Wednesday, August 18, 2010

DOD Energy Worlds Collide: New DOEPP Speaks to DEB and Outlines Priorities

Sharon Burke, the first-ever Director of Operational Energy Plans and Programs (DOEPP, rhymes with "soap") carved out some time from her busy schedule to give the DOD Energy Blog (DEB) some early scope guidance from her org. I asked if she'd call out the "first wins" she is shooting for, and here's what I got:

The first big win is the establishment and staffing of the DOEPP office itself, at the Assistant Secretary of Defense level. IMHO, this is something folks in the DOD energy diaspora have been calling for for over a decade - pretty remarkable to see it finally come to fruition. Burke also called out the following DOEPP attributes. DOEPP:
  • Has a cross cutting view and purviews both strategic and geo-strategic
  • Looks at operational and tactical vulnerabilities and opportunities (my emphasis)
  • Is a central focal point for energy budgeting and funding
  • Will bring a sustained focus on energy aspects of combat capability, and will keep the focus tight on combat capabilities so the DOD community will understand this is the primary mission: to support the operational mission from an energy perspective
Burke then made a point about her interest in anti-access issues, saying it was one thing when fuel and logistics lines were behind the lines and our equipment wasn't all that energy intensive. But now (see: Afghanistan) fuel lines are right in the middle of the battle space and many of our systems completely cease to function w/o a steady stream of fuel or electricity.

So back to the subject of "wins"; she stressed that current operations are her top priority, and pointed to the the Marines' XFOB at Twenty-nine Palms, CA as one place where new energy technologies and techniques will soon be harvested for use on the battlefield. She also mentioned some recent generator management successes that could potentially provide widespread energy and logistics savings if the lessons can be shared widely.

When I pressed for more, she said some "wins" won't be visible for decades even if they take place soon. By this, of course, Burke was referring to the requirements and acquisition process, that until now hasn't placed an operational value on fuel efficiency and hasn't taken advantage of energy metrics. Should the Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel (FBCF) and energy efficiency key performance parameter (KPP) become built into the methods we use to define what we need and what we build, buy and field, our war fighters 10-15 years in the future will be the beneficiaries of a lighter, more mobile and more resilient force. However, should Burke and others seeking these changes not make quick progress, then our future fighters are doomed to fight with the same energy burdens their predecessors have consistently struggled with.

One other subtle but important note about metrics: Burke wants to make sure they're not too complicated to use. From what I've seen, I think this is an excellent point to champion.

All that said, what are the "must-do's: by the end of this year? They include:
  • Define an operational energy strategy
  • Issue a budget certification report
  • Fully stand up the DOEPP organization and office (including an active web site, which I'll link to the minute it exists)
One final point: of course I asked about tribalism and politics and the concern that individual orgs would resist change, rather than cooperate with the DOEPP. Burke said so far she's gotten nothing but energetic and enthusiastic cooperation from folks all across the Department. And she insists that she's working hard to foster a cooperative relationship with the services, while everyone begins to start thinking differently about energy in every aspect of their operations ... with particular attention paid towards helping those currently in harm's way.

Burke and the DOEPP office clearly have a long, long way to go. But at least we can say they've started. That's more than I would have imagined possible just a few short years ago. Please help 'em if you can.

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