Thursday, March 10, 2011

Strangled in the Crib: Good Ideas in Operational Energy

The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy was recently at Harvard explaining what the military is doing to reduce energy use in theater. She told them about the egregious weight in batteries the troops are hauling on patrols, about 4 MPH vehicles and about the only program that has had a significant effect in cutting the use of energy for heating and cooling structures in the AOR. And then she told the audience that that one good idea had been abandoned because there was problem with the material (which is in use in millions of buildings in the U.S., interior and exterior), that there was a problem disposing of it (we landfill it in this country) and that the tents couldn’t be moved. The latter is a true statement, but the tents it was to be used on where not moving! Instead they were replaced every 2 or 3 years at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars a piece.

I am a bit exercise about this because I was part of the team that put the concept together at the Army's Rapid Equipping Force. We even wrote a user manual that contained the clearance from the Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (CHPPM) and the Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC). There is a memo dated 5 Aug 2010 from the ASA, Installations and Environment with amplifying instructions on safety decisions. The Air Force issued a memo in April 2010 recommending the use. Finally an Engineering and Construction bulletin was published in May 2010 by the Army Corps of Engineers further amplifying the use instructions for the material. I found out that the use of the foam had been suspended in Afghanistan last summer, but could get no official response when I asked why. I ensured that Ms. Burke’s office had all this information, but never received a response. I suppose it could have gone in someone’s junk mail file……….

BG (R) Steve Anderson knows this works. GEN Petraus’ logistician in Iraq, Anderson knows the true cost of fuel in blood and dollars and what this elegantly simple solution provides. He has been on the ground and seen the results. He has tried to tell the story, but no one is listening. John Spiller, formerly of the now defunct Power Surety Task Force (another good idea killed), can tell the story. He wrote the book on foam, literally. The foam haters out there are the Chihuahuas who have treed the bureaucrats who in turn have turned away from the one system that worked. Yes, the tents can’t be moved. Yes, extra precautions must be taken to provide for exits. Yes, it will burn, but it will not flash over to other tents! Right now we are building plywood buildings in Afghanistan. I have seen them being built. I didn’t see a lot of trees while I was there. Wonder what the fully burdened cost of plywood would be? And I have frozen my butt off in plywood buildings from Kosovo to Afghanistan; they are not known for their energy efficient properties.

The picture shows me, standing in front of a tent that was done improperly. It was not coated, it was not dug in and it was not properly vented. This is what has gotten contracting officers worked up. But it is a poor craftsman who blames his tools. Had the contractor been held accountable by the COTR this would not have happened. John Spiller could have trained them. Joe Amadee could have. I’ve got their numbers if anyone in the office of the Operational Energy would like to speak with them. With All Due Respect, Dan Nolan


"Poppa Bear" Kelly said...

Unless you want to witness potential criminal investigations, you may want this "sleeping dog" ot remain asleep.

mgreczyn said...

I'm just a dumb old separated USAF captain, but doesn't plywood burn? Especially in very dry conditions??

I spent a few of my nights under canvas back in the day. Of course it was the Air Force, so AC was de rigueur and the diesel generators were pumping out the kwh's day and night. Not that it was ever cool in those things.