Energy and Force Transformation
Early in the 20th century, First Sea Lord Sir
John Fisher implemented a radical transformation that both altered
the British Navy's force structure and diversified its energy sources.
Although military and strategic considerations loomed large in this
transformation, the overriding driver was the problem of limited
government finances.1 Because oil was
a more efficient form of energy than coal, the British admiralty
judged that it could secure savings in its most critical problem
area-manpower-by shifting from a coal-based to an oil-based energy
As the Royal Navy diversified its energy sources
to include both coal and oil, its logistical infrastructure changed
as well. Because Britain lacked domestic supplies of oil, some of
the key issues that challenged this energy transformation were the
diversification of suppliers, storage of the oil, and transport.
Despite the peacetime innovations, the navy still found fuel consumption
to be its greatest logistical challenge in World War I.2
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) can learn
from the Royal Navy's pre-World War I energy transformation. Like
the Royal Navy a century ago, DOD is faced with the problem of limited
resources due in large part to our energy infrastructure. Fuel represents
more than half of the DOD logistics tonnage and over 70 percent
of the tonnage required to put the U.S. Army into position for battle.3
The Navy uses millions of gallons of fuel every day to operate around
the globe, and the Air Force, the largest daily DOD consumer of
fuel, uses even more.4
The DOD energy burden is so significant that
it may prevent the execution of new and still evolving operational
concepts, which require the rapid and constant transport of resources
without regard for the energy costs.5
These energy burdens will increase as new operational concepts demand
a lighter, more agile and dispersed force, with the attendant increase
in logistical sustainment. As increasing portions of the budget
are set aside for fuel purchases to account for the volatility in
fuel prices, increased capability will need to be built into new
platforms to mitigate likely impacts on force shape and composition.
It is crucial, therefore, that DOD develops an energy strategy that
reduces the energy burdens of our operational concepts.
Decoupling traditional energy sources from
systems and platforms may radically alter both operational requirements
and capabilities, as well as alter strategic realities. The use
of technologies that no longer rely on the current energy infrastructure
is the wave of the future. For instance, one estimate suggests that
a third of DOD resources are focused on one small area of the world-the
Middle East. The annual investment in securing this region currently
exceeds $150 billion per year.6 Reducing
our dependency on oil should make these resources available for
investment in future force and infrastructure needs.
Depending upon which view one chooses to accept,
the global oil supply will either last no more than a few decades
or will perhaps last a century. On one side of the debate, experts
argue that because of the limited supply of oil, it will increase
in expense as it depletes in availability or production (referred
to as Hubbert's peak). Market analysts, on the other hand, argue
that the market will force a correction of the oil demand, thereby
stemming the flow of oil and prolonging the inevitable. Both arguments
underscore that oil is an increasingly scarce commodity. Clayton
Christensen has argued that "markets that don't exist can't
be analyzed."7 Until a market correction
takes hold, or there is a global shift toward alternative sources
of fuel, oil demand will continue and, perhaps increasingly, will
influence the global security environment. DOD has the opportunity
to take action to shape this future to our advantage.
High Demand and High Costs
The speed with which military forces have deployed
and engaged has depended on the speed and adaptability of the logistics
tail, which has adapted and evolved to provide the ever-increasing
demand for fuel that our newest platforms demand. Because of our
tremendous logistics capability, the Armed Forces can be successfully
deployed and employed anywhere in the world for both deterrence
and combat operations. However, that capability comes at a high
price: a tremendous energy demand.
The energy consumption rates of our forces
in Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance, is four times what it was
in World War II and twice that of Operations Desert Shield and Desert
Storm.8 The logistics tail now consists
largely of the fuel required to execute and sustain operations:
- An Army heavy division may use 20 to 40 times
the daily tons of fuel as it does ammunition-about 600,000 gallons
- Of the top 10 battlefield guzzlers, only
2 are combat vehicles-the Abrams tank and the Apache helicopter-ranked
fifth and tenth, respectively. The other eight carry fuel and supplies.10
- Over half of the fuel transported to the
battlefield is consumed by support vehicles, not vehicles engaged
in frontline combat.11
Delivering fuel where and when it is needed
is a significant and increasing burden on the Services. The logistics
costs to deliver fuel include people, training, platforms (for example,
oilers, trucks, and tanker aircraft), and other hardware and infrastructure.
Those costs can be tens and sometimes hundreds of times the cost
of the fuel itself, depending on how it is delivered. However, the
exact costs are unknown because acquisition and operational decision
processes neither fully quantify those costs nor consider alternatives
to the "logistics systems" that platform acquisition and
perhaps operational decisions will dictate.12
It is likely that actual costs of delivering fuel for operations
are dramatically higher than decisionmakers realize.
Until now, the methods for acquiring military
platforms, both combat and support, and accounting for the costs
of fuel to operate and sustain them have been sufficient. However,
is the confluence of new and evolving operational concepts, high
fuel costs, and fiscal constraints demanding a transformation in
our view of energy? The available evidence suggests that it is.
New Technology Vectors
Historically, the Department of Defense has
invested in transformational technologies- such as nuclear power,
missile defense initiatives, and intercontinental ballistic missiles-
with the potential to alter the strategic balance. DOD should do
the same now to balance its scarce energy resources. New technologies
to improve fuel efficiency (weight, drag, engine efficiency, system
efficiency, and auxiliary power needs) and to develop alternative
energy sources have the potential to transform the force, remove
operational limits that are built into our plans, and provide the
capabilities that forces need. The business case for investing in
new technologies, however, is difficult to build because current
costing methods do not make the actual end-to-end costs of fueling
the force visible to decisionmakers.
