Friday, September 28, 2012

Draining the Swamp: Down to the Wire on Army MATOC

With a week to go to submit responses to the Army MATOC, the latest amendment (#6, 24 Sep) to solicitation W912DY-11-R-0036 lays out additional details on the Task Order process.   Among the particulars is information on what happens if a small business is acquired, the type of contract envisioned for the TOs and the basis of awards. 

If you haven’t read the 70 pages of Q&A regarding the solicitation, get cracking.  Within the questions is the definitive answer on the value of storage solutions:
"There will be no direct government compensation to energy storage facilities; however, offerors may propose storage facilities as part of their technical solutions to task order requests for proposal. In such circumstances, energy storage providers would be compensated by the selected task order awardee who would consider the energy storage costs in creating its price proposal. Section H(3) of the Request for Proposals discusses typical evaluation criteria for task order awards. Energy Security will be considered in task order competitions in accordance with the policy expressed in Sec. 2822 of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 (Pub. Law 112-81, Dec. 31, 2011), and Consideration of energy security could lead to favorable consideration of energy storage capabilities. The value attached to energy security may vary from task order to task order."
It would seem that energy security considerations included in a proposal might make the selection committee smile with benevolence on such proposals, but not materially improve the proposal’s likelihood of selection.  What will really drive the selections will be the firm, fixed price for a kilowatt-hour.  The solicitation has the typical language about “best value”, but, time and again, that has meant cheapest.  Additionally, just because you have won a place on the MATOC, does not guarantee you a shot at every TO. 

The Government “reserves the right to use initial screening criteria or other means to limit the competitive range to the greatest number of proposals that will permit efficient competition among the most highly rated proposals”.  Even if you are on the MATOC, you will undergo a subsequent screening for bondability, insurability, financial stability, and a price proposal within a designated percentage of current market prices.  If you are not within 10% of the Independent Government Estimate, you will likely be cut from consideration.  

This MATOC will help all the Services (not just the Army) reach their one gigawatt renewable energy production goal.  It is not intended nor designed to improve energy security.  If projects have a positive impact on energy security it will be a bonus effect. 

Every now and then, even when you are up to your ass in alligators, it is important to remember that your objective was to drain the swamp.  The concern about energy security at installations came from reports by the Defense Science Board in 2001 and 2008.  That concern is still valid, but this MATOC and all the money spent to stand up and operate the contractor heavy,  Army Energy Initiatives Task Force will do nothing to improve the security situation.  It will allow the Services to check certain legislative mandate  blocks, but that is all.  If these energy initiatives are not able to provide continuity of operations to installations in the absence of the commercial grid, they will reduce the carbon footprint, meet legislative directives, but have no impact on energy security.  The swamp is not draining.  Dan Nolan  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Operational Energy Meet Ups: Flock of Eagles Lead Army OE Effort

NOT a Flock of Eagles
This past February, the U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force (REF) sponsored an operational energy conference at Arizona State University.  Almost all of the players in the Army appeared and described their various programs. The major teams represented were the Operations (REF), Acquisition (PM, Mobile Electric Power and others), Logistics (G4), and Training and Doctrine (Brigade Modernization Command).  The only thing missing were the folks that write the JCIDS documents that articulate the capabilities required of the force regarding operational energy.   Now that problem has been addressed.  If you need a refresher on the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS), review this post.

The Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) has let a one year contract to produce the appropriate Capability Development Documents and Capability Production Documents.  Using the Army Operational Energy Campaign Plan (AOECP) and draft Initial Capabilities Document (ICD) the team will have 12 months to define requirements for Army Operational Energy for the next couple of decades.  The effort is being led by COL Bruce B. McPeak, the Director of Material Systems at CASCOM, and the newest member of the OE “Flock of Eagles”.

