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Department of Defense releases new operational energy strategy; more fight, less fuel

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.



Henry Gibson

It is possible to transfer liquid fuels to the ground from ordinary aircraft through a reinforced hose as they fly in a circle. This technique was developed and used by jungle pilots to lower small baskets of supplies to a person. All military pilots, at least, should be trained in this ability of winged aircraft. Kevlar has made this possible in some situations. And perhaps aircraft can be refueled in a similar way. UAV?? ..HG..

Roger Pham

Hi Henry,
You forgot to mention nuclear energy?
Naval-type of nuclear reactors can be placed at forward bases which produce hydrogen for vehicles and electricity for local use in winter or cloudy days.

Solar panels on every roofs at a military base and every parking lots can supply massive amount of solar energy for hydrogen production and electricity when the sun is out, reducing the size of nuclear installation.

The transition to hydrogen economy will be inevitable. Fuel cells can be built with very little platinum or not at all. Likewise, electrolyzer can be made cheaply without requiring platinum. H2-combustion engine can have efficiencies exceeding 50%.

Henry Gibson

Yes, I actually did not have nuclear energy in my thoughts when I wrote the post. ..HG..


DOD is a misnomer. The previous name "US Department of War" is far more appropriate.

Nick Lyons

Your tax dollars at 'work'.


Another excellent way to reduce energy cost in defense is to... end a couple wars. Don't really see much positive from Afghanistan and Iraq??? What are the immediate benefits from either of these wars? Long term benefits?

Roger is essentially correct. Hydrogen will play an increasing role in Earth's energy use. Excess heat producing electricity for electrolysis is the not so distant...


Bush said we would pay for the Iraq war with oil money. Iraq oil money has not even paid 10% of the $100 billion dollars per year for that war.


2.5 million barrels per day is the current output.

(Iraq's Oil Patch Opens the Spigot

Assume 20% per barrel can be converted into refined gasoline


20% of 2.5 Million is 500,000 bpd refined gasoline. 500,000 barrels = 22,000,000 gallons per day, times $3.00 per gallon current market price (assume the rest is taxes) = $66 Million per day, $25 Billion per year, assuming the remaining 80% of each barrel has no economic value (which isn't true) - so maybe $50 Billion per year for everything? Not too bad considering they want to ramp up production radically from where they're at.


Obama was goung to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan until Bush told him we would pay for the Iraq war with oil money.


You do not know what you are talking about, that does not even make any sense.


But I am sure Obama said he was going to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Are we out?


10% unemployment for two years + $


(I'll try that again)

10% unemployment for two years + $15 trillion debt...but just remember there are always going to be bumps in the road to recovery....


Americans are inherently impatient. We are drawing down in Iraq and plans for draw down in Afghanistan are in the works. When Bush left we were losing 700,000 jobs a month, we have been gaining jobs the last year.

President Obama was handed a HUGE mess from Bush and has done his best to fix it. It seems the Republicans mess it up and the Democrats have to fix it. I said one time they would mess it up SO bad, we could NOT fix it. I hope this is not that time.


Reel$$ are correct with this one. Stop importing oil from middle East and you would automatically stop those useless costly wars. Oil wars belong to the previous Administration and are not easy to fix/stop overnight but should be stopped.

To stop importing Oil from middle East, USA will have to consume less Crude Oil. That could be done in many different ways but not by using food stocks to produce alternative fuels and create a major world food shortage together with much higher food price for everybody.

A few easy ways would be:

1. More efficient vehicles (60++ mpg instead of 15 mpg).
2. More efficient domestic and commercial HVAC.
3. Electrified trains, buses and taxis.
4. Electrified machines, tools, boats.
5. More efficient large airplanes
6. More efficient military machines.
7. Electrified small planes.
8. Produce more clean electricity.
9. Stop using oil for heating, use clean electricity and heat pumps instead..
10. Stop using food as alternative fuel feed stocks. It is not energy efficient.
11. Etc to 101+....

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