Thursday, July 13, 2006

Department of Defense Energy Strategy

In Department of Defense oil has been the traditional fuel for mobility while natural gas and electric power supplied by a variety of land-based systems for installations.

While petroleum based fuels seem continue to be the major source for military mobility fleet, the gradual introduction of new materials, systems, and capabilities and more efficient technology to improve energy usage is gaining a momentum.

Some (e.g., Lovins) argue greater fuel efficiency could be achieved by reducing the vehicle weight while some others point out alternative fuels to reduce DoD fossil energy dependence.

“Novel materials may reduce DoD energy consumption through more efficient propulsion technologies; lightweight, high-specific-stiffness and strength structures; vehicle armor approaches that do not rely solely on aerial density for protection but use lighter materials and novel protection schemes to reduce weight; higher-energy-density batteries, and fuel cells capable of direct electrochemical conversion; improved fuels; and smart electronics that use energy more effectively. Higher efficiency energy-harvesting materials and devices might also augment available energy in specific circumstances.”[1]

There have been several attempts and efforts to find ways to reduce oil dependency in DoD, especially in the Air Force.

For example, the 1992 congressional energy policy tasked the Air Force, along with other federal agencies, “to take the lead in finding ways to reduce the nation’s dependence on petroleum and improve air quality.” It is the fruit of that policy that at Tinker Air Force Base 700 vehicles run on a mixture of vegetable oil and petroleum diesel (bio-diesel) since 2002. [2]

Since 2003, Department of Defense officials have also worked with the Department of Energy to create a national initiative to develop, test, certify and use jet fuels produced from the nation's coal, oil shale, biomass and petroleum coke, a byproduct of the oil refining process.

Since Air Force is the largest consumer, those efforts focusing around finding alternatives are quite natural. Concerning mobility energy use there is a strong hope that “some day military bases may replace their internal-combustion-engine truck fleets with fuel cell or fuel cell/ hybrid vehicles”[3]

But so far more ink has been spent on the use of renewables on installation electricity than finding alternatives for tactical fleet.

The focus of DoD energy reduction mandates on renewables and facility energy use is a simple example.

“For an energy strategy to be effective, it can’t be based solely on artificially derived reductions or mandates directing that consumption be scaled back by a designated percentage each year. That is a simple budgetary strategy. Instead, new metrics are required for decision makers to aid them in developing more informed choices across a strategic landscape characterized by accelerating change. In the information age, the new metrics are: creating and preserving options, developing high transaction rates, maximizing learning rates and achieving overmatching complexity…. There are no silver bullets that will magically change the supply or price of oil. Any Defense Dept. energy strategy must include such elements as conservation, alternate energy sources, a more energy-efficient infrastructure and cultural awareness.”[4]

A recent article[5] in JFQ states that “It is crucial that DoD develops and energy strategy that reduces the energy burdens of our operational concepts….By divorcing DoD systems and infrastructures from oil, we can easily imagine new operational capabilities, an easily imagine new operational capabilities, an adaptive logical system and a radically altered strategic landscape,” because “so long as DoD systems and associated logistics are wed to an oil infrastructure, meaningful advances in adaptability and agility and overall force transformation will likely be superficial at best.”

The solution? New technologies, he says: “New technologies to improve fuel efficiency (weight, drag, engine efficiency, system efficiency, and auxiliary power needs) and to develop alternative energy sources have the potential to transform the force, remove operational limits that are built into our plans, and provide the capabilities that forces need. The business case for investing in new technologies, however, is difficult to build because current costing methods do not make the actual end-to-end costs of fueling the force visible to decision makers.”

Why all these are not in the official DoD Energy Strategy then? Because, the DoD does not have a grand vision and accompanying energy strategy. Even the QDR 2006 did not explicitly deal with the military oil consumption. But there exists several studies which (unlike DoD) can really be used in guiding DoD energy transformation by looking at the issue from many different angles.

One such study is the master thesis of Lit. Col. Hornitschek[6] which “presents a methodology for determining if the DoD can lead an immediate, coherent, and viable long-term strategy toward a vision of replacing petroleum as its primary energy source in order to maintain all necessary strategic and operational capability for U.S. security to 2050 and beyond.” It is kind of energy transformation guide.

He says that “any DoD future energy strategy must also address how to provide installation power in a petroleum constrained environment, regardless of whether it is in an austere forward deployed location,” moreover it should address “how much and in what way does the DoD depend upon petroleum to directly complete its combat mission” Because “Acknowledging an uncertain global petroleum future and the uniquely energy-intense nature of modern warfare, the question then becomes, how does the U.S. envision the military force of 2050 to be reliably fueled and configured to provide the security America requires?”

