In 2006 I was working as a strategic planner at the U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force (REF). The REF’s mission is to find technology solutions to commanders’ immediate battlefield requirements. In the early fall we received a joint urgent operational needs statement from the Anbar Province in Iraq, requesting a hybrid electric power station. Because of the unusual nature of the request and the fact that I was an unusual guy, they asked me to look into it. This was the now famous Zilmer JUONS that began the push for reducing the impact of energy on operations in theater. Since that time we have seen the Power Surety Task Force, the Net Zero Plus Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration (the forerunner of the SPIDERS JCTD), tent foaming and the creation of the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Policy. As of today, the PSTF was disbanded, Net Zero Plus wrapped up, successful tent foaming in Iraq was followed by a mismanaged effort in Afghanistan that failed but the ASD,OEPP marches on. GEN Petraeus issued his own directive regarding operational energy, as did GEN Allen and countless conferences have shared PowerPoint after PowerPoint about the actual problem and potential solutions. But where are we today? According to the GAO, DOD is on its fourth point of contact (if you are a LEG, ask a Paratrooper what that means).
In a report published in 2009, GAO faulted DOD for a lack of (1) visibility and accountability for achieving fuel reduction, (2) incentives and a viable funding mechanism to invest in the implementation of fuel demand reduction projects, and (3) guidance and policies that addressed fuel demand at forward-deployed locations. In that same year, the NDAA for FY 2009 required DOD to “report to Congress annually on its progress in implementing its operational energy strategy.” According to a new report published in June 2012 (GAO-12-619), the DOD has failed to submit any reports, so far. The 2009 report recommend visibility and accountability for fuel reduction. This report finds that DOD is “still developing an approach to systematically identify and track all of the fuel demand management initiatives that have been fielded, or are in the research and development phase throughout DOD.” Still. Annie Snider’s excellent article on the same is here.
The bottomline for the GAO is that DOD has done little since the 2009 report and they recommend that “the Secretary of Defense direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs, in consultation with the Joint Staff, combatant commanders, and military service components, to finalize and implement a systematic approach that includes establishing a mechanism to identify and track fuel demand management initiatives that have been fielded, or are in the research and development phase to ensure information concerning these efforts is effectively shared across the services.” DOD's rebuttal to this comment is contained in the report, but says, in effect, "good point, but, we've got all the guidance we need, thank you very much".
All of the hopes of a revolution in operational energy were just that: hopes. The ASD, OEPP made it clear with the Operational Energy Implementation Plan that the intent is to get it right the next time. Fortunately, the gates are open in Pakistan and we are no longer paying an additional $100 million a month (yes, a month) to get supplies into Afghanistan. I guess we will be able to withdraw more cheaply now. The fact is that until you modify the behavior, change the culture and assign carefully define authority, responsibility and accountability, nothing else matter.
It was once said of the U.S. Military by a Soviet General, that the American Military has magnificent doctrine, but they can’t be trusted to execute it. Until operational energy is prescribed, not just described, in doctrine, the culture does not change. Dan Nolan