Empowering Defense Through Energy Security

On Oct. 13 the Department of Defense (DoD) hosted an Energy Security Forum as part of National Energy Awareness Month. We spent the day with leaders from the military services and the White House for a discussion on how the Department of Defense can turn our energy use from a strategic and operational challenge to a key strength for the warfighter.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, kicked off our discussion and reinforced the critical nature of energy security for the Department. “Energy security needs to be one of the first things we think about, before we deploy another soldier, before we build another ship or plane, and before we buy or fill another rucksack.”

Adm. Mullen’s remarks were followed by a conversation with Gen. Norton Schwartz, the chief of staff of the Air Force, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the vice chief of staff of the Army, and Aneesh Chopra, the Nation’s chief technology officer. The panel discussed the challenges and opportunities of using innovative energy solutions to increase our military’s mission effectiveness while saving dollars and lives.

The morning’s panel was followed by closing remarks delivered by the Honorable Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy, who, while emphasizing the impacts of energy on our national security today and in the future, said “our military and our country rely too much on fossil fuels. For the military, that dependence has tremendous strategic and tactical implications."

The afternoon featured a panel of DoD energy practitioners including a Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, current and former base commanders, and other leading defense innovators. These leaders talked about a range of energy initiatives including one at Fort Bliss to make the base a Renewable Energy Center of Excellence. During the base’s greening efforts, a team found a natural source of 190° water which can be used as a source of geothermal energy. The base is also taking advantage of wind, solar, and biomass resources to provide secure electrical power for the installation.

Also as part of the Energy Awareness Week, the services transformed the Pentagon Center Courtyard into a showcase of their investments in energy technologies. Technologies on display ranged from solar powered water purification units to military vehicles using next generation materials and energy sources to light weight batteries that can give better range and endurance.

Adm. Mullen’s closing to his morning keynote captured the growing importance of energy security for the Department of Defense. “Few of us can argue that the need is not there. Many of us can see that the right technology is emerging, And I hope all of us can agree that the time for change is now.”