Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Global Hawk Becoming First Synth Fuel Certified UAV

Thanks to Wired's Danger Zone for this short note.  Our blog has pondered the energy demand dynamics of DOD's increasing love affair with drones many times (see here and here for example).

But this certainly adds a new twist. It's not a renewable source of course, and it sure ain't clean. But if we had to use it, having the ability to run on coal-derived JP8 is good insurance ... and mission assurance.

And while we're at it: Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families from your friends the DOD Energy Blog.

Photo credit: Thomasz Dunn on

AFSAB Energy Study Report: Securing the Value Chain

This week, the Air Force released a previously FOUO report by their Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) entitled Alternative Sources of Energy for U.S. Air Force Bases. The report, originally published in classified form in August 2009, presents four recommendations and one theme. The theme remains the same: “the lack of a concerted systems approach to the problem”. The SAB sees the glass half full and I agree with them.

"Many installations are already engaged in alternative energy projects funded by private investors (such as local energy companies) and by the Air Force. These projects tend be initiated by enterprising individuals seizing timely opportunities; they are usually not designed as part of an integrated base energy system".

Throughout the DoD, enterprising individuals are championing the cause, making headway sometimes despite the system. These islands of excellence will continue to lead the charge. What is different today from August 2009 is the position of the senior leadership in all Services. All of the critical positions have been filled. The leadership is on record. Those commanders in the field who are making things happen now have friends in court.

In business it is important to secure the value change. In the military it is the chain of command.The challenge will be to put the racehorses in harness to pull the load. Not to beat an analog to death, but every sled team needs a lead dog and the Services must select lead installations where the commander is intrinsically motivated to achieving energy security, not because he or she was told to, but because they understand the implications of an insecure value chain.

The SAB study started with fairly general terms of reference, but focused in on three specific areas:

  • Analyze energy needs, usage, vulnerabilities, and conservation efforts: the Study found the ongoing conversation efforts to be effective in reducing current usage at Air Force installations. Much progress has been made already, but there are vulnerabilities.
  • Identify and assess alternative energy sources and recommend potential technologies and systems for Air Force installations near-, mid- and far-term: the Study found particular attention needs to be focused on power generation and storage solutions.
  • Assess the benefits and challenges associated with alternative energy sources: the Study found the Air Force faces significant challenges in operating its bases independently.

The four recommendations were in the areas of systems approach and teaming; cyber and physical security; concurrent pursuit of RE and storage solutions and, finally, nukes. Excerpts are below:

Recommendation 1

Implement a more concerted systems approach to the Air Force’s pursuit of alternative energy sources. The Panel recommends strengthening in-house competency in areas such as energy technologies, systems security, and energy compatibility with base missions.

Furthermore, the people within the Air Force civil engineering organizations who focus on energy and security of facilities should be augmented by partnerships with the relevant Department of Energy experts. The Study recommends elevating the role of the Base Energy Manager to strengthen operational understandings of energy security and enable implementation of an enterprise approach to alternative energy systems.

Recommendation 2

Strengthen plans for the security of energy sources and distribution elements at Air Force bases. Existing and future energy systems must be hardened against physical and cyber-attacks. Planning should include standardized assessments of vulnerabilities and risks and risk mitigation planning for mission-critical priorities. Microgrid and smart grid technologies should be considered, as well as ways to diversify energy sources and supply chains.

Recommendation 3

Pursue energy storage solutions and renewable energy sources concurrently. Alternative energy sources like wind and solar are intermittent; bases need energy storage systems to match energy supply with demand. Energy storage must, therefore, be considered in energy system planning.

In the near-term, the Study recommends storage be incorporated into energy systems for load-leveling and bridging intermittent supplies. Microgrid control systems should also be used to better integrate energy storage to match demand for power and to address the need for improved security and allow independent operation from the commercial grid during disruptions.

