Saturday, April 09, 2011

The US Marine Corps and Energy

In his testimonies before the Senate and House Armed Services Committee in March 2011, General James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, gave useful insights about the marines and energy: (see, Statement-Senate, Statement-House): At any given time, approximately 30,000 Marines are forward deployed. As of December 2010, there were approximately 20,700 Marines in Afghanistan; 6,200 at sea on Marine Expeditionary Units; and 1,600 Marines engaged in various other missions, operations and exercises. The 30,000 statistic excludes over 18,000 Marines assigned to garrison locations outside the continental United States such as in Europe, the Pacific, etc. This requires a lot of energy.

On 13 August 2009, the Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) declared energy a top priority for the USMC. On 1 October 2009, the CMC created the USMC Expeditionary Energy Office (E2O), with the mission to “analyze, develop, and direct the Marine Corps’ energy strategy in order to optimize expeditionary capabilities across all Warfighting functions.”

The Marine Corps is leading the development of expeditionary energy solutions for DoD and the Department of the Navy. Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy website says “Marines are modern-day Spartans – our ethos demands that we change the way we think about energy as we train, equip, and lead our expeditionary force.” Marines dramatically increased their energy use in the past two decades driven by enhancements to command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence technologies; hardened vehicles; and weapons systems. This is quite normal. First, they have more vehicles which are about 3,000 to 5,000 pounds heavier apiece. Second, their total inventory of battlefield power generation increased nearly 5-fold (to 303 MW). Thus Marines may have become more lethal but they also become heavier and as a result lost speed.

As marines are not as light and agile as they once were, their demand for electricity and battery power has also grown immensely - a 300 percent increase in the use of computers, and the number of radios has increased threefold. About 60 percent of the power requirement in Afghanistan is to run environmental control units to keep command, control, and communications equipment operating.

The Marine Corps consumes more than five million barrels of petroleum a year. Ninety-seven percent of this is used for operational purposes. Within this, aviation requires about 75% of the total, with tactical ground activities using the remaining 25%.

Fuel requirement limits range and freedom of maneuver. Tethered to fuel, Marines have lost speed. Marines in Afghanistan use more than 200,000 gallons of fuel a day. Of this 75% was consumed by ground forces, which includes use by vehicles, generators, and other sustainment equipment. Aircraft consumed approximately 25% of the total. Of the 75% consumed by ground forces, a significant portion is used to generate electricity. Each of the more than 100 forward operating bases in Afghanistan requires a daily minimum of 300 gallons of diesel fuel.

The Marine Corps announced on 21 March 2011 its Expeditionary Energy Strategy. The strategy spans the full spectrum of Marine operations. Spanning Bases to Battlefield, the strategy centers on changing the way marines think about energy. Setting the course to move from paper to action, it also includes an Implementation Plan which sets goals, performance metrics for expeditionary and installations energy, and a plan for implementation by 2025.

In the words of General James F. Amos “Our growing demand for liquid logistics comes at a price. By tethering our operations to vulnerable supply lines, it degrades our expeditionary capabilities and ultimately puts Marines at risk. To maintain our lethal edge, we must change the way we use energy. The current and future operating environment requires an expeditionary mindset geared toward increased efficiency and reduced consumption, which will make our forces lighter and faster. We will aggressively pursue innovative solutions to reduce energy demand in our platforms and systems, increase our self-sufficiency in our sustainment, and reduce our expeditionary foot print on the battlefield. Transforming the way we use energy is essential to rebalance our Corps and prepare it for the future.”

Energy is an essential combat enabler and a critical vulnerability due to long logistic tails. Marines list the following key elements for success: (1) to aggressively pursue innovative solutions to reduce energy demand in platforms and systems, (2) to increase self-sufficiency in sustainment, and (3) to reduce expeditionary foot print on the battlefield.

That is why Marine Corps developed energy vision and strategy to 2025 with two main goals in mind: (1) to save lives by reducing the number of Marines at risk on the road hauling fuel and water, (2) to travel lighter -with less - and move faster by reducing the size and amount of equipment and dependence of bulk supplies.

Vision: To be the premier self-sufficient expeditionary force, instilled with a warrior ethos that equates the efficient use of vital resources with increased combat effectiveness.

Mission: By 2025 the only liquid fuel needed will be for mobility systems, which will be more energy efficient than systems are today.

To this end, on the battlefields marines aim to achieve resource self sufficiency in battlefield sustainment, reduce energy demand in platforms and systems, and reduce overall footprint in current and future expeditionary operations.

At bases and stations they aim to (1) ensure a secure, reliable, and affordable energy and water supply, (2) reduce lifecycle operating costs of installations and manage future commodity price volatility, (3) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and promote conservation of water supplies.

USMC Expeditionary Energy Goals:

• By 2025, increase operational energy efficiency on the battlefield by 50 percent and, in doing so, reduce fuel consumed per Marine per day by 50 percent.

• By 2020, 50 percent of bases and stations will be netzero energy consumers through the combination of on-installation alternative energy production and energy demand reduction.

• By 2015, reduce the amount of petroleum used in the commercial vehicle fleet by 50 percent.

The Strategy, as it applies to installations, is based on the CMC’s Facilities Energy and Water Management Program Campaign Plan (“Ten by ‘10”). These goals, developed as a proactive response to federal energy and water mandates, set the Marine Corps on the path toward efficient and judicious use of resources. The Strategy expands on the Ten by ‘10, incorporates commercial vehicle energy usage, and provides additional guidance and specific actions required to implement the strategy.
Driving to the Strategy, USMC is pursuing multiple lines of operation, including:
• Guiding Power and Energy S&T Enabling Capabilities

• Establishing new Training and Doctrine

• Including energy performance into Requirements and Acquisitions decisions

• Mitigating investment risk and building confidence in new equipment capabilities through the

• Experimental Forward Operating Base process.

Marine Corps established two experimental expeditionaryForward Operating Bases (one at Quantico, Virginia and the other at Twentynine Palms California) as test sites for alternative energy projects that can be used by our combat forces in Afghanistan. Trained infantry company in the latter with renewable energy technology was deployed to Afghanistan in the winter of 2010 where they operated two patrol bases entirely on renewable energy.

I personally liked very much that the USMC Expeditionary Energy Strategy calls for establishing the capability to capture, report and analyze energy demand and consumption data by 2015. Bravo. I congratulate USMC for providing a broad picture of its energy use. Other services should follow a similar and if possible a more detailed picture in their energy strategy documents.

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