Monday, October 18, 2010

DoD Energy Awareness Week: Leadership Steps Up

The week of 12 – 15 October was a banner week for leadership in DoD Energy. The Pentagon hosted an energy awareness week complete with senior leadership panels, blogger interviews and vendor displays that highlighted energy use in the rain. For the hardy few who were there on Thursday, you know what I mean. Much has already been written on the subject so I will reference those pieces and then give you my thoughts. But first, an editorial note to senior leaders in DOD: Please stop quoting the fully burdened cost of $400/gal for fuel! This is from a 2001 Defense Science Board report on the extremes to which the cost could go. After serving on the Marine Corps Energy Assessment Team and the Air Force Team as well, the only way you can get to $400/gal is if one fighter aircraft refuels another over the battlespace AND you include the pilots respective bar tabs. I would rather you quoted the FBCF in blood. That is without price. Now, back to our story.

Vendors setup and displayed their wares on Tuesday, but things really kicked off on Wednesday morning with a panel discussion led by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ADM Mullen and included Chief of Staff of the Air Force, GEN Schwartz, Army Vice Chief of Staff, GEN Pete Chiarelli and the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, Dr. Aneesh P Chopra. The panel wrapped up with comments by the Secretary of the Navy, HON Ray Mabus. The Navy conducted their own forum beginning on 12 October, were Chief of Naval Operations, ADM Gary Roughead discussed the importance of life-cycle costing to include the cost of energy. The gist of the DOD panel’s remarks is available here. That ADM Mullen opened this event speaks volumes about senior leadership commitment. Of course if you have read the issue of FAST COMPANY in which he was featured, you would not be surprised to see him in the lead.

The afternoon session was anchored by Dr. Dorothy Robyn, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment and featured VADM William Burke, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistic; MG Ellen Pawlikowski, Commander, Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base; MG Howard Bromberg, Special Assistant to the Commanding General United States Army Forces Command; COL Brutus Charette, Director, USMC Expeditionary Energy; and Capt. Jeffrey Maclay, Commander, Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. Each of the speakers provided updates on their respective agencies effort to come to grips with the various mandates and goals established to reduce fossil fuel energy consumption and increase renewable energy use. VADM Burke related the findings of one study regarding the use of a hybrid electric drive on a ship that demonstrated a savings of $250 million over the life of the vessel. That is for a single ship! Now that is the kind of number that would get noticed even in the Pentagon. MG Bromberg (former CG at Fort Bliss, Tx) listed eight things to think about when considering energy in the Department:

  1. Need incentives for installations for energy savings and creation.
  2. Design savings into buildings. Spend the extra to gain the ROI.
  3. Need personnel on staff with RE/ALT energy expertise.
  4. Need to do the intelligence preparation of the battlefield for energy. See Bliss Tiger Team.
  5. Need to link Operational and Installation Energy
  6. Must embrace public/private partnership that provide benefit to both
  7. Need legislation that supports investment in demand reduction and renewables (e.g., Renewable Portfolio Standards)
  8. Need to establish Energy Centers of Excellence for the Services and educate the public

COL Brutus Charette delivered his message as only a Marine Corps Fighter Pilot could. He emphasized the need for the USMC to remain lethal, fast and austere and that energy efforts must support this. His demeanor was light hearted and self-effacing until the close. After discussing the company that had deployed recently with renewable energy capability, he reminded us that this was and will continue to be a deadly business. Four Marines from the battalion of which that company was a part, were killed by a roadside bomb while conducting combat operation in Afghanistan the day before.

In addition to the panels, numerous vendors with existing government contracts or considerations were invited to display their wares. I saw everything from small storage solutions to water purification to the USMC’s GREEN system. Several government agencies to include the Air Force Research Lab had displays as well, but what I didn’t see were many representatives from the acquisition community. Given the body slam delivered by GEN Pete Chiarelli, I would not be surprised if they continue to maintain a low profile. As quoted in the NDIA article concerning his remarks during the panel discussion:

The Pentagon’s acquisition process also impedes energy reform by slowing down innovation and making it difficult to buy off-the-shelf technology for military use, Chiarelli noted. One of the most successful fuel-savings measures that the Army introduced several years ago in Iraq was to spray temporary housing and tents with insulating foam, which cut down dramatically on the use of heating and air conditioning. That was a relatively inexpensive product that resulted in sizeable savings, Chiarelli said. But it was “cheap because we bought it off the market … Had we developed it ourselves, it probably would have cost 20 or 30 times more, and we would be waiting five more years to spray it on the tents.”

Swapping out fuel-hogging helicopter engines could generate significant savings, but it would take 10 years under the Army’s procurement process, Chiarelli said. “I worry that our acquisition system is too slow to take advantage of technological changes.” During the decade that it takes to complete an engine replacement program, he said, the Army would not be able to take advantage of new technology that may not exist today.

All in all, I would consider this past week’s activity a spectacular success… first steps go. The folks responsible were able to engage the leadership, bring in the vendors and put this all together in a little over two months. Of particular note were COL Paul Roege, Kevin Geiss, Anne Johnson, Sara Lake, Nora Maccoby and the ubiquitous Joe Eichenlaub. From my understanding they were not encumbered by a lot of top down guidance and these great Americans just made it happen. I saw the following comment from one of the vendor attendees:

I spent all week working with our clients inside the courtyard, and have nothing but superlatives for how well this event went from our perspective. I talked to numerous other exhibitors, and all had the same response - great effort by the various elements of the WHS and Army Staff, and great opportunity for service members stationed at the Pentagon to see what’s going on in DoD energy world outside of the “building".

Also a great opportunity for us to show off what we are doing for energy security both at the operational and installation levels. Several exhibitors commented that this was as well run as any of the top trade shows and conferences they’ve been involved with.

Everyone involved is to be commended and I recommend the planning for next year’s event start tomorrow! See you at AUSA next week. Dan Nolan

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