For the mid- to far-term, the Study recommends the Air Force partner with others in the development of technologies to create liquid fuels from renewable sources. The Air Force should also partner with others on the adoption of clean and efficient backup power systems useful for load-leveling and for the development of hydrocarbon fuel cells or microturbine systems for cleaner conversion of liquid fuels to backup power.

Recommendation 4

Evaluate emerging small nuclear power systems, identify bases that would derive the most benefit from such systems, and make nuclear energy a part of the Air Force’s energy planning for the future.

The clear implication of the report is the importance of bringing all resources to bear. DoD, DoE and private partners must work together toward a common goal that satisfies the requirements for security and economic viability. A market signal from DoD changes the playing field. Right now, the brightest minds in America are headed to Wall Street to create nothing. A concerted effort to secure our installations’ energy requirements, coupled with legislative support for incentives can redirect that flow of brain power into energy innovation that can be the driver for a second American century.

The report contains some excellent discussions of technologies to include the often overlooked, yet most cost effective avenues to energy security, conservation. Although focused on installations, there is an appendix for Expeditionary Energy Technologies. I highly recommend this report for energy experts and neophytes such as myself. It is an excellent resource.

Thanks to Mike Aimone, Energy Scout and Maven, for this tip.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Spray Foam and Chihuahuas: Obstacles on the Road to Energy Security

The road to energy security is circular. You start out reducing your demand, via energy efficiency gains and process changes, find smart ways to distribute the required power and then bring in the renewables/alternatives to meet the diminished demand. Reduce, distribute, renew, repeat. Seems like a straightforward process. Yet we are hearing that even the easiest part of reducing demand has been slow rolled in Afghanistan of late.

Anybody who has followed energy efforts in our two war zones is familiar with the concept of spray foaming (with spray polyurethane foam) tents. For the uninitiated, the process developed by Joe Amadee and John Spiller involves spraying a quick hardening, insulating foam on temporary structures that aren't going anywhere. The process is done by trained contract professionals in a short period of time and provides a structure that is thermally and acoustically insulated with reduced air infiltration (read less dust) and 50 to 70% less fuel intensity necessary to heat and cool. Both the Marine Corps and Air Force Energy assessment teams recommended this procedure to decrease fuel use for power generation in Afghanistan.

There is an existing contract to do the work, but it being delayed because someone, somewhere is being treed by a Chihuahua. Despite testing and certification by the Army Safety folks, the Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine and a policy letter from the DASA, Environment, Safety and Occupational Health, concerns about mythical safety and disposal concerns abound. I have heard of a report where it is alleged that to dispose of the material will require shipping it back to the states for destruction. This is ludicrous and, frankly, borderline negligent. This material is landfilled in this country every single day. Of course, I am not sure if the Afghan EPA has higher standards than ours.
The reason this is of concern is not the dollar cost of the fuel; it is the cost in blood. It is difficult to assess the NATO casualties associated with fuel since no tactical convoy is carrying fuel alone. But it is easy if you ask the contractors responsible for delivering the fuel in Afghanistan. Here is a quote from an email I received:
By the way, I met with Supreme Fuel Afghanistan last week; they are the largest fuel contractor and have all of RC-South, Southwest and North. They have had 47 contracted fuel truck drivers (mostly TCN’s) KILLED this calendar year alone (361 KIA, 652 WIA since contract began)!! They have lost 97 fuel trucks in the last 6 weeks!! Dude, folks are still being killed moving fuel we wouldn’t need if energy efficiency was REALLY enough of a priority in DOD to cause leadership to establish POLICY to require it.
Well said. In Afghanistan, fuel is delivered to the major bases by contractors without the benefit of military escort. This is different from Iraq, where at one time U.S. forces provided force protection and were suffering one casualty for every twenty four convoys. The fact that third country nationals (TCNs) are the targets does not diminish the cost in blood, it just keeps it from being headline news here.

