Dempsey vows to keep DoD energy focus

Dempsey vows to keep DoD energy focus

Maybe not Earth-shattering, but there it was — Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey confirmed Tuesday he will take up the mantle of military energy independence, both in helping the services become more efficient and use more alternative sources.

The Pentagon apparently is pleased with the dual-pronged rhetorical strategy that top officials have made their leitmotif in recent years: Its normal audiences of congressional lawmakers and defense contractors like to hear about new business opportunities in the energy realm, and they like the idea that all this is really about mission effectiveness. As Dempsey repeated Tuesday, every fuel convoy taken off the road means less risk for the troops who would have had to run and guard it. And when ships or aircraft are less tied to oilers or tankers — or to traditional petroleum supply lines — that gives them more freedom to maneuver.

And DoD also hopes this kind of talk perks up the ears of a second, perhaps less likely audience: Environmentalist types who might not have traditionally paid attention to the way the Pentagon does business. We saw this yesterday in a Navy admiral’s pitch about how a nuclear aircraft carrier strike group is “sustainable,” and Dempsey touched on in again Tuesday. Officials equipped him with some fascinating factoids so he could paint a picture of today’s energy usage in order to make the case that it must improve. Per DoD’s official story, take a look:


Today’s warfighters require more energy than at any time in the past, he said, and that requirement is not likely to decline. During World War II, supporting one soldier on the battlefield took a gallon of fuel per day. Today, Dempsey said, “we use over 22 gallons per day per soldier, and we are also more expeditionary than ever.”

Energy spans every activity of the Defense Department, he said. “In the air, jet fuel equates to on-station and loiter time. At sea, marine fuel consumption rates impact operating and transit speeds,” the chairman said. On the ground, he added, energy requirements often drive how long soldiers can stay out on patrol and how many resupply convoys are put at risk to support them. For example, he said, for a 72-hour mission, today’s 30-man infantry platoon carries 400 pounds of batteries to power night vision devices, GPS devices, communication gear and flashlights. “Now that platoon is also more capable than ever … but we need to lighten the energy load of each warfighter and the physical weight and resupply that it entails,” Dempsey said.

Energy advances are unique in the opportunities they afford, he noted. “Traditionally, we must spend money to increase capability. Here, we may have the opportunity to increase capability and save money — at least that is what we ought to aspire to,” Dempsey said.

Incredible! That means it’ll take about 682 gallons of fuel for every single soldier downrange just this month alone. More than 13 pounds of batteries per platoon member, per three-day mission! All this brings us to a possible third audience for DoD’s energy-consciousness: Budgeteers and budget hawks, whose mental calculators probably start grinding away as soon as they hear these kinds of numbers. Maybe DoD’s energy focus can save the Earth, maybe it can make the force more effective, but a very least, the brass has got to hope it saves money.

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There is another way to save fuel. Only get involved in conflicts that have value.

Sadly were gonna be fighting wars over resources (oil) for a long time. Rather we want to or not. It’s gonna be forced onto us. And as oil supplies go down, and demand rises. The prices rise aswell, thus increasing the cost of war, and in a time of economic hardship, and governments cutting spending. It’s gonna be a very chaotic future.

Unless some magical energy alternative comes out.

This administration and its predecessor have systematically ignored the potential to make greater use of simulations to reduce Class III and V expenditures. Admittedly, those benefits become more difficult to attain during the conduct of operations, but the tradeoffs are still positive, at least in peacetime conditions. The problem is that the path these guys are on will reduce OPTEMPO and readiness, with no mitigating investments in technologies that are well understood and have real benefits. When the budget reductions really start to bite, who you gonna blame ? Penny wise. Pound foolish. Makes me crazy to watch this happen.

Oh yes I’m sure Obama took a look at those computer simulations and told the White Staff to forget about them. Those analytical tools would be used at OSD and Service level. As far as sky high O&S costs and the resulting need to reduce OPTEMPO and readiness, that’s a consequence of our acquisition strategy that pursues excessively risky, complex systems without adequate knowledge of their O&S cost risks (stealth mx costs realized AFTER the fact, eg). A far better acquisition strategy of incremental improvement is before everyone’s eyes for the taking. Because the Services won’t pursue a wiser strategy, control appetites, and lower sights to realistic objectives, and won’t make tough decisions to cancel failing programs earlier (FCS, JTRS GMR, F-35) and get COST under control, OSD (FCS), Congress, & the POTUS (VH-71) end up having to do the dirty work.

When all you have is a hammer, I guess everything just has to look like a nail…but seriously — I did not just single out the current occupants of the White House and the EOB. This is a systemic problem that infects both the political appointees of the current and previous adminstrations and the senior career civilian leadership that serves on irrespective of who controls the White House. Green technology IS being pushed from on high, so everyone runs after that ball. I’ve seen a lot of sizzle there, but not much steak. On the other hand, we know what we are doing with simulation technology, and we know the benefits and limitations. I see lots of excuses these days why we just can’t do as much as we used to be able to do, but I see very few people getting out there and offering constructive solutions to actually achieve real efficiencies. And far be it from anyone to propose more than chump change investments in this environment. Not happening.

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