Category Archives: DoD Power & Energy

Powering the Pivot

RIMPAC 2014 PHOTOEX

Operational Energy in the Asia-Pacific Theater

The U.S. military will confront different operational energy challenges as large numbers of forces transition from Central Command towards the Pacific region. To explain these changes, DoD Power & Energy Editor George Jagels spoke with Dr. Stacy Closson, who recently co-authored a report for the Center for National Policy entitled “Rebalance to Asia: Implications for U.S. Military Energy Use.”

Dr. Closson is an Assistant Professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and formerly worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. She is a Truman National Security Fellow and was named by the Atlantic Council an Emerging Leader of Environmental and Energy Policy.

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Abundance and Utility

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For Military Operations, Liquid Fuels Remain a Solid Choice over Natural Gas

By Bret Strogen and Patrick Lobner

Military energy strategists often recount the British Royal Navy’s decision in the early twentieth century to convert ships from coal to oil fuel. This transition improved their capability by reducing fuel handling personnel, increasing ship speed, and doubling travel range, though it required expensive testing and retrofitting of ships with new engines, and introduced risks by relying on a less familiar fuel that would need to be sourced internationally (whereas British coal was plentiful).(1) In hindsight a smart and inevitable decision, at the time many experts argued against the shift. Today, similar to the Royal Navy’s decision point a hundred years ago, any shift away from liquid fuels must undergo intense scrutiny to ensure such a transition increases the U.S. military’s capability.

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Recharging the Force

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Energy Harvesting and the Future of Warfighter Power

By George Jagels

The growing power demands for modern warfare, in which batteries for radios, GPS receivers, computers, and optics, among other devices, compete for rucksack space with water and ammunition, are forcing the U.S. military to rethink how it powers the warfighter. A reliable source of renewable energy could allow for fewer batteries clogging an already heavy rucksack. This would reduce both the numbers and variety of batteries carried, as rechargeable units could do most of the work. The result could be a more resilient force less dependent on complicated logistics and, consequently, engaging in fewer dangerous resupply operations.

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USMC Energy: Extending the Corps’ Reach

NEW HEADSHOT USE MEColCaley

A conversation with the Director of the USMC’s Expeditionary Energy Office

Colonel Jim Caley served in a number of logistics leadership roles during the 1990s, including deployments to Somalia and the Republic of Korea. After serving as the Operations Officer and Executive Officer for Brigade Service Support Group-1 at Camp Pendleton, Col. Caley deployed as the Executive Officer of Combat Service Support Group-11 to Kuwait and Iraq. After attending the School of Advanced Warfare and serving again in Korea, in June 2006 Col. Caley became the Commanding Officer, Combat Logistics Battalion 13, and deployed to Iraq with 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. He then spent a year at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and was assigned to the Pakistan Afghanistan Coordination Cell on the Joint Staff. In July of 2011, Col. Caley took command of Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group at Camp Pendleton. In July of 2013, he was reassigned to Marine Corps headquarters as the Director of Expeditionary Energy.

Interview by DoD P&E Editor George Jagels

DoD P&E: In broad terms, what is the purpose of the Expeditionary Energy Office (E2O)? 

Col. Caley: Our job is to lead the Marine Corps’ energy innovation. The USMC has a great history of innovation—whether it’s the development of amphibious operations or close air support. The Corps has been really good at transforming itself when we needed to. E2O finds really cool innovations that give our forces more operational reach and make our Marines more effective. That may be an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) platform that doesn’t take any gas, hybrid power systems that require half the fuel of current versions, or guiding the development of fuel-efficient armored vehicles.

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The Missing Piece: Micro Wind Turbines In Theater

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By George Jagels

For years now, the Pentagon has been trying to make renewable energy a significant part of battlefield electricity generation. Successes appear neither elusive nor numerous; like most programs, these department-wide efforts have proceeded in fits and starts. Micro wind turbines (producing less than 2,000 watts) have made appearances in a few cases (for example, CERDEC’s RENEWS system), but they are far from ubiquitous at forward operating bases and combat outposts. Once deployed, many small wind turbines are finicky and prone to breakdowns, too often wilting under the stresses of military life.

However, the military itself, as well as industry, is successfully using durable micro wind turbines—in fact, they have for years. The Superwind 350 has been quietly deployed by the DoD, just as it has for well-known commercial users in the oil and gas, mining, security, and telecom industries since 2004. For companies like ITT, Rio Tinto, and Raytheon, reliable autonomous operation is crucial to power communications equipment, cameras, optics, and numerous types of sensors in remote areas.

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The Institutional Advantage: Building an Energy-informed Military

Asst Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Sharon Burke

Asst Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Sharon Burke

We interviewed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs Sharon Burke in October 2013. Clearly passionate about the subject and deeply engaged in making energy a priority in planning, Ms. Burke discussed a wide range of problems and solutions that the Pentagon is addressing to make sure the lessons learned from the past 13 years are applied to future operations.

DoD PEP: Please describe your office’s background and basic functions.

Ms. Burke: Operational energy is the energy used to move, train, and sustain military forces. This comes out to about three-quarters of the energy the Department uses in any given year. Last year, this cost about $16 billion. One-quarter is facilities, or installation, energy used to heat, cool, and light buildings. This is not an inconsequential bill for us; we’re a big business, and it’s a variable cost, so we manage using a variety of methods. In this space, we must also comply with laws, executive orders, regulations, and so forth, whereas operational energy is generally exempt from these regulations because it is so closely tied to military operations.
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Electrons to the Lowest Echelon

The Army and USMC Get Power to Dismounted Troops

By George Jagels

Over the past ten years, American warfighters have become increasingly technologically advanced. More and more soldiers and Marines carry GPS, smartphones, networked radios, nightvision systems, and laptops. These devices give Americans an edge on the battlefield few can match; from long-distances to the darkest night, U.S. personnel talk to and see each other remarkably well. Through this interconnectedness and awareness, the dismounted squad, which the Army has been focusing on beefing up, might be able to achieve a major goal: supremacy over adversaries in the same way U.S. armor and air branches face no peer competitors.

This equipment, however, does not come “free.” With more power, so to speak, comes more responsibility—much of which literally ends up on the backs of soldiers and Marines. Though their capabilities are improved, the overall weight carried by warfighters changed little during the last decade (the soldier humps about 16 pounds of batteries, according to the Army). As a result, the DoD must strive for a near perfect balance: lower weight and greater capability.

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Operational Energy by the Numbers

Take a look at the DoD’s energy use by the numbers. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs Sharon Burke has worked diligently over the past few years to make energy a greater consideration in acquisition and strategy. (Graphic courtesy of OASD OEPP)

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