Besides being a great solution (thanks Joe and John) now Congress wants to know how DoD is implementing this elegantly simple idea. In September of this year, the House Armed Services Committee asked the SECDEF to provide an:
... update prior to delivery of the President’s fiscal year 2012 budget request detailing the Department’s plan to reduce operational energy through technology and culture change, the approximate savings that may be achieved, approximate funding required, timeline for deployment, and cross-service efforts to maximize investments.
In the letter, they specifically cite the use of SPF on tents as an example of how to reduce significantly the approximately $9.34 billion spent on operational energy.

Spray foaming tents was always intended as a stop gap measure until a better solution could be found. The Acquisition community is working it hard. That being said, there are logistics solutions available today that would simple require a modification to LOGCAP contracting. SIPSWorldWide and SynoStructures (presentation by Synovision to Pacific Northwest Defense Association) are examples of shovel ready structures to replace spray foamed tents. Once we figure out how to include energy savings incentives in LOGCAP it will become a self solving problem. In the meantime, let’s use the tools we have at hand and not be treed by Chihuahuas; there are plenty of pit bulls out there.

Monday, November 15, 2010

CNAS Thoughts on DOD Energy Strategy: 30 Years to Cold Turkey

Working in the DOD energy arena for the past four years, one often feels as if they are shouting in a closed room. The Defense Energy Community tends to be a insular club with new members allowed in grudgingly and after a long vetting period. Now, however, other voices are picking up the cry.

John Nagl, president of the Center for A New American Security (CNAS) and Christine Parthemore, CNAS have published an excellent paper on how DoD must prepare for the post petroleum era. LTC(R), Professor, Doctor, Nagl was one of the rising stars in the Army with the intellect and courage to try to get the institution to examine itself. A combination of institutional inertia and growing opportunities to serve a larger purpose brought Nagl to CNAS and he has now turned that intellect to the issue of energy and national security. In the paper, he and Ms. Parthemore make the argument for why DOD must have a coherent energy strategy vice the islands of excellence we now see. They envision a clear goal that goes beyond the current stair step time and percentage goals now on the books. Their recommendation is for a three decade effort to replace fossil fuels for DOD use.

Nagl and Parthemore lay out an eleven step program to break DOD’s oil addiction. We personally wish they had added a 12th step, but that is only a function of a sick sense of humor. Their program will require change not only within DOD, but the modification of procedures, policy and law well beyond DOD’s sphere of influence. In essence they are calling for a national strategic effort with DOD as the change agent. As Tom Friedman likes to say, “When the military goes green, the country will go green”.

We highly recommend all operational and institutional energy players study this plan. It is a concept, not a blueprint. It will require adaptation, but a couple of the bold ideas should be embraced immediately. Their idea for investing for maximum impact, increasing incentives and streamlining DOD energy management deserve immediate attention. Keep up the fire!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A visit to the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Display and some SAGE advice

This is the final post on the Army’s Energy Security Panel that featured, the HON Katherine Hammack Assistant Secretary of the Army Installations, Energy and Environment, LTG Rick Lynch, Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management/Commanding General, Installation Management Command (IMCOM), LTG Robert L. Van Antwerp, Jr. Chief of Engineers/Commanding General United States Army Corps of Engineers); and LTG Michael A. Vane Director, Army Capabilities Integration Center, United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (ARCIC). Prior to the panel discussion, Under Secretary of the Army, Dr. Joseph Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff Pete Chiarelli provided their thoughts and guidance to a crowd of over 200 military, civilian and industry participants. After the final speaker, we went to the floor of the convention center to see what was being doing about the challenges of energy on the battlefield and at installations. What we were expecting was an acquisition solution. What we found was a surprise.

What was surprising was that we found a logistics solution. The solution was an effort of teaming by the Army’s G4, Logistics, the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installations, Energy and Environment and the Training and Doctrine Command. But we started out looking for the acquisition solution. When we visited the display by the Assistant Chief of Staff, Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, we found nothing related to energy for the FOB or installation. When asked about this, the good folks at the display told us to go check with TRADOC. No formal requirement (TRADOC), no program (ASA, AL&T). Apparently, however, there is an informal requirement.

