically deployed energy sources—has the potential to yield spin-off technologies that benefit the civilian community as well. DoD will partner with academia, other U.S. agencies, and international partners to research, develop, test, and evaluate new sustainable energy technologies.
Indeed, the following examples demonstrate the broad range of Service energy innovations. By 2016, the Air Force will be postured to cost-competitively acquire 50 percent of its domestic aviation fuel via an alternative fuel blend that is greener than conventional petroleum fuel. Further, Air Force testing and standard-setting in this arena paves the way for the much larger commercial aviation sector to follow. The Army is in the midst of a significant transformation of its fleet of 70,000 non-tactical vehicles (NTVs), including the current deployment of more than 500 hybrids and the acquisition of 4,000 low-speed electric vehicles at domestic installations to help cut fossil fuel usage. The Army is also exploring ways to exploit the opportunities for renewable power generation to support operational needs: for instance, the Rucksack Enhanced Portable Power System (REPPS). The Navy commissioned the USS Makin Island, its first electric-drive surface combatant, and tested an F/A-18 engine on camelina-based biofuel in 2009—two key steps toward the vision of deploying a “green” carrier strike group using biofuel and nuclear power by 2016. The Marine Corps has created an Expeditionary Energy Office to address operational energy risk, and its Energy Assessment Team has identified ways to achieve efficiencies in today’s highly energy-intensive operations in Afghanistan and Iraq in order to reduce logistics and related force protection requirements.
Finally, the last paragraph brings it all home with the intent to address the brittle grid problem.
To address energy security while simultaneously enhancing mission assurance at domestic facilities, the Department is focusing on making them more resilient. U.S. forces at home and abroad rely on support from installations in the United States. DoD will conduct a coordinated energy assessment, prioritize critical assets, and promote investments in energy efficiency to ensure that critical installations are adequately prepared for prolonged outages caused by natural disasters, accidents, or attacks. At the same time, the Department will also take steps to balance energy production and transmission with the requirement to preserve the test and training ranges and the operating areas that are needed to maintain readiness.
They covered all the bases (no pun intended) as far as I'm concerned. There's another two-hundred or more pages of detail I would have like to have seen included on energy, but if they had, given all the other challenges facing the department at this time, it wouldn't be a QDR.

I'll pursue the usual path from this point on: reminding the Department that this is what it's told itself it needs to do on energy matters, and nudging it to move faster when it looks like other challenges, or more likely, mind-numbing bureaucratic inertia, tribal squabbling and/or status quo thinking get in the way of desperately needed progress.

Photo Credit: abnskyshark / Andrew Michael Smith @ Flickr

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