Pentagon Factors Operational Energy into Acquisition

Operational EnergyThe Pentagon has taken steps to formally integrate “energy efficiency” as a metric in the requirements process it uses for procurement and weapons development, senior officials said.

Energy performance has now become a mandatory key performance parameter in a part of the Pentagon’s developmental process known as Joint Capabilities Integration Development System, or JCIDS, said Sharon E. Burke, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs.

The JCIDS process, a collaborative analytical look at acquisition and development, is used to establish and refine requirements for procurement programs, often paving the way forward to next-step milestones in the process.

“We’ve become a force that uses a lot more energy than it used to,” she said. “We’re building energy efficiency into modernization. We have a long way to go because with a lot of the platforms that are entering the acquisition process — their fuel consumption is quite a bit higher. We’re increasing our fuel demand.”

In particular, Burke mentioned increasing power demands for next-generation electronics, ships, aircraft, weaponry and developmental items such as the Navy’s prototype Laser Weapon System that depends upon large “pulses” of energy to operate.

There are more than 300 operational energy initiatives across the Department of Defense, Burke explained. About $1.6 billion was spent on these programs in fiscal year 2013 and, depending upon budget developments, as much as $2 billion is expected for fiscal year 2014.

The Pentagon office for Operational Energy Plans and Programs was stood up by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009 in response to requests from fielded forces, members of Congress and Pentagon leaders.

One analyst described this effort as a bit of a double-edge sword, indicating that this effort may bring both great rewards and also run the risk of adding too many requirements to an already taxed procurement process.

“On one hand, you are looking across the entire force and doing an in-depth analysis. This effort can bring lower costs, better performance, improved operational flexibility and a reduced logistics tail — which can save lives,” said Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a Va.-based think tank.

“At the same time, are we now adding more requirements, more oversight and more reviews to a process that many believe is already too long and too cumbersome. Will this add complexity to getting stuff out the door?”

Also, some members of Congress have at times criticized the military’s operational energy platform, pushing back on various “green” efforts on the grounds that some of them may raise costs. Also, many members have raised questions about costs with regard to specific programs such as the Navy’s use of biofuels, an effort to power the fleet using alternative fuels.

Overall, the drawdown in Afghanistan means forces and Forward Operating Bases are more distributed or dispersed and the “re-balance” to the Asia-Pacific underscore the unyielding appetite for greater energy efficiency in combat circumstances and across increasingly greater distances, Burke explained.

While saving money by increasing energy efficiency remains a huge part of the calculus in today’s budget environment, the tactical and logistical advantages provide an edge on the battlefield, Burke explained.

“Anti-access/Area denial means that the supply chain is fully in play in the battlefield. That is going to be true going forward,” she said. “How do you build energy performance into the future force, which will have much bigger fuel requirements and much more sophisticated anti-access challenges? What are your options for making energy an advantage rather than a limiting factor?”

Considering these dynamics and the need for longer-dwell intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and longer-range strike capability necessitated by A2/AD, energy considerations are a key part of the equation when it comes to Pacific re-balance and the stepped up development of unmanned systems across the services.

“Unmanned systems give you a totally different way of looking at energy security. Not only is there much lower fuel costs but you can be a little more experimental with the way you power them,” Burke said.

Meanwhile, supply lines, fuel and energy efficiency have proven to be of paramount importance during the land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Burke added.

For example, fewer convoys needed to deliver fuel to remote outposts in Afghanistan due to increased efficiency results in both decreased expenditures and logistical footprints.

At the same time, greater fuel efficiency for ships, UAS and aircraft will help offset what many refer to as the “tyranny of distance” – the vast geographical expanse known to the Pacific theater.

Building energy efficiency parameters more formally into the process will help weapons and program developers perform the needed integration earlier in the developmental process, thus reducing costs and risks typically associated with the acquisition process.

As a result, Burke and other senior Pentagon officials have been working with combatant commanders and service acquisition personnel to work on the integration for this effort.

“You want to be able to put a value on better energy performance, so you need to know the value of a technology in operation. What does it cost you do support that technology? What is the unit cost? The only way you can know this is if you have the right analysis to bring to the process,” Burke said.

The Pentagon has already had some successes with the development and implementation of energy-efficient emerging technologies across the services. The effort spans a wide range of technologies from small, portable solar-powered blankets and lightweight batteries for the Army to hybrid-electric Navy amphibious assault ships and much more in between, Burke explained.

In addition, one key example of the approach to build energy efficiency more formally into the acquisition process is found in the ongoing procurement of the Air Force’s Combat Rescue Helicopter, a new helicopter program designed to replace the service’s currently serving HH-60.

“In the RFP [Request for Proposal] we were looking for better energy performance. It will be a criteria in the contract,” Burke explained.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • hibeam

    I think this is a great idea. The military should lead the way in greener technologies. Should’ve happened a long time ago.

