Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Air Force Fusing Operational and Facilities Energy Strategies in 2010

Other than pondering the potential future energy demand impact of a having a squillion UAVs in the air 24/7, you may have noticed the Air Force hasn't had much of a presence on this blog for a while. Well, seems like they've been hunkered down getting their ducks lined up cause now all of a sudden, they've leapt to a DOD-leading position on energy.

When you really think about it, we wouldn't have any CONUS bases if "facilities" were not essential for accomplishing "the mission". Energy actions by DOD orgs not in service of the mission are not sustainable, and we've been picking up multiple signals lately that USAF senior leadership sees integrated, enterprise-wide energy management as integral to the Air Force mission, not just feel-good window dressing.

Setting the Stage: DASD Robyn's Testimony on Energy Role in Mission Assurance
Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Installations & Environment, Dorothy Robyn, had this to say to the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) in February of this year. First, acknowledging the "brittle grid" problem facing bases:
Installation energy management is key to mission assurance. According to the Defense Science Board, DOD’s reliance on a fragile commercial grid to deliver electricity to its installations places the continuity of critical missions at serious and growing risk. Most installations lack the ability to manage their demand for and supply of electrical power and are thus vulnerable to intermittent and/or prolonged power disruption due to natural disasters, cyberattacks and sheer overload of the grid.
... and this calling for moving from a compliance-driven slow march to an empowered mindset of continual improvement targeting real mission assurance actions:
Over the last five years, the Department has steadily reduced energy consumption per square foot at our permanent installations, largely in response to statutory and regulatory goals. While continuing that very positive trend, it is time for us to adapt our approach to installation energy management from one that is primarily focused on compliance to one that is focused on long-term ... mission assurance.
Long term mission assurance - you've got to love that. The Air Force now seems to be moving in that direction.

2010 AF Posture Statement

Here are the most senior seniors in the Department saying what they're going to do. See page 19 of this doc: it doesn't get any more simple or sweeping than this:
The Air Force as an institution will make an "institutional effort to consider energy management in all that we do"].
Back to the mission point, though. And it's that "all we do" is about the mission and the mission only.

2011 USAF Budget

It's always been a reliable axiom that if you want to know what's really going on, follow the money. To that end, you can see energy policy achieving much more prominence in the Air Force's budget documents for the coming year (see pages 67-68). I note this statement in particular:
Energy use in the battlespace drives monetary costs and operational risks; therefore, it is essential to ensure it is appropriately considered from a systems and concept of operations viewpoint.
You'll see it also comes right out and says the AF is making energy-related KPPs and FBCF factors central to how it does business. Saying it is one thing; implementing it is another, but there's no doubt this is encouraging.

The USAF Energy Forum III
All of this goodness will be showcased in USAF's next big energy event, and I've got just two things to say about this forum, coming up fast on May 27 and 28 in DC. First, its strategy of focusing on Major Command (MAJCOM) energy efforts means that while we're still in the early days, energy management is truly being "operationalized". That says a lot of about the effectiveness of the AF's culture change strategy.

Second, as the brochure says, the theme is "Energy as an Operations Enabler." But then note in the list of topics to be covered there is no distinction between operational and non-operational. What's implied, then, is that if it's not about the mission, then it's not something the AF is working on. This may be a subtle point, but to me it speaks volumes about the maturation of USAF's energy policy development. Click here for more info on the Forum including how to register.

Photo Credit: Lance Cheung on Flickr

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