Science and Technology News

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lynn: Defense-Energy Team Leads National Effort

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2011 – A partnership the Defense and Energy departments formed last year to conserve energy in the military is the perfect union to lead the nation in conservation, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said at the White House Energy Security Forum today.

“The key to this partnership is focusing [the Energy Department’s] unique knowledge on meeting defense requirements,” Lynn said. “By taking technologies from labs to the battlefield, the Department of Energy can enroll its scientific ingenuity in the service of our nation’s most important national mission: national security.”

Additionally, Lynn said, the departments’ collaboration can improve the operational effectiveness of the armed forces and serve as a catalyst for the civilian world. “By serving as a sophisticated first user and early customer for innovative energy technology,” he said, “the military can jump-start their broader commercial adoption, just as we have done with jet engines, high-performance computing and the Internet.”

Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel B. Poneman agreed.

“Through our national laboratory system, the [Energy] department brings tremendous scientific expertise to bear across a whole portfolio of national energy and scientific priorities,” he said. “Coupled with the scale of the Defense Department’s operations and its potential to act as a test bed for innovative technologies, this partnership is a crucial vehicle to strengthen our national security and to build a clean energy economy for America.”

Forum speakers noted the importance President Barack Obama has placed on energy conservation, but added that the issue goes back at least as far as the administration of President Richard M. Nixon, who acknowledged that American reliance on foreign oil raises national security risks. NATO’s ongoing military operations in Libya and the spike of oil prices due to political unrest in the Middle East is just the latest example of the problem, Poneman said.

Under the departments’ agreement, a committee of Defense and Energy leaders will steer investments into conservation-related technologies for U.S.-based installations and battlefield operations, Lynn said. Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, and Sharon E. Burke, assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs, are leading those efforts and took part in the forum.

The Defense Department is a world leader in energy consumption, Lynn said, noting that it accounts for 80 percent of U.S. federal energy use and consumes more energy than is used by two-thirds of all the nations on Earth. With annual energy bills reaching into the tens of billions of dollars, conservation could produce significant savings, he said.

“Everything we do, every mission we perform requires significant amounts of energy,” Lynn said.

Energy dependence has grown in the military, burdening budgets, logistics and individual service members. More than 70 percent of convoys in Afghanistan are used to transport fuel or water and are easy targets for insurgents’ roadside bombs, Lynn said. More than 3,000 U.S. troops and contractors have been killed or wounded protecting them, he said.

Ground forces’ increased use of electronics has doubled their use of batteries in recent years, Lynn said, so that today’s soldiers typically carry 18 pounds of batteries on a 72-hour foot patrol in Afghanistan.

But although the Defense Department consumes much energy, it also is a leader in conservation, Lynn said, as noted last year by the Pew Charitable Trusts think tank.

The department is building energy performance parameters into weapons systems requirements, including the cost of fuel for operations, Lynn said. Within the services, he added, the Navy is leading the way with more efficient propulsion technologies, including hybrid drives, and alternative energies that use biofuels.

The Marine Corps last fall deployed to Afghanistan’s Helmand province with flexible solar panels developed at the Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., which allowed the Marines to run two patrol bases completely on solar power and cut diesel fuel consumption at a third base by more than 90 percent, Lynn said.

“New energy technology makes our warfighters more agile, allowing them to focus on the mission rather than their logistics chain,” he said.

At Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base, Calif., Marines are demonstrating new microgrid technology, a system of self-generated electricity and intelligent controls that can be operated independently of the commercial power grid that military bases rely on, Lynn said.

Under its partnership with the Energy Department, DOD can continue with such innovations and do more, Lynn and Poneman said. Under the agreement, DOE will fund innovative projects, and provide advisors to combatant commands to share information and training, Poneman said.

Already, DOE auditors have found $15 million in savings through energy conservation at some of DOD’s 307,000 buildings, he added.

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