    • Notmyname

      Greener for green ideology is a recipe for disaster.

      Lower logistics footprint for same war fighting capability is the important parameter.

      Fighting an air conditioned war in land locked Afghanistan with uncooperative neighbors is insane.

      • Rest Pal

        Do you count heat stroke prevention part of logistics footprint?

    • hibeam

      Why are you using my screen name?

  • blight_

    Back to nuclear. Need small, portable nuclear energy systems.


      True, but you can’t exactly fit a nuclear reactor into every single tank in the US military; it’d be way to expensive, and would be really dangerous for, well, a tank. As powerful as it is, leave nuclear reactors to the Navy with their large subs and carrier; on a relatively small tank, I doubt it would offer as much.

      • Ben

        You dismiss it way too quickly.

        If we can power our bases and other infrastructure with nuclear then it leaves a lot more breathing room for assets that work best with fossil fuels (tanks, aircraft, etc). Nobody’s saying we need to stick a nuclear reactor in every piece of machinery we have, but the more we can make our military less dependent on oil, the safer our forces (and budgets) will be.

        • blight_

          How far forward do we push nuclear? At some point we want a power solution for the warfighter that isn’t fuel.

    • orly?

      Not too sure an entire base would feel too safe when they get hit, or some people charged with their care seem incapable/incompetent.

      I think we need to ask a sailor on a CVN those questions?

      • Ben

        Have you looked into nuclear technology lately? It’s come a looong way since the public plugged its ear and stopped listening. Thorium reactors are a fantastic way to solve the nuclear problem for the foreseeable future. Much, much safer, cleaner, and efficient.

        Seriously, watch this :

        • Ben

          Sorry, I accidentally added my colon to the front of the link. Clip it off and it should work.

          • blight_

            The question is how small scale can you go with nuclear? We’ve always looked at nuclear as a way to produce oodles of power, and our engineering has always aimed in that direction. A field base would probably require far less power than most commercial reactors, but would have to be some kind of design that didn’t depend on water for cooling. Artillery or bomb hits could produce a loss of water and lead to a criticality event, at least for classical reactors.

          • Ricky

            Didn’t we just send a nuclear reactor to mars?

          • blight_

            We send radioactive thermal generators to Siberia, to Mars and beyond. They are far better at generating heat than efficiently generating electricity (and in space, you would probably devote a good deal of your energy budget to keeping electronics from freezing over).

          • SJE

            Radioactive thermal generators use Pu238, which is extremely costly to make. It is only cost effective when you need to power a spacecraft

          • Ben

            Watch that link for the answer. Really, it’s worth the 5-10 minutes.

      • blight_

        Well, if you hit an ammo dump and it goes up…

        With a nuclear reactor, as long as your decay products don’t include I-131 (and if they do, a gas mask and KI pills) you might not die right away. I’m sure Agent Orange did a bigger number on GI’s. And of course, the poor Bangladeshi/Filipino slaves, I mean, contractors; aren’t a big deal to us.


    Hmm. Green energy isn’t bad. Before you all down vote.

    If the military invested into advancing, say solar panels, you could make a paint that, when you spray on a tank, acts as a solar panel. Could be used to power all of the interior computers and whatnot. Its feasible for sure; all it needs is backing.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Unlikely that something as small as a tank would provide sufficient surface area for solar cells to gather the kind of power you are talking about. Worse, what happens when you get battle damage? The surface of a tank (where your putative solar collectors would be) isn’t exactly the safest place for delicate electronics. You also ignore that smoke, dust, etc. (which battlefields tend to have in abundance) woudl seriously degrade the performance of any solar solution.

      Finally, the amount of energy used by all of the electronics in a tank (or an IFV or any other tactical vehicle) is insignificant compared to the energy used to MOVE the vehicle in the first place.

  • tmb2

    Am I the only one imagining the GCV coming off the assembly line with an Energy Star sticker on the hull? All kidding aside, reducing the amount of fuel we need on the battlefield has been important since the first tank battalion was created.

    • Musson

      From now on each M4 will come with an EnergyStar sticker!

    • dave
  • SFC Pappy
  • hibeam

    Hopefully Obama will be available for the maiden voyage of the solar powered SSN Obama.

    • Musson

      You sure dont get any likes for sarcasm around here.

  • Jeff Stevens

    So this would mean we could never buy the M1 Abrams? That thing sucks down gas like a sailor on leave.

    • Ben

      By today’s standards, no, the Abrams would almost certainly not meet required fuel efficiency. But that’s probably a good thing.

    • joe

      True. But energy efficiency *for a tank* has to be measured on a rather different scale.

      The M1 is still pretty crap on *that* scale, though, too.

  • Jeff Stevens
    • Rob C.

