Sunday, March 08, 2009

Hearing on Fuel Use in Forward Locations

On March 3, 2009 the US House Armed Services Committee’s Readiness Subcommittee met to receive testimony on Department of Defense fuel demand management at forward-deployed locations and operational energy initiatives.

Chairman Solomon Ortiz’s opening statement set the ground very clearly “Today's hearing provides an opportunity to focus on management of the energy needed for military operations and ways to reduce fuel demand at forward deployed locations….delivering fuel to the battlefield imposes a heavy logistical burden……Although installations have worked for three decades to improve their energy efficiency, weapons platforms and tactical equipment historically have been given a free pass. But reducing operational fuel demand can enhance the operational effectiveness of our forces and save taxpayer dollars. “

Good thoughts. But if the Congress is really worried about taxpayer dollars then the first place to look at is indeed to get the prices DoD charges to its services right.

Let me now quote some important passages from the written statement of Alan R. Shaffer (pdf), Acting Director, Defense Research and Engineering, U.S. Department of Defense.

“the Department has maintained the overriding principal of not subjecting forces to greater risk by prematurely deploying technologies that have not been proven in field testing.….U.S. deployed forces are at risk from attacks on supply lines carrying fuel. A longer supply chain requires more fuel and increases contested lines of communications, resulting in greater risk.

the Department’s investment in Energy Security and energy related projects has grown from requests of $440 million in FY 2006 to $1.3 billion in FY 2009, not including funding in the recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which provided $300 million to the Department for energy-related research and development. Embedded in this investment are a number of projects specifically focused on either reducing energy demands or increasing energy supply to operational forces, as well as in garrison.

The DoD has initiated a broad range of demonstrations and other projects to increase energy efficiency and develop assured alternatives. Among these are a number of projects to reduce energy demand—or manage energy demand, at forward locations.

One of our more effective actions to date has been to insulate deployed facilities using spray foam, which yields energy use reductions of 40 to 75 percent compared to non-insulated tents.
Renewable and other assured energy sources are important to our ability to sustain missions from our bases, since we are almost entirely dependent on the commercial grid for power.

While battlefield waste may be a viable source of energy and may offset some fuel consumption, it may not provide dramatic reductions of fuel consumption. However, it does provide some improvement with other benefits from waste reduction, like reducing military security escorts for trash removal, keeping our Soldiers out of harm's way, and improved environmental conditions.……[Recent findings indicate that] “while these technologies offer potential for both providing power and reducing base camp waste management problems, they are too immature for near-term operational/field applications [due to unpredictable waste streams in amount and composition; system efficiency, reliability, ease of operation; and size, weight, and transportability] and the requirements must be better defined.” [in Q&A session Mr. Shaffer admitted that waste to fuel converters don’t work as good as it is advertised. There were 2 test plants but didn’t worked out and were brought back. He doesn’t know whether it was R&D or engineering problem. By the way, did DoD made a cost benefit analysis for those plants? How much did it cost and how much fuel saved? ]

The Army and Navy are developing and demonstrating compact and mobile 10 kilowatt high temperature fuel cells to power critical equipment[1]. These systems provide silent, portable power and eliminate dependence on large generator or grid power for battery charging. These fuel cells are demonstrating a high efficiency (about 55 percent) and are being designed to use jet fuel.

DoD is making progress in energy security. Since 2006, we have more than doubled our energy investment, and overall energy consumption is down six percent since FY 2005. Installations energy demand is down 10 percent since FY 2003, and 12 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources…… initiated numerous demonstrations and other projects to reduce consumption and increase assured alternatives for installations, both fixed and tactical, and weapons systems, with anticipated savings from five to 25 percent.”

In sum, he reported nothing new, no real achievement, no real progress and tired to convey technology will save us message.

In his written statement of William M. Solis (pdf), Director, Defense Capabilities and Management, U.S. Government Accountability Office the following points are worth to mention:

“to reduce fuel demand at its forward-deployed locations, particularly those that are not connected to local power grids. In 2008, more than 68 million gallons of fuel, on average, were supplied by DOD each month to support U.S. military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Transporting large quantities of fuel to forward-deployed locations presents an enormous logistics burden and risk.

The fully burdened cost of fuel—that is, the total ownership cost of buying, moving, and protecting fuel in systems during combat—has been reported to be many times higher than the price of a gallon of fuel itself.