The Smart and Green Energy (SAGE) for base camps is an effort by the U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff, Logistics through his field operating agency, the Logistics Innovation Agency with support from DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to reduce demand and increase the use of renewable energy for medium sized forward operating bases. The customer for this effort is the C-7 (Engineer) U.S. Army Central Command. The goal is to develop a Government-owned, open source, design specification for an energy savings, smart micro grid for theater basecamps where grid construction can be done by military or LOGCAP. It consists of energy sources, smart micro grid technologies, storage and power generation and energy efficient shelters. The design is targeted to support a 500-3000 man FOB with a 30-60% reduction in JP8 demand for power generation.

The C-7 at ARCENT asked the G4 at the department of the Army to get them a solution to the vulnerability of long lines of logistics to power the FOBs. The G4 turned to the LIA (more to follow on them) who went to work. They are producing a logistics solution vice an acquisition solution. They are drawing on the expertise of the Department of Energy labs such as Pacific Northwestern National Lab (PNNL) and off the shelf utility industry technologies that are mature and proven. And since PNNL is also working the Joint Concept Technology Demonstration, SPIDERS (smart microgrid) both programs can be accelerated by shared knowledge. LIA is working on a systems approach to energy that requires reduced demand, smart distribution and alternative energy production and storage.

While TRADOC is working on the requirements, the G4 is delivering the product. Our conversation with LIA indicated that they are working closely with Program Manager (PM) for Force Sustainment Systems and with PM, Mobile Electric Power. TRADOC’s resident rocket scientist and energy mavin, COL Paul Roege was working the SAGE booth, so it is safe to say that what LIA learns will be incorporated into whatever the system of record becomes. What is encouraging is that, where the acquisition solution will likely take seven years (once the requirement is defined) this small logistics solution goes to testing next spring. IF properly resourced, the soldiers of ARCENT could see the benefits in decreased fuel convoys in a year. Less fuel is less risk and that is everyone’s goal.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Today's Must Read if You Are Planning a Trip to Afghanistan to Look at Energy Use

Great Article in the National Strategy Forum Review by a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Oliver Fritz. Besides membership in the CFR and a master's in Security Studies from MIT, Mr. Fritz also works in the Office of the Director for Operational Energy Plans and Policies.
This thoughtful and informative piece provides an excellent overview of why energy is a strategic issue for the Department. For example, a $1 increase in the cost of a barrel of oil cost DoD $130 million in annual energy costs. The article also highlights what is going on in DoD energy efforts to include the Net Zero Plus JCTD (picture) now drawing to a close. The way ahead for DoD is to follow the USMC lead in the Commandant's Guidance recently published. Set the goal, establish responsibility, allocate the resources and hold people accountable for the resources expended in pursuit of the goal. What could be easier?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mythbusters and the $400 gallon of fuel: Under Secretary of the Army Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff GEN Chiarelli headed for Afghanistan.

Following their appearance at the Energy Forum at AUSA on 27 Oct, Westphal and Chiarelli held a press conference where they announce that they would be headed to theater to understand their Service's energy use. Several articles have been written about it. What is unfortunate is that in a couple of the articles we find the perpetuation of a myth that needs to be busted.

Every now and then it is important to revisit bits of information that have entered the realm of lore. One such bit of info that has become mythical is the $400 gallon of fuel. This number has been quoted, always as an extreme case, by DoD leadership. Others have used it as typical of fuel in war zones and still others consider it not only typical, but low balled. It’s time for a little reality check.