      I don’t think that going be a factor. They know what they need fight wars in general. Now that cost fuel/energy is effecting everything modern US Military does, means they’ve got work on it more. How, will a future tank like M1 tank get fuel is hard to say. Maybe bacteria raised as fuel can cheap fueling vehicles that need the excess power do what they got to do. Going Green isn’t bad, its being Green and Mean is the goal.

  • Mystick

    The problem with solar is that I have never seen a panel come in anything but blue/bluish black. OpSec is not aided when the enemy just has to “find the big blue things” to shoot at.

    • f1b0nacc1

      They are also extremely large (more surface area for collection), fragile, and easily interfered with.

      As a commenter above pointed out…adequate for garrisons, but not in the field.

  • hibeam

    It takes a lot of energy to occupy and rebuild dirt bag countries. Maybe we should not be doing that? We should have left Afghanistan after the special forces had slapped the Taliban around for a few months.

  • hibeam

    Nuclear would make a lot of sense. If you drop them on targets. Saves a lot of gasoline and diesel and trouble.

    • orly?

      Ah, the “Nuke them all and let god sort them out” crowd.

      What a military we would have if all we had were trigger happy lunatics.

  • Peter

    Solar is a joke…. the weight to size ratio, to energy output make no sense in a military environment. The energy output is miniscule compared to other traditional sources. This is yet another green initiative by this administration pushing its agenda on the military to help prop up solar energy, which in turn supports their political cronies green businesses.

    • hibeam

      May the community you live in be organized. I’m working on a solar hat. The solar bowler. Obama is very interested thank you.

    • Ben

      To be fair, the future of solar and wind is very, very promising. I don’t think Obama is pushing it just to help his buddies out, he’s doing it because he knows that it’ll take a big push to shift our economy onto to something new (because god knows big oil is going to fight it tooth and nail). The only problem is it’s being pushed a little too soon. Give the tech another 5-10 years and it’ll be cost-effective enough to be worth leaning on.

  • hunter76

    You do not want portable nuclear power generators in your kit. If they get hit with a big shell, they get dirty. The international political ramifications are enormous. Don’t our “allies”, the NZers, already ban our nuclear-power ships from their ports? The Germans have already decided they will become a nuclear-power-free zone. “Nuclear” has a strong poisonous connotation for many people. You do not want to alienate them automatically, without consideration of alternate solutions.

    • blight_

      Indeed it will. But I can’t think of much that meets the low footprint, high power output requirements of the modern military…asides from a massive, perpetual trail of fuel tankers.

  • Oldmtnbkr

    Solar is not a joke, but it’s new tech and will take a while to be useful in more than a few niche situations. But: energy efficiency has been a big issue for the military since at least WW2 (read the discussion in Neptune’s Inferno on why it took us so long to deploy some battlewagons to Guadalcanal, or any account of why the P-51 Mustang was so important in the European air war, etc, etc). So, if the procurement process doesn’t get too bogged down, experimentation and investment focused on this will pay off, probably sooner than later.

  • hunter76

    Massive chemical streams will continue to be necessary to power battlefield vehicles in the foreseeable future.

    The nuclear power supplies for the Curiosity Mars rover, the Cassini Saturn satellite, various deep space probes, etc, are more properly called nuclear batteries. They depend not on controlled nuclear reactions, but the natural decay of exotic radioisotopes. Their output is on the order of 1 hp. They won’t budge battle wagons.

  • John

    Efficient is not green. Check the article and see where the emphasis lies.

    Simpler logistics? Greater fuel efficiency for ships and aircraft allowing greater range? These are great ways of becoming a more effective force.

    These things are not done to be green. They are not done to help the environment. (They might do so incidentally, but that’s just an extra.)

    And that is how it should be, of course. Helping the environment shouldn’t come at the expense of lives.

  • Tom Billings

    The greenest and most flexible power, up and down the scales of concentration and absolute amount of power needed by ground forces, that is inside our present tech base, is beamed power from orbit.

    There are design concepts already available for both LEO and GEO orbits that could deeply affect the energy needs of the Army and Marines. It can be there 24/7, unlike conventional solar power. It needs only simple and robust rectenna (rectifying antenna) receivers spread on the ground to charge batteries and run equipment to synthesize liquid fuels for mobile units from carbon dioxide extracted from the atmosphere and hydrogen from water. The logistical energy support equipment gets pushed as close to the combat units as they can be, and still be protected reasonably from direct fire.

    It is not a panacea, but it can be done, for any place on Earth, and no one has to be asked to let our fuel convoys through the pass, either. It requires stimulating the price drops already starting in getting resources to orbit, and in private companies’ plans to be collecting In Situ materials from nearby solar bodies for most of the construction materials for the power-beaming transmitters and generators, whether solar or nuclear. It would take about 10-15 years to implement to IOC, and another 10 years to bring all the Army’s units into the power-beaming network with enough transmitters, rectennas, and liquid fuel synthesizing equipment.

    That’s if we’re serious about this, and aren’t afraid of the “buck rogers” epithets that are inevitable.