|Forty bundles of fuel fall from a USAF Globemaster III aircraft over Afghanistan, 8 Dec 2010. The aircraft is assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. (USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Andy Kin) Click to enlarge.|
The US Department of Defense (DOD) has released a new operational energy strategy designed to transform the way it consumes energy in military operations, and said this strategy is consistent with efforts to adapt the forces to emerging threats.
DOD accounts for 80% of the federal government’s energy use, and 1% of that of the nation as a whole, said Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III. In 2010, for example, the Department consumed nearly 5 billion gallons of petroleum in military operations, costing $13.2 billion, a 255% increase over 1997 prices. In releasing the strategy, Lynn and Sharon Burke, assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs, said the plan will reduce costs, and also improve military capabilities.
Not only does [energy] cost the taxpayers, it costs the warfighters. Every dollar spent on energy use is a dollar not spent on other warfighting priorities. Whether deploying and sustaining forces at the front, or powering mission-critical facilities they depend on in the rear, everything we do, every mission we perform, requires significant amounts of energy. Ensuring the forces have the energy they need, when they need it, is not easy. The less energy we need, the more operationally resilient we will be.—William Lynn
At least 80% of land convoys in Afghanistan are for transporting fuel to warfighters, Lynn said. The routes are laced with roadside bombs and prone to ambush, he noted, resulting in 1,100 insurgent attacks last year. From FY 2003 to FY 2007 in Iraq and Afghanistan, a total of more than 3,000 Army personnel and contractors were wounded or killed in action from attacks on fuel and water resupply convoys.
The overall goal of the “Operational Energy Strategy” is to ensure that US armed forces will have the energy resources required to meet 21st century challenges. This strategy outlines three principal ways to a stronger force:
More fight, less fuel: Reduce the demand for energy in military operations. Today’s military missions require large and growing amounts of energy with supply lines that can be costly, vulnerable to disruption, and a burden on warfighters. DOD says it needs to: reduce the overall demand for operational energy; improve the efficiency of military energy use in order to enhance combat effectiveness; and reduce military mission risks and costs.
More options, less risk: Expand and secure the supply of energy to military operations. Most military operations depend on a single energy source, petroleum, which has economic, strategic, and environmental drawbacks, DOD says. In addition, the security of the energy supply infrastructure is not always robust. This includes the civilian electrical grid in the United States, which powers some fixed installations that directly support military operations. The department needs to diversify its energy sources and protect access to energy supplies in order to have a more reliable and assured supply of energy for military missions.
More capability, less cost: Build energy security into the future force. Current operations entail more fuel, risks, and costs than are necessary, with tactical, operational, and strategic consequences. Yet the Department’s institutions and processes for building future military forces and missions do not systematically consider such risks and costs. The department needs to integrate operational energy considerations into the full range of planning and force development activities. Energy will be, in itself, an important capability for meeting the missions envisioned in the QDR (Quadrennial Defense Review) and the National Military Strategy.
Operational energy. DOD considers operational energy to be the energy used in: military deployments, across the full spectrum of missions; direct support of military deployments; and training in support of unit readiness for military deployments.
Military deployments generally rely on petroleum-based fuels, which power equipment, expeditionary bases, tactical vehicles, aircraft, some naval vessels, and other platforms. In current operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, jet fuel (JP-8 or JP-5 on ships) is the most prevalent battlefield fuel.
Individual Warfighters in Afghanistan may carry more than 33 batteries, weighing up to 10 pounds, to power critical gear. By 2012, battery loads for the same mission are projected to increase to more than 50 batteries per soldier, weighing nearly 18 lbs. At the battalion level, the Marine Corps has tracked a 250% increase in radios and a 300% increase in computers over the last decade. Moving the energy to feed these capabilities at the “last tactical mile” can be especially challenging, DOD says.
To reduce the demand for operational energy, DoD Components shall take the following actions:
Document actual and projected energy consumption in current and planned military operations: designate Service and Combatant Command operational energy leads to coordinate energy data collection; and work with other DoD Components to use consistent and comparable reporting methodologies.
Accelerate and adopt technological and management innovations from across the “DOTMLPF” (Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership, Education, Personnel, and Facilities) spectrum to reduce demand and improve efficiency: place priority on innovations that can benefit current operations; invest in research, development, testing, evaluation, and fielding of efficiency improvements in equipment, logistic delivery methods, weapons platforms, and energy conversion; apply investments to rapid fielding, mid-life upgrades of platforms, systems, equipment, and long-term development of new capabilities; and integrate improved efficiency and management of energy into planning for and management of contingency bases.
In the long term, the strategy plan notes, alternative fuels have the potential to be an important part of the US energy landscape; DOD should be prepared to leverage this development through continued investments in Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation (RDT&E) of alternative fuels. These investments must be supported by analysis on economic and technical feasibility and meet the following conditions:
The fuels must be “drop in” (i.e., compatible with current equipment, platforms, and infrastructure);
The fuels must be able to support an expeditionary, globally deployed force;
There must be consideration of potential upstream and downstream consequences, such as higher food prices; and
Lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions must be less than or equal to such emissions from conventional fuel.