Thursday, July 28, 2011

From the Ashes to the Edge: Army OE Capability Resurrected

In a previous post, I lamented the lack of an execution arm for operational energy for everyone but the Marines who have the Expeditionary Energy Office. In 2006 -2008, the Army had the Power Surety Task Force (PSTF), embedded in the Rapid Equipping Force (REF) that served that function. The REF finds technology solutions to commanders’ immediate battlefield needs and brought the Joint Force robots, visible laser designators, anti-sniper technologies and enhanced armor.

The adventure in operational energy that was the PSTF brought about, HiPower, tactical garbage to energy, the Net Zero Plus Joint Technology Demonstration and the Net Zero Forward Operating Base at the National Training Center. Unfortunately, it was a bit avant garde for the timorous REF Director at that time and he had it transferred to the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDRE). DDRE was also running the Energy Security Task Force, the ad hoc predecessor to the Office of Operational Energy Plans and Policy (OOEPP). When OOEPP got up and running, they inherited the PSTF, but decided that their office would just do plans and policy and not do execution. The PSTF was allowed to die a proper contractual death. But the Phoneix arises!

Yesterday, at storied Fort Belvoir, VA the REF announced that “The U.S. Army's Rapid Equipping Force has partnered with the Defense Technical Information Center's (DTIC) Weapon Systems Technology Information Analysis Center (WSTIAC) to procure, deploy and assess hybrid alternative and renewable energy systems in an effort called "Energy to the Edge". Selected renewable and alternative energy solutions include Solar Stick 360 3kW hybrid energy system, ZeroBase H-Series 5kW Regenerator, Skybuilt's Skycase portable power system, Iris Technologies Personal Power System (SPACES) and Qinetiq's 1kW JP-8 generator.” As soon as the REF posts a link to the release, will get it to you.

How this will be accomplished is unclear. Whether a sub-organization will be reconstituted or this will simply be added to the plates of folks already there, is not known. What is known is that their number one customer, U.S. Forces - Afghanistan, is straining at the bit for this capability. Before he departed, GEN Petraeus submitted a memo to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics listing four operational energy requirements. GEN Mattis, Commander, U.S. Central Command endorsed the request and added one of his own. CENTCOM wants a team of energy experts from the Services and Industry to visit Afghanistan to conduct "a baseline study to reduce fuel consumption at our forward operating bases". Having done a couple of these, I recommend that CENTCOM send a General Officer to lead this team and ensure they get access to the information often closely guarded by support contractors.

The REF is the un-acquisition outfit that gets it done. It is the perfect place to put the requirement. I caution the leadership to gird their loins against the folks that will tell them it is not their job. The REF mission is to, “rapidly provides urgent capabilities to U.S. Army forces employed globally by harnessing current and emerging technologies in order to improve operational effectiveness”. Operational energy is just such an “urgent capability”. Dan Nolan, PSTF 2006-2008

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