Defense Department Offers Energy Strategy

The subject of war is a polarizing topic. Some support it while others do not. Yet, as history has witnessed, war will happen; and an undeniable truth about going to battle is that it requires energy and lots of it. It now appears that energy supply and energy security has risen to become a top-of-mind concern for the the U.S. military. So much so, that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has released its first ever operational energy strategy, called “Energy for the Warfighter“, which the DOD says “sets the overall direction for DoD’s energy use in military operations.”

According to the DOD, department operations wound up consuming 5 billion gallons of fuel last year alone, a quantity the DOD says cost about $13 billion. However, the department points out in its statement that the real costs involved in its dependence on energy during wartime can be measured in terms of lives lost whilst moving and guarding fuel on the battlefield. It is no wonder, then, that on June 7,  General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, sent a  memo to troops under his command saying, “energy is the lifeblood of our warfighting capabilities…we can and will do better,” later adding that service members needed to make it their personal mission to use less energy, which he called critical to mission success.

image via U.S. Marine Corps

A few days later, Sharon E. Burke, assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs noted in an interview that roughly 75 percent of the department’s energy usage comes from operations, rather than fixed installations and that what has changed over the years  is “the unprecedented volume of fuel” that the military now consumes and the difficulties presented by the fact that the U.S. often finds itself reliant on unfriendly nations for its fuel supply.

According to information in an article issued by the American Forces Press Services, the convoys that carry fuel in war zones have become a high-profile targets for  insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and that troops’ needs for battery power now has them carrying an additional 10-18 pounds of weight for each three-day patrol, thereby slowing troops down, wearing them out and putting their lives at risk.

The new strategy calls for, among many other things, a marked reduction in energy consumption. It also calls for an expanded use of  alternative energy sources such as solar generated electricity and biofuels in place of fossil fuels. Some of these tactics are already being employed, according to Burke, in the form of solar and microgrid technology use in Afghanistan as well as changes to flight planning and plane loading which is already saving millions of gallons of fuel.

The full “Energy for the Warfighter” document can be read here.

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