FORT LEE, Va. (June 25, 2012) -- "Energy and persistence conquer all things," said Benjamin Franklin, one of America's foremost Founding Fathers. Although not referring to modern-day Operational Energy, the meaning behind the words still bears truth.

"Operational Energy is the catalyst that connects Soldiers, information and weapons systems to create combat effects; assure global reach and persistence; enable high-end capabilities; and power mission critical reach-back and deployment from fixed bases," said Col. Bruce McPeak, U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command's Materiel Systems and Operational Energy Office director.

The energy decisions faced by the Army are not much different than those facing everyday consumers, and the solutions are similar, said Maj. Gen. James L. Hodge, CASCOM commanding general.

"The risks, however, if we fail to react to our ever increasing reliance on limited energy resources are significantly greater in the Army," said Hodge. "Our dependence to operate successfully creates vulnerability, and our enemies know it. Our growing demand for energy is becoming increasingly dangerous to meet and too expensive to fund."

To tackle this vulnerability and foster a solution, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command tasked CASCOM in July 2011 to serve as the agency responsible for leading and coordinating a multi-functional development team. CASCOM was responsible for writing the Army Operational Energy Campaign Plan. The AOECP is expected, once approved, to become an annex to the Army Campaign Plan, according to the CASCOM OEO.

Energy efficiency is not a new concept to CASCOM. The command has been involved in the effort since 2006, and led a team that developed the original Energy Efficiency Key Performance Parameter methodology that is still being used today, said Michael Kriz, CASCOM OEO.

"Today, a significant portion of our operational assets are diverted for command, control and management of energy; and to secure convoys and storage facilities," said McPeak. "The bottom line is that we are working to reduce our energy footprint to free these assets for other missions, extend operating distance, increase loiter time and operational endurance, and reduce risk, both personal and fiscal."

The current equation for fuel usage in operations translates to more than 60 gallons of fuel consumption per Soldier per day, and the Army only represents 18 percent of Department of Defense global fuel use. In operations in Afghanistan, the Army represents 80 percent in volume, said Col. Phillip VonHoltz, U.S. Army Petroleum Center commander, U.S. Army Materiel Command.

Some of the plan's initiatives include combining traditional fuels with locally procured fuels; using alternative energy; eliminating and reusing waste products and water; better insulation, Soldier-powered body heat/movement energy production, and intelligent power distribution and management, according to CASCOM OEO.

"The paradigm we are dealing with is that energy is becoming increasingly expensive and risky to deliver, while the world is getting more dangerous," said McPeak. "Consequently, we are pursuing integrated operational energy solutions to enhance our capabilities as opposed to continuing to produce systems with profligate energy profiles."

In addition to better utilizing current energy resources, the plan includes capitalizing on emerging technology such as wireless charging, smart textiles, integrated weapons power and kinetic energy.

It's important to note that new initiatives are not based on efficiencies at the expense of capabilities. For instance, a chassis that is lighter generally consumes less fuel. But a lighter chassis is also often less protected, said Kriz.

"On the other hand, technology has provided us new devices that consume far less energy per operating hour than older devices. The battery life of new, lighter and more capable laptop computers is a prime example," according to CASCOM OEO.

In some cases, new more efficient technologies are fairly inexpensive, in others this is not the case.

"One of our tasks was to help evaluate potential solutions using documented gaps to make cost informed recommendations to decision makers," said Kriz. "Part of that process is learning better ways to leverage the agile processes. Doing this, allows us to get solutions to the field quicker and evaluate the results, while we work to formalize processes to determine if the items have the qualities to make it an enduring requirement."

As part of the overarching energy plan, the Army is sponsoring nearly 100 initiatives that cost more than $580 million, said Michael E. Canes, former vice president and chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute, while participating in an Operational Energy panel at the Army Sustainment Symposium and Exposition held in Richmond, Va., in May. The conference was sponsored by the Association of the U.S. Army.

VonHoltz, who was also on the panel, said that "logisticians have a Herculean task."

McPeak, Kriz and Lt. Col. Boris Hall, also of the CASCOM OEO, said they took great pride in the monumental task of developing the AOECP.

This plan means many things to many people, said Kriz. But the one thing it doesn't mean is the traditional definition of "doing more with less."

"The plan's focus is to ensure we are making effective use of the energy we consume. If we do that, we will naturally consume less while increasing capability. This benefits all of us by freeing assets normally dedicated to transporting and protecting energy supplies to do other tasks. It means less maintenance has to be performed -- fewer trucks driving, fewer generators operating," according to the CASCOM OEO. "It also means that the dollars currently being spent on energy could be reallocated to other beneficial programs, like improving our quality of life. In the end, we can make this effort a win for our Army, the nation and for each one of us."

In addition to finding practical techniques, the CASCOM OEO team also had to research the "human element" and determine how to incorporate energy awareness and training for Soldiers.

Technological innovations plus policies, guidance and documentation alone are not enough to ensuring the Army reaches its goals for Operational Energy, said Dr. Donnie Horner, U.S. Army Logistics Innovation Agency, during the Sustainment Commanders Conference at Fort Lee. CASCOM hosted the two-day event in May.

"As we move forward we will develop new attitudinal and behavioral norms regarding energy," said McPeak. "Our goal is to provide Soldiers with impetus to factor energy in their daily operations. As personal responsibility in energy management permeates throughout the Army, shared values will unlock mass innovation in finding ways to use energy in more efficient ways."

Persistent change across an organization occurs when about 75-85 percent of the personnel have modified their behaviors and "proclaim their belief that energy stewardship is the new way of doing business," said Horner.

The CASCOM OEO recognized this challenge and addressed it in the plan by applying a multi-faceted approach.

"The approach leverages the capabilities of existing training platforms and communication mediums while continuously highlighting why energy is important," said McPeak. "Developing training regimens that are both value-based and actionable is difficult, but necessary to address the continuous changes observed in energy prices, technology and markets. We will be closer to our goal of energy awareness and cultural change when leaders, Soldiers and teammates hold the belief that energy security and energy efficiency are vital to national security."

Awareness goes a long way, but to maintain momentum in this cultural shift, the Army needs to improve education, training and communication, said McPeak.

"Education helps us understand why energy is important to the overall mission of the Army. We are working to develop appropriate content and find advantageous insertion points for energy in accession schools, the military academy, Reserve Officer Training Corps, and professional military education curriculums that incorporate energy lessons into training and orientation of Soldiers," according to the CASCOM OEO.

McPeak said he understands that training also equals additional fiscal endeavors, and that's why to make this effort affordable, the plan is to leverage existing education and training platforms.

Instilling energy awareness across the Army and empowering Soldiers with a sense of stewardship is a cornerstone goal, said McPeak.

"We all have an opportunity, here and now, to be agents of change with a strategic implication. We will meet this challenge head on, capitalizing on leading-edge research, technologies, and business practices," said Hodge. Achieving success will take persistence and accountability at all levels. Remember, every Soldier in the U.S. Army is an energy manager and has the capability to help reduce demand.

Page last updated Mon June 25th, 2012 at 00:00