 If you are interested in learning more about the “Flock”, head over to the Military Mobile Power Summit at the Mary M. Gates Learning Center, Alexandria VA., 19-20 September.  You will get to hear from the Navy, Marines and Army as well as DOE.  In addition to COL McPeak, COLs Newell (REF), Roege (G4), Hill (ASA,IE&E) and Cummings (represented by LTC Foster, PM-MEP) will present.  These five Colonels represent the Army’s uniformed brain trust on operational energy.  Any time you put five Colonels on a problem, you should expect rapid solutions.  The Army is leading in experimenting and researching, but until the JCIDS documents get done, it is just tinkering at the margins.  Requirements come from the JCIDS process and Requirements drive Acquisition.  If any readers attend, please give me a SitRep.  You can register for the event at- or contact Lisa Madison at 1-347-732-5326 for more information or to register.

The USMC, which somehow seems to get by with just one Colonel, has released the data collected on energy use in SW Afghanistan.  According to the release, “This report is focused on three distinct topics.  First, the results of the recent Expeditionary Energy Office metering efforts in RC(SW), Afghanistan.  Second, presenting the lessons learned from the ExFOB 2010-2 Extended User Evaluation (EUE) focused on efficient powering and cooling of Command Operations Centers (COCs).  Lastly, presenting an explanation of variable power demand and how probability profiles can be used to understand the impact of USMC operating procedures on fuel consumption. As soon as the report is available, I will post a link.

Finally, from the USMC, the next ExFOB or BYOT (bring your own toys) is ready to go down at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Sept 17-21.  The Marine Corps' Experimental Forward Operating Base (ExFOB) process is designed to identify and evaluate commercial technologies that can increase the self-sufficiency of expeditionary forces.  ExFOB will host invited vendors to demonstrate their technologies. Fourteen companies will pay their way into the ExFOB in order to  demonstrate 19 advanced thermal efficiency technologies that provide energy efficient heating and cooling of personnel, bulk water, electronics, vehicles, and shelters.  If the Leathernecks like something, maybe they will buy a few for follow on deployment and testing.  The suite of technology, India Company 3/5 Marines tried out in late 2010 resulted in a $25M purchase for the rest of the Corps.  As in all the experimentation that is going on, significant upfront investment is required of industry, but the potential pay back maybe worth that investment. 

The challenge for small business is that most of the OE experimentation requires vendors to bring their gear to these events, at their own cost, in hopes of a follow on purchase.  The only folks with the resources available to make the follow on purchases are the REF and USMC Expeditionary Energy Office.  If you are trying to impress someone, impress them.  Dan Nolan

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Operational Energy (OE) Shifts Gears: Back to Acq

After somewhat of a hiatus, I am returning to my roots with some observations on current events in Operational Energy.  This is prompted by a recent conference and two upcoming ones.  On to the state of play. Upcoming conferences will be discussed in next post. 

A few of weeks ago, I attended the Admiral Moorer Military Energy Security Forum at the National Defense University.  After nearly a three year break, Dr. Richard Andres revived this excellent gathering that draws a who’s who in DOD energy.  This year’s edition was strong on operational energy with all the notables in the field in attendance.   NDU, keep ‘em coming! Official report is here.

Sharon Burke, ASD, Operational Energy Plans and Programs, began the day with an excellent lay down of the goings on in OE.  She began with the development of the OE Strategy, about which I have previously been unenthusiastic. When it was published in June of 2011, I felt that it was not directive enough to compel the Services to act.  Those directives were promised in the Implementation Plan.

When that document was published in March of 2012, I again commented on the lack of direction to the Services to take action; it appeared to be all about measuring.  I did identify that the tone in operational energy was changing; there was no longer a sense of critical urgency.  There was a sense of appropriate urgency. 

This was driven home at the Forum by COL Brutus Charrette when he was questioned by industry as to why the Gov’t wasn’t getting more done, quickly. Brutus put it in perspective.  The end of combat operations in Iraq and the pending drawdown in Afghanistan has eroded the sense of urgency for operational energy.  Or rather, an appropriate sense of urgency has evolved.  It is difficult to justify the Urgent Operational Needs Statements such as that used by LTG(R) Zilmer to request hybrid electric power generation in 2006.  Zilmer spoke about that experience to great effect.