First of all, the number is used as an example of the Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel (FBCF). The Defense Acquisition Guidance defines FBCF as : “the cost of the fuel itself (typically the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC) standard price) plus the apportioned cost of all of the fuel delivery logistics and related force protection required beyond the DESC point of sale to ensure refueling of this system. “

The purpose of the FBCF is to evaluate new systems and platforms during the Analysis of Alternatives portion of the requirements process known as the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System. Materiel solutions will be considered more competitive that require less support infrastructure; that have a lower power requirement and are more energy efficient. This will allow DoD to understand the implications of energy use in a given scenario. The FBCF is completely scenario driven based upon point to point movement of a specific variety (road march, attack, retrograde, etc). There can be no generic FBCF. So how did we get $400 a gallon?

In the Report of the Defense Science Board, More Capable Warfighting Through Reduced Fuel Burden, published in May 2001, the Board envisioned various scenarios in which what they called the “true cost of fuel” was computed. One of the scenarios postulated in the DSB report was fuel delivery to a ground mobile force 600 kilometers beyond the Forward Edge of the Battle Area, back when we had front lines. In this scenario the fuel would be delivered by CH-47 helicopters flying in three legs to Forward Area Rearm, Refuel Points (FARRP) and requiring a full fuel load for each A/C at each FARRP. For a 1,500 gallon payload in each A/C and three stops there and three stops back, the cost per gallon was $400.

This may indeed be an accurate number for an extreme scenario. Both the Marine Corps t and the Air Force Energy Assessment Teams found the number, on average, to be $12 to $20 a gallon (depending on distance traveled). Is it possible to envision even more extreme scenarios? Of course. The FBCF is an acquisition tool and should be used as such. I would much rather we considered the Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel in Blood. When we consider the amount of combat power we consume protecting long lines of communication and the casualties incurred in those missions, we have a much more sobering factor.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Purple Energy Warrior: Geiss to Air Force Energy Post

Just a quick note to say congratulations to Dr. Kevin Geiss on his appointment as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Energy. For the past couple of years, Dr. Geiss has anchored the Army Energy Team as the Program Director for Energy Security. He is coming back to the Air Force via the Army and the White House. He previously serve in AFRL at Wright-Patterson AFB. And as you can tell by his haircut, he is a former Marine. With experience in all Services that qualifies him as purple. We wish him the best of luck in executing the Air Force energy agenda.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

USMC Leadership: Guidance, Resources and a Suspense Date

Recently, the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James F. Amos, issued his “Commandant’s Planning Guidance” . In the guidance the Commandant envisions a globalized world, with a youthful demographic, pressured by a lack of education and opportunity. The continued competition for scarce natural resources – fossil fuel, food and water - and the rise of new powers and shifting relationships will create the future security environment. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates described the resulting hybrid warfare as the “lethality of state conflict with the fanatical and protracted fervor of irregular warfare, where Microsoft coexists with machetes, and stealth is met by suicide bombers.”

The Commandant sees this world as requiring the expeditionary capabilities that only the Marines can provide. For the Corps, “Expeditionary” is more about a state of mind than just a capability and one senses that Marines feel they have sacrificed this in 8 years of continuous conflict. The Commandant seeks to re-invigorate this capability, this mindset, so that the Corps can continue to be the inherently agile force that can buy time for the Nation to react. He wants a Marine Corps that is “a multi-capable, combined arms force, comfortable operating at the high and low ends of the threat spectrum, or in the shaded areas where they overlap”. He wants a Marine Corps that can stand at that proverbial door and (in my favorite excerpt) “we possess the finesse, the training and the tools to knock at the door diplomatically, pick the lock skillfully, or kick it in violently”.

GEN Amos’ priorities are crystal clear:

  • We will continue to provide the best trained and equipped Marine units to Afghanistan. This will not change. This remains our top priority!
  • We will rebalance our Corps, posture it for the future and aggressively experiment with and implement new capabilities and organizations.
  • We will better educate and train our Marines to succeed in distributed operations and increasingly complex environments.
  • We will keep faith with our Marines, our Sailors and our families.

