Officials: Energy Programs Vital to Defense Budget
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 29, 2012 The Defense Department is striving to improve energy security for the warfighter and it needs funding to achieve that goal, officials told Congress during budget hearings here today.
Sharon Burke, assistant secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs, told members of the House armed forces subcommittee on readiness the department requests $16.3 billion for petroleum to support military operations around the world.
“Our [energy] posture is imposing costs at all levels,” Burke testified, “Strategic, operational, tactical and financial.”
Burke said the new budget would take on energy initiatives for operational strategic use. “We want to recapture that strategic advantage” of World War II, she said.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s recently released operations energy strategy plan is the framework the DOD established to “improve operational energy use across the department,” she said.
“We want to ensure that U.S. military forces have a steady, reliable supply of energy for a full range of 21st century military missions,” she said, adding the strategy’s goals are to reduce DOD’s demand for energy, to diversify and secure energy supplies, and build energy security into the future force.
“Ninety percent of our fiscal 13 budget request is for the initiatives that reduce our demand for energy,” she said, “which is very important because we’ve seen in Iraq and Afghanistan that … modern military capabilities are terrific but also very energy-intensive, and we needed a great deal of fuel.”
The combat energy supply line has been vulnerable, Burke added. “It’s in the battle space and the … costs in lives, in dollars and capability has been much too high.”
Diversifying sources of energy operations is vital, Burke noted.
Such energy options as solar use would better serve the military mission, and troops are using solar power at the tactical edge in Afghanistan.
“This gives them better range, endurance, resilience and independence from the supply line. It helps them do their jobs,” she said, adding that the DOD’s “significant reliance” on liquid fuels would continue for the foreseeable future.
Facility energy security also is critical for the DOD’s 300,000 buildings that comprise 2.2 billion square feet of space, Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense for Installations and Environment, told subcommittee members.
“Our [facility] energy bills are corresponding large at $4 billion a year,” Robyn said.
DOD is using itsmilitary construction and sustainment budgets, supplemented by third-party financing, to make its buildings more energy-efficient, she added.
“Mission assurance is another reason why installation energy security is important,” she said. “Our installations support combat operations more directly than ever before. We pilot [unmanned aerial vehicles] and fly long-range bombers at our installations here at home. These installations in turn rely almost entirely on a commercial power grid that is increasingly fragile and vulnerable to disruption.”
To help lower the $4 billion energy bill and improve energy security at installations, Robyn told subcommittee members DOD has a three-part strategy.
First is reducing demand, followed by expanding renewable and other on-site energy resources, she said. This is followed by leveraging private-industry advanced technology by using military installations as “test beds.”
Because of the cost to private industry, Robyn said it’s in the DOD’s best interest to act as test beds to gain use of emerging technology.
“We [could use] our installations as distribution test beds to demonstrate and validate the technologies in a real world [setting],” Robyn said.
Overall, she told subcommittee members, “We have a good strategy and are improving it. We face some challenges. I look forward to working with you, tackling these and other challenges so our investments in facility energy are as productive and high-leverage as possible.”