OE is entering phase II of its long term journey to the mainstream.  When DOD was engaged in the heat of battle, rapid equipping (not acquisition) was used to rush new technology into the field.   Counter sniper and C-IED, MRAPs, foamed tents and portable solar units were deployed in small quantities and were handed from unit to unit during replacement in place.  This phase ended with the publication of the OESIP.  This document shifted gears to the more traditional acquisition model:  gather data, state the Requirements (DOTLMSP), R&D the solutions, and deploy with new equipment training teams, as appropriate. While industry howled for opportunities, DOD is attempting to set the conditions for long term success. COL Paul Roege laid out the Army’s approach in his presentation on “Energy Informed Operations”. 

Burke’s office has been working behind the scenes to create those conditions for success.    The OESIP was designed to get the COCOMs and Services to examine their own practices and identify capabilities gaps.  Organizationally, OE positions have been showing up beyond the Services in places like AFOR, CENTCOM, PACOM, AFRICOM and NORTHCOM.  Plan, organize, staff.  The Services’ introspection has resulted in efforts to codify the capabilities gaps and generate requirements within the formal acquisition process.  The wheel grinds slowly, but exceedingly fine.

The Services still need to address the vulnerability of operational energy based upon the lessons learned from the last ten years.  The COCOMs have the people they need to ID the gaps; the concept development process is moving forward slowly, and DOD seed money has been spread around to encourage the R&D.  There will be technologies that are designed for Service-wide deployment as we have always done. There will be technologies that will be deployed based on climatic conditions (think Mickey Mouse boots).  All of these fit the traditional acquisition process that the Services know and, sort of, love.

One area that is still facing resistance is the concept of the Fully Burdened Cost of Energy (FBCE). Although the Defense Acquisition Guidebook now has a detailed explanation of the Life Cycle Cost/Total Ownership Costs and the role of energy in those costs, the Services do not appear to be convinced.  The Army’s Logistic Innovation Agency is still developing their concept and has a robust definition.  FBCE was to be used to meet the congressionally mandated requirement to consider the impact of energy in the acquisition process.  According to the uniformed members of one panel, the Air Force is opting out and the Marines are not convinced. 

The argument appears to be that cost, performance and schedule are the drivers in the acquisition world and efficiency does not rank high enough to warrant consideration.  I may have misunderstood the discussion. So I went and asked the expert, ESG’s Steve Siegel:
I fully agree with (the) point that operational energy decisions should be based on contributions to combat and mission effectiveness – that is the basis for the fully burdened cost of energy (FBCE).   For example, in the Army’s Fully Burdened Cost Tool (formerly Sustain the Mission Project), the FBCE includes costs (and benefits in parentheses) in terms of:  fuel resupply convoy casualties (avoided), fuel resupply convoy soldier threat exposure (hours avoided), fuel consumption (gallons saved), fuel supply truck miles (freed up for other missions), aviation fuel transport hours (freed up for other missions), convoy protection gun truck miles (freed up for other missions), convoy protection aviation system hours (freed up for other missions), and dollars (avoided) --- 7 of the 8 FBCE factors indicate operational and logistical impacts, and 1 reflects economic impacts.  That is, the FBCE shows the operational, logistical and economic value added - costs and benefits - of reducing fuel demand and reducing vulnerable fuel resupply convoys. These FBCE factors, in addition to traditional operational energy factors such as system range and speed, enable decision makers to conduct tradeoffs and better see the full value added of operational energy choices.  The FBCE tool has been and is currently used at over 25 Army agencies and offices in support of operational energy analysis and decision-making for missions ranging from research and development to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Of course there is much to do here, and work is underway to further tie mission and combat effectiveness and the FBCE. 
All in all, an excellent conference that put much of operational energy into perspective.  These NDU events have always been worth the effort and I hope we will not have another hiatus.  Next post will focus on the emerging “Flock of Eagles” who are leading the charge in OE for the Army.  Dan Nolan

Monday, September 10, 2012

Other Peoples' Money for Market Research: Army Invites You to Utah

For those of you tracking the Army’s program to acquire 25% of their energy from renewable sources by 2025, another blip on the radar.  This past Friday, The U.S. Army Energy Initiative Task Force (EITF), in coordination with the Tooele Army Depot (TEAD) announced an Open House from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. October 10 and 11 at the Tooele Army Depot located in Tooele, Utah.  This is not an industry day, related to a specific opportunity (presumably), but just a chance to come have a look around, kick the tires and see what is what.