Under rebalancing the Corps he makes energy efficiency and reduced consumption a priority for a Corps able to operate lighter and faster, a return to their expeditionary roots. The Commandant specifically calls out the effort of the Expeditionary Energy Office and charges them with the goals of “reduced energy demand in our platforms and systems, self-sufficiency in our battlefield sustainment, and a reduced expeditionary foot print on the battlefield”. More than just goals, GEN Amos requires the production of a plan to be implemented in FY11 and fully funded in POM 13 budget cycle that will, “Concentrate on three major areas: (1) increase the use of renewable energy, (2) instilling an ethos of energy efficiency, (3) increase the efficiency of equipment”. The intent is a lighter, faster agile Corps that is less dependent on bulk supplies. The plan is due on 18 February 2011. As U.S. Army IMCOM commander, LTG Lynch likes to say, a vision without resources is an hallucination. A plan without a due date is a rolling briefing.

Good on the USMC for this definitive guidance. It has a requirement to resource and a suspense date. Now that is leadership you can believe in. If they make the plan public, we will have comments on the 19th.

Thanks to Mike Aimone for the tip.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Requirements, Initial Capabilities and getting the Acquisition Train Rolling.

From the AUSA Meeting and Convention, Washington D.C. This is the follow up to our previous post on the Army’s Energy Security Panel that featured, the HON Katherine Hammack Assistant Secretary of the Army Installations, Energy and Environment, LTG Rick Lynch, Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management/Commanding General, Installation Management Command (IMCOM), LTG Robert L. Van Antwerp, Jr. Chief of Engineers/ Commanding General United States Army Corps of Engineers); and LTG Michael A. Vane Director (pictured), Army Capabilities Integration Center, United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (ARCIC). Prior to the panel discussion, Under Secretary of the Army, Dr. Joseph Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff Pete Chiarelli provided their thoughts and guidance to a crowd of over 200 military, civilian and industry participants. LTG Van Antwerp was followed by LTG Vane

In a previous post we describe the Training and Doctrine Command’s (TRADOC) role in transforming battlefield requirements into acquisition programs that meet those needs. TRADOC was ably represented on the energy panel (a first, we believe) by LTG Mike Vane. Vane brought home the challenges of operational energy for ground forces. From the twenty six major convoys a day taking upwards of forty five days enroute, to the 16 gallons a day per soldier, the challenges of keeping a modern, high tech Army in the field for years at a time have taken their toll. As he said, “supply chains with only one source are a golden opportunity for our enemy”. His job is to determine the requirements and the capabilities necessary to ensure the force can sustain itself not for day, not for weeks, but for years.

This is something our Army has rarely experienced and which it is just acknowledging. There has been discussion, but until TRADOC acts, no requirements are generated and therefor no material solutions are required. The publication of the Army’s Operating Concept for 2016-2028 has begun that process. Published in August of this year, the AOC describes “two big ideas”: combined arms operations and wide area security. The former means we have to use all the elements of national power to win and the later means to “consolidate gains, stabilize environments and ensure freedom of action”. In other words, what we should have been doing the last 7 years. It also means that the Army anticipates more of the same, so the challenges for energy will not change.

The initial energy White Paper describing the challenge is done. Next will be the Interim Capability Document that will describe what is necessary to prosecute operation in persistent conflict. This document will describe the requirements that must be met by the acquisition corps (GEN Chiarelli will help accelerate that process, I am sure).

In addition to describing the general capabilities necessary for support in persistent conflict, the ARCIC will produce a document describing the interim capabilities of the Base Camp. As one grizzled NCO told me in Afghanistan, “if you have seen one FOB, you have seen one FOB”. There will not be a cookie cutter solutions for our forward operating bases, but essential capabilities will remain the same. We will still need electricity to power the tools that provide our competitive advantage on the battlefield. We will still require motive power to get to the places we need to influence. We just need to be able to accomplish this without creating a target rich environment for our enemies. TRADOC must lead the way and the Acquisition Corps must execute violently. We are already behind.

Next installment: A visit with to the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Display and some SAGE advice