He analyses the DoD oil independence by 2050 and suggests that the force of 2050 can be powered almost exclusively by electricity and hydrogen.

He reminds the vision statement of the War Department in 1906:
In 1950 the U.S. Military is a highly effective, mobile, and mutually supporting force, protecting all required American interests through dominant air, land, and sea operations powered by a petroleum energy standard that is reliably and economically produced from domestic sources.

But today we can increase the target higher. That is why he argues that the overarching strategy can be imagined to address the following tasks: “1) acquire alternate-fueled systems, 2) create an alternate fuel delivery infrastructure, 3) develop new energy standards, 4) determine a new energy force structure, 5) conduct R&D to acquire transformational technologies, and throughout the process,6) protect against negative oil peaking effects to allow sufficient transformation time, 7) minimize transformation costs, and 8) preserve military capability during the transition.”

He suggests three major strategy alternatives the DoD can take with respect to its energy future: “1) embrace a more efficient petroleum-based status quo, 2) await industry-led energy transformation or 3) initiate a DoD-led energy transformation.” He gives in the thesis the prods and cons and detailed explanation and supports a mixture of them.

However, the DoD is now getting serious about developing a strategic approach to energy consumption and conservation.

In May 2006 a Defense Science Board Task Force on DoD Energy Strategy was formed by the request of the Undersecretary of DoD and their report is expected to come out soon. (See Memo on DoD Energy Strategy dated May 2, 2006).

According to Defense Science Board Newsletter in May 2006 the Task Force on DoD Energy Strategy (co-chairs: Dr. Jim Schlesinger and General Mike Carns) will “re-examine DoD’s energy usage practices and will recommend technologies, strategies and policy to achieve an assured energy supply for a broad range of military functions while simultaneously improving energy reliability and security, reducing system vulnerability and risk, reducing demand, and where feasible, stimulating commercially viable enterprises for possible incorporation into a national energy plan designed to achieve a meaningful level of energy independence nationwide. The scope of this assessment will include both supply and demand sides of the energy equation for operations during peacetime and wartime, and for emerging defense missions in the homeland.”

An open question is who in Pentagon will coordinate everything on energy? There was already a suggestion that DoD establish an Energy, Power, and Fuels Office or Office of Assured Energy. Maybe the office will really be established. But to open an office just for the sake of opening an office dealing with energy is not sufficient.

Meanwhile, The Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation and the Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics sponsor a tear long series of conferences on energy use and conservation entitled "Energy: A Conversation About Our National Addiction. An inter-agency learning opportunity." Below is the Pentagon's Energy Sam banner.
Nice efforts though. Create new offices, produce more papers and use more ink, establish new reduction targets, spend more money, organize seminars, hearings, conferences, produce banners, WITHOUT knowing what is the present real energy consumption.

The DoD still does not know exactly (I have never seen anywhere even slightly) how much energy (domestic and overseas locations) by fuel type is used by mode (vehicles, jetfighters etc) and by service (army, navy etc), and how much of that energy is purchased, self generated, and contracted. Also, how much fuel do the service providers use for DoD. Note that if DoD buys a service (say transportation of personal) the fuel used by that company is of course not registered as DoD fuel consumption. Therefore the real fuel consumption of DoD is still not known, together with the energy consumption in overseas locations.

Most of the suggestions for formulating a new energy strategy (inside and outside of the military circles) point out the Project Manhattan or Apollo Program as an example. They, however, miss the point that all those projects were not as wide ranged as Project Solarium. Oh, not for sun tanning. I mean Project Solarium of President Eisenhower., which is considered as the best example of long-term strategic planning[7] in American history.

[1] National Materials Advisory Board, “Materials Research to Meet 21st Century Defense Needs” 2003.
[3] Gerry J. Gilmore, Hydrogen Fuel Cells May Help U.S. Military Cut Gas Usage, American Forces Press Service, 24 March 2006.
[4] Terry Pudas, “A Strategic Approach to Energy”, Defense Technology International, May/June 2006.
[5] Scott C. Buchanan, “Energy and Force Transformation”, Joint Force Quarterly, 3rd Quarter 2006, pp. 51-54.
[6] Michael J. Hornitschek, War Without Oil - A Catalyst for True Transformation, Masters Thesis on DoD Energy Transformation, Naval Postgraduate School, Cebrowski Institute, 17 February 2006.
[7]For a recent discussion of Project Solarium see, Michele Flournoy and Shawn W. Brimley, “Strategic Policy for National Security: A New project Solarium”, JFQ, Issue 41, 2nd Quarter 2006, pp. 80-86.

See you where parallels intersect


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