Pentagon Factors Operational Energy into Acquisition

The 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.

  • blight_

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


    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.

  • 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.

  • SFC Pappy
  • hibeam

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

  • 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.

      • Musson

        We will replace the Abrams with a Hundai main battle tank.

    • 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
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.