In Winning the Oil Endgame, Amory Lovins identifies
some key technology investments in various stages of development
that could significantly improve military weapon system efficiency
and operational performance.13 Investing
in these technologies gains energy efficiency and explores alternative
fuels and energy sources. About $250 million (0.4 percent) of the
DOD fiscal year 2006 research and development (R&D) budget can
be tracked to energy-related projects to include:
- Army: Propulsion and Energetics Program,
University Research Initiative Fuel Cell R&D, Advanced Propulsion
Research, Combat Vehicle and Automotive Technology (includes numerous
projects on fuel cells, lightweight materials, and reengineering
of vehicles), and Services Combat Feeding Technology Demonstration
- Navy: Navy Energy Program, Mobility Fuels/Fuel
Cells, Integrated Fuel Processor/Fuel Cell System, Solid Oxide Fuel
Cell, Commercial Off-the-Shelf Carbon Filter Qualification, and
Energy and Environment Technologies (fuel cell and methane hydrate
- Air Force: Integrated High Performance Turbine
Engine Technology Program (to double the 1987 state-of-the-art turbine
engine thrust-to-weight ratio) and Dual Use Science and Technology
(fuel efficiency is an explicit area of interest but is a small
part of overall project)
- DOD: Vehicle Fuel Cell Programs, Fuel Cell
Locomotives (congressionally added programs), Advanced Power and
Energy Program, Weapon and Energy Sciences (includes research on
energy and fuel), Syntroleum Project (to convert natural gas into
liquid fuels), and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Hybrid Vehicle.
The actual level of DOD investment may be higher
because research within other program elements may include platform-specific
energy concerns. Nevertheless, even if the level is doubled or tripled,
it would be a small investment compared to the investment in other
strategic initiatives such as missile defense. More important, an
investment in energy-efficiency R&D and, ultimately, oil independence
may have a far greater impact on the strategic balance.
An inherent tension exists within the tiered-system
approach that DOD takes to science and technology (S&T). On
one hand, wide-ranging S&T investment provides a mechanism for
discovering new knowledge and developing things that would not otherwise
exist. On the other hand, most successfully fielded military S&T
is directed toward operational and programmatic needs. While at
least seven different fuel cell efforts are under way, the low level
of investment in energy efficiency R&D may indicate that energy
efficiency is not being pursued with urgency or an overarching strategic
view toward transforming the way we plan, operate, and fight. The
following areas may provide a basis for such an overarching DOD
Invest Strategically in Energy Technology.
By significantly increasing its R&D investments, DOD can improve
the efficiency and capability of the current force. These investments
will require the establishment of a strategic transformational mandate
for significant near-term energy-efficiency improvements (such as
retrofit of existing platforms that will be part of the force for
several years), reduced logistics force requirements, and long-term
military and national energy independence from foreign energy sources
(including new efficient platforms powered by alternate energy sources).
The technologies considered should be far-reaching, with the specific
view of their potential both to provide the lethal force required
in the execution of military operations and to provide that force
more effectively and efficiently. In other words, although recent
operations have demonstrated the usefulness of heavy forces, a smaller,
more responsive, and more affordable force might better meet capability
demands than a larger, slower force that is more expensive to operate.
Revisit an Energy Accounting Process. As noted
in both a Defense Science Board study and Winning the Oil Endgame,
providing fuel to military forces has many costs that are hidden
from current planning, acquisition, and investment processes.14
As a result, inefficient and capability-limiting practices have
persisted. To rectify these shortfalls, these studies suggest that
the Defense Department must transform its culture of treating energy
as essentially a "free" good both in operational planning
and in acquisition. Specifically, they recommend that DOD identify
and fully consider all the costs associated with providing fuel
to the force and use this information in modeling and wargaming.
Practically speaking, this could mean that DOD would need to develop
and implement tools to:
- account for all energy-related costs (procurement
- analyze life-cycle costs with actual energy
costs and make them explicit in acquisition and R&D investment
- model and wargame actual logistics requirements
and limitations as part of the analysis to support operational planning.
In general, a DOD energy strategy could provide
the incentive mechanisms for the Services to begin showing a return
on investment within a given timeframe.
Embrace Energy Efficiency. The clear articulation
of a policy for achieving energy efficiency as a primary aspect
of executing a strategy might have substantial implications for
military transformation. The rationale for such a policy might include:
- Energy efficiency is paramount to develop
a force that is expeditionary, agile, responsive, and sustainable.
- Energy dependence must be reduced to shape
the future security environment to our advantage.
- Savings derived from energy efficiency are
required to recapitalize and transform the force to have the future
- Limiting logistics support requirements enhances
warfighting capability and reduces costs.
- The Services, combatant commanders, research
laboratories, and other major DOD organizations should be allowed
to keep a portion of the savings from innovative initiatives in
material, procedures, and doctrine that significantly enhance energy
- Enabling the rapid adaptation of new energy
technologies to civilian use is required for the Nation's long-term
physical and economic security.
- Energy efficiency will not adversely affect
Stimulate Private Industry. Beyond making DOD
more efficient and capable of executing future operations, adapting
new energy technologies for civilian use may have a larger strategic
impact. The Defense Department can lead or stimulate the culture
change-required at all levels of the Nation-to recognize the hidden
costs of fuel oil and move strategically to less foreign energy
dependence. Only then can the United States become better positioned
economically and more secure in a future environment with less volatile
Partnering with industry will perhaps stimulate
the development of effective energy technologies, develop expertise,
and accelerate the acceptance of new technologies by the military
and the public. Elements such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency could begin this partnering effort by sponsoring a private-sector
"prