Friday, February 3, 2012

Shysters, Bozos and Making it So: Tactical Power Conference Review

A month into the New Year and DOD has hosted two energy conferences with many more on the horizon.  Couple of weeks ago, the Army hosted a Net Zero Installation conference in Chicago.  Last week I arrived in D.C. (in the snow) for the IDGA Tactical Power Sources Summit (TPSS).   On behalf of the state of Florida, I would respectfully remind you conference planners that it is ok to avoid misery in winter weather.  Orlando, Tampa and Miami are open for business.  I appreciate that constrained budgets make travel for government folks difficult.  I assume that is why the Program Manager for Mobile Electric Power (PM-MEP) decided not to drive up from Belvoir to Alexandria for the Tactical Power Summit.  At least I hope that was the reason.

The three day TPSS started with an industry focus day.  The highlight of that day was the presentation by Mike Bergey of Bergey Windpower.  Bergey has been in the small wind business for over thirty five years and has seen them come and go.  Part of his presentation was about the kind of folks one finds in the energy industry.  Usually you will be dealing with the good, honest people who believe in their product and the benefits it will bring their customers.  But there are also Bozos and Shysters.  The Bozos are “Clueless on physics and engineering - don’t know what they don’t know”.   Well intended, but generally unaware that their sales claims are so much hot air.  The Shyster, on the other hand, is “ Aware that their claims are bogus and don’t care”.  They depend on the general public wanting to believe that there’s been a performance or cost breakthrough or that the laws of physics have been suspended for this product.  One technique is to state a physical property of all reputable products in a given line as a unique attribute of their systems.  Mike’s favorite in the small wind industry is to refer to a system as “bird friendly”.  All small wind systems are “bird friendly”, but the Shyster will claim that moniker as their own special attribute.  These traits are not limited to the wind industry. 

The rest of the conference featured an array of government technical folks, mostly from the Navy and Marine Corps.  One of the successes touted by the PM, Expeditionary Power, Mike Gallagher and by the Deputy Director of the Marine Expeditionary Energy Office, Gayle von Eckartsberg, was a program called
Ground Renewable Expeditionary Energy System (GREENS).  GREENS was the system developed out of an ExFOB charette that was taken to Afghanistan by India Company, 3/5 Marines.  It was so successful that the Commandant directed that it be turned into a program of record and issued, as appropriate, to the rest of the Corps.  From experimental systems in January 2011 to program of record in November 2011 has to be some kind of a record.  In contrast, the Army announced that the ICD written  in 2010 could be approved in the next 30 days.  This means that sometime this year, the Army might have a CDD which could provide the requirements that the Acquisition community requires to actually produce systems. 

I asked Gayle V and Mike Gallagher how they pulled off the astounding feat of transitioning GREENS so fast.  I got an immediate response. The short answer was that GREENS was in Mike’s acquisition pipeline previously and was accelerated by an Urgent Statement of Need (USON) received in May 2011.  “Having already been designated as an Abbreviated Acquisition Program, program efforts and documentation had already been tailored.  The USON effectively just compressed what should have been a 24 month period to a six month period of time to get systems into theater.  All programmatic efforts, documentation, and reviews required still had to take place, but on a much compressed timeline”.  Lots of hard works was required to do things like reprogram funds in the year of execution, accelerate tests, verify equipment status and a thousand other details necessary.  As Mike Gallagher noted, “Working them all in parallel, vice serial execution and review, was truly awe-inspiring.” Guess it helps when the Commandant says, “Make it so”. 

 If the acquisition world recognizes where the operational world is going, they can get a jump on meeting urgent needs swiftly.  You can wait on a Requirement for JCIDS or meet the need.   I hope DOD is encouraging that kind of risk taking in this current, rarified budgetary atmosphere.

One final point for the folks that hold these conferences.  If you are going to charge hundreds of dollars to vendors to attend, you need to make sure the right players are there and the right topics are discussed.  At the Net Zero Installation conference in Chicago, the tract on energy conservation was eliminated.  Really? The key to energy security is reducing requirements and they drop that?  At the TPSS, focused on Operational Energy, there was no one from Sharon Burke’s office, no one from PM, MEP and no one from the Rapid Equipping Force.   Those are enormous gaps.  The excuse for having these things in DC is to make it cheaper for the Government to attend.  And in most of the offices I just mentioned, a third stringer is fine (in fact usually better than their heavily scripted bosses).  Oh, by the way.  The REF and Arizona State are hosting a “Net Zero at the Tactical Edge Conference” next month.  Details are here.   Asst. Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs, REF Director, PM-MEP and Logistics Innovation Agency will all attend and present.  And it’s only a hundred bucks!  See you there.  Dan Nolan


Robert Smith said...

The Army Net Zero Conference (held in sub zero Chicago) dropped a previously advertised track on high performance buildings -- the energy conservation Dan mentions. USACE-CERL folks involved in the planning said, "high performance buildings are not one of the Army Net Zero pillars -- energy, water waste." Really? Building energy, which accounts for 70% of U.S. consumption, isn't energy? Many attendees and exhibitors weren't told that the high performance building track had been nixed. Why it couldn't have still been included is a mystery. Otherwise a fairly mediocre conference.

Terrorism in Islam said...

really nice post about high performance energy.