They are inviting “renewable energy industries and public entities to come to examine real property assets and mission activities at TEAD, and to learn about the potential of developing large-scale alternative/renewable energy at TEAD”.    They also promise to make attendees “familiar with the utilization of TEAD’s work-share program”.    Apparently, work-share programs are another form of Public Private Partnership, but I am unfamiliar with them.  Feel free to comment on this so that we can be enlightened.   The goal of this meeting is to “foster an open dialogue about TEAD’s renewable energy potential and provide a forum for industry to discuss their capabilities and interests in developing renewable energy projects”.   There will also be an option to audition for the staff of TEAD and EITF.  As a caveat, the announcement says that this is for market research purposes only; no Government commitment is implied.  

This is another example of an innovative use of the new standard in Government energy investing: Other Peoples’ Money.  For only the cost of travel, lodging and food, charged to industries’ vast business development funds, the EITF and TEAD will be able to determine what industry partners are willing to pony up to see and be seen.   Will this be the first task order?  Will participation enhance one’s probability for selection for the MATOC? Will Open Houses be standard for all TOs?  Who knows??

The purpose of the Open House is to allow the Government to do market research.   The benefit to industry is the opportunity to showcase capabilities and (I speculate here) gain insight into what the EITF and installations' process might look like.  I am assuming someone from Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) or the appropriate utility, muni or coop will be presenting to help folks understand what must be done to meet their standards as well.  Would be a shame to go all that way only to discover that the 10, 400 megawatts of generation capability that RMP has, is well above requirements.

I have noticed a disturbing trend among many of my clients and potential clients of late.   For those who don’t know, I help companies understand what DOD is doing in the energy space.   In the past six months, many of my clients have decided to throttle back their focus on DOD and refocus in the commercial and industrial markets.  The reason most often given is a lack of clarity in what the Government is going to do.

This is not a reflection on DOD alone, but on the uncertainty surrounding tax/investment credits, sequestration, succession following the election and many other variables.  Lots of folks sitting on their hands AND on their wallets.   For small businesses, this can be fatal.   That the EITF is moving forward should instill confidence, but helping industry understanding what the ROI for the business development dollars spent on events like these would be, is of even greater importance.  An assumption that TEAD will be the first TO is fair, but making it a fact would encourage even greater participation.  If you attend, drop me a note and let me know how it went.  Dan Nolan

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Where Angels Fear to Tread: Robyn Heads to GSA

Dorothy, we hardly knew you!  Yesterday, the GSA named Dr. Dorothy Robyn as the Commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, replacing a central figure in the Las Vegas scandal.  No, not Harry.  Dr. Robyn has served as the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Installations and Environment for the last three years.   She was responsible for overseeing 29 million acres and 300,000 buildings.  Going to the GSA in the wake of the recent failure in leadership there is typical of DOD folks.  When most people run from the disaster site………

Dr. Robyn has worked hard to make energy security a priority despite not having the Title 10 authority the Services wield.  She evolved the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) into installation energy security technologies test beds.  Robyn changed the scope of the Energy Conservation Improvement Program to allow its wider application for energy security.   Her interpretation of various policies have made efforts like the Army’s  $7.1B PPA RFP possible.  Whenever I had a question for her office, I always got a prompt and straightforward answer.  Usually from her.  All of this has been done with the quiet dignity and understated manner of a true professional. 

DOD’s loss is GSA gain.  The crucible of the scandal through which they are now passing will (hopefully) leave them leaner, tougher and more self-aware.  Dr. Robyn will be a valuable addition to the GSA team and we wish her all the best in this new challenge.  Dan Nolan