How the Pentagon is setting an energy-saving standard
Throughout our public service careers, we have been honored to work on behalf of the men and women of our military. We each have seen and experienced firsthand the ingenuity and commitment of our uniformed men and women, their families, and their civilian counterparts throughout our nation’s defense structure. Today’s servicemen are continuing to take a leadership role towards a safer, cleaner, more secure energy future.These efforts are contributing to the easing of America’s dependence on imported oil by finding many ways to achieve energy efficiencies, harness renewable sources and utilize advanced biofuels.As noted in a recent report by The Pew Charitable Trusts, “From Barracks to the Battlefield: Clean Energy Innovation and America’s Armed Forces,” the Pentagon is one of the largest energy consumers in the world.The U.S. military used 300,000 barrels of oil daily in 2010. That is more than the individual consumption of 75 percent of all countries.Delivering and protecting this fuel for combat operations comes at a high price, both human and financial. Eighty percent of the convoys employed in Iraq and Afghanistan are for fuel, and from 2003 to 2007, more than 3,000 uniformed and military contractor casualties were associated with its delivery. In 2010 alone, there were 1,100 attacks on such convoys, clearly defining the risks associated with supplying deployed units.Financially, global oil price spikes hit the department’s budget hard, especially at a time of fiscal austerity. Every $10 rise in the price of a barrel of oil costs the Pentagon $1.3 billion per year, contributing to the 19 percent increase in operational energy outlays in 2010, even while consumption declined by almost 10 percent.Historically, the Defense Department has played a key role in the development of the Internet, semiconductors, the microchip and GPS. This same level of innovative progress is needed now more than ever to address the overall energy challenges facing America.The two of us have visited military installations to observe how they are adopting clean energy technologies, improving efficiency and saving dollars.For example, at Marine Corps Base Quantico, they are pairing rechargeable batteries with renewable energy technologies to extend ground troop range and effectiveness. One such new tool is the enhanced rucksack with a portable solar power system.Uniformed and civilian personnel at New Hampshire’s historic Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are working to increase the base’s energy efficiency by constructing LEED-certified buildings, employing co-generation solutions and using solar-generated electricity as backup for communications systems.At Fort Bragg in North Carolina, we saw the practical implementation of the initiatives that are part of an Army-wide goal toward “net zero” energy. This program aims to have each of six installations produce as much as they consume in energy, water, or waste by 2020, while two other installations — Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort Carson in Colorado — will become net zero in all three areas. Such efforts across all branches of the military are leading to financial savings and often encouraging similar initiatives in nearby civilian communities that provide support to military families.Under the leadership of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and now Secretary Leon Panetta, the Department of Defense is exercising aggressive energy-efficiency goals. The military has set a target of obtaining 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.Given the scale of these challenges, the Defense Department’s efforts will be viewed by history as a major contribution to defending our nation and maintaining America’s leadership role as a technological innovator.John Warner, served as a five-term Republican U.S. senator from Virginia and as secretary of the Navy. John Nathman is a retired U.S. Navy admiral who served as vice chief of Naval Operations and commander of Fleet Forces Command.