DOD has initiated efforts to reduce fuel demand at Forward-Deployed Locations but lacks an effective approach to managing demand.

Many of DOD’s efforts to reduce fuel demand at forward-deployed locations are in a research and development phase, and the extent to which they will be fielded and under what time frame is uncertain. Notable efforts by DOD components include the application of foam insulation to tent structures, the development of more fuel-efficient generators and environmental control units, and research on alternative and renewable energy sources for potential use at forward-deployed locations.

DOD has stated that it needs to reduce its dependence on petroleum-based fuel and the logistics footprint of its military forces, as well as reduce operating costs associated with high fuel usage. However, DOD faces difficulty in achieving these goals because managing fuel demand at forward-deployed locations has not been a departmental priority and its fuel reduction efforts have not been well coordinated or comprehensive. More specifically, we found that DOD lacked (1) guidance directing forward-deployed locations to address fuel demand, (2) incentives and a viable funding mechanism for locations to invest in fuel reduction initiatives, and (3) visibility and accountability within the chain of command for achieving fuel reduction.

The Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 requires DOD to establish a Director of Operational Energy Plans and Programs, an operational energy strategy for DOD, and military department-level operational energy officials. DOD has not yet established a director or strategy for operational energy.

Again nothing new. However, there were really good moments in Q&A session. See, Video Webcast. Here are important parts:

Chairman asked how DOD sees the logistic challenge to be faced when we consider the fact that some 30000 more soldiers will be deployed to Afghanistan. Shaffer doesn’t know but talks about generators. He says commercial generators cannot be used because of their unintended consequences (electromagnetic interference) which would affect radio communications. He describes that “harsh reality”. (!!)

Mr. Bishop asked how DOD measures energy consumption. How it manages data issues in garrison and deployed level? These are excellent questions. The answer: we are not there yet.

Mr. Taylor asked even better questions. Who’s job is to reduce energy consumption? How to measure energy consumption broken down into components (e.g., water heating, space heating? Fuel demand per GI? I congratulate Mr. Taylor for pointing out the fact that if DoD doesn’t know where and how it consumes energy how it will possible to know that DoD is doing the right thing. Shaffer doesn’t know but says they will find that.

It seems that the DOD still hasn’t found someone to appoint as the Director of Operational Energy. The energy matters in forward bases are deployed commander’s job. Operational commanders make the final decisions. Forward locations have no guide and guidance to show them how and why to reduce fuel consumption. There are no energy reduction goals in tactical side. Only in installation side. There are no specific goals other than getting them down. By the way, DoD has no metrics to measure its energy savings, an area which needs a desperate attention..

There were several questions concerning foam insulation in tents (spray foam into entire tent and get better isolation). It was asked if foam insulation is so great why not to use them in the US installations? The answer is simple. You cannot pack these foam insulated tents and go because they are designed for fixed tents. Is the cost offset by energy saving? I don’t think so.
DoD doesn’t really know those gadget technologies which are supposed to save energy (in cost-benefit terms) really works in forward bases. They give promises but no positive results.

I also think that part of the discussion was useless. They talked a lot about long convoys carrying fuel. They require force protection and put GIs in danger. Well, don’t they know that all fuels are carried by contractors and protection of the convoy is contractor’s job.

I do not believe that much of the fuel consumed by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan is due to generators. It is a big lie! Bulk of the fuel is burnt in tactical vehicles. And it is immoral to ask any GI to drive less or pay attention to fuel he consumes. One of the first things DoD should do is to reduce the fuel consumed during supply chain. I mean from where the fuel is procured to where it is consumed.

How much money is enough to “make forward operating bases as energy independent as possible from power generation.”? How much of military energy savings is really from demand reduction and how much from efficient technology? Will $300 million be sufficient? Is it really worth it? Does the DOD spend all this money to feed military-industrial complex? In my opinion, monetary savings in an establishment should start from big items in the list, not from toilet paper.


At 1:00 AM, Blogger Powrtalk said...

RE: Schaffer @ HASC you said: "In sum, he reported nothing new, no real achievement, no real progress and tired to convey technology will save us message".

I saw the transcript, and couldn't agree more. This team is treading water, not moving aggressively to bring sweeping change.

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