Opening the Gates: Fuel to Begin Flowing to Afghanistan
As the Pentagon prepares to observe energy awareness week as part of the DOD Energy Awareness Month, Pakistan has announced that they will reopen the Torkham border crossing. The pictures of the back up at that crossing site show that it is happening none too soon. According to folks in theater, there has not been a noticeable impact on operations or quality of life, but the troops are asking questions. They want to know what the options are and what we would do if we dipped too deep into our days of supply. The answer is, well, we would apologize.
Unfortunately, energy solutions take a bit more than 30 days to implement so that was really the only option. Demand reduction technologies such as spray foam on temporary structures like tents have been available for a couple of years and have shown great results in Iraq, but have had less traction in Afghanistan. Alternative and renewable power production is still treated as experimental. But, when coupled with storage solutions like lithium ion and deployable flow batteries these renewable sources become a proven, nonintermittent power source that gives our forward operating bases the energy security they require from logistics interruptions. One can bet that the amount of world attention garnered by the fuel tanker attacks was not lost on our adversaries – they will be back for more.
We dodged a bullet this time, but next time we may not be so fortunate. For the Army, this should provide the operational need necessary to create a REQUIREMENT. For those who are not TRADOCIANS, a requirement from the Training and Doctrine Command is what is necessary for the acquisition community to go to work to find the material solution. The Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC) led by LTG Michael Vane, is just the organization to lead the charge.
LTG Vane has demonstrated his understanding of the issues with the publication of a white paper regarding Power and Energy Strategy. This paper, jointly signed by Vane, LTG Mitch Stevenson, Army G4 and MG Nick Justice, Commander of the Research and Development Command, lays out three challenges: 1. Help Soldiers Manage Power and Energy, 2. Reduce Demand, and 3. “Build resilience and flexibility into force capabilities to continue operating in the face of energy disruption.” The recent activities (or lack thereof) at Torkham and similar attacks enroute to the Chaman Gate demonstrate the need for this final “challenge” in spades. The paper goes on to detail seven strategies for meeting these challenges. The requirements listed in the paper ought to provide the acquisition community the necessary impetus to start cranking out the necessary technology, but who is in charge of operational energy? Sharon Burke has the rose at DoD, but who has it at the Service level?
So, what is next? TRADOC will have to publish an Initial Capabilities Document to identify energy capability gaps and solutions. This would be followed by a Tactical Fuel and Energy Implementation Plan; and a roadmap that spells out the Doctrine, Organization, Training, Material, Leadership, Personnel and Facilities activities required to execute the Army's Operational Energy Strategy. It would seem that LTG Vane would have the responsibility for tracking the management of these tasks, but who has overall responsibility for the Operational Energy Strategy? To whom do the Soldiers turn when the border closes again? COL Brutus Charette is shouldering the responsibility for the USMC. We look forward to meeting his Army counterpart.
Late Breaking News: Just got off the phone with Ms Katherine Hammack, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Environment and Energy. Ms. Hammack conducted a phone interview with several bloggers as part of the DOD Live Bloggers forum. During the course of the interview, I asked her who was responsible for Operational Energy in the Army and she forthrightly declared that it was she. Question asked and answered. Well done, Ms. Hammack and welcome to the fight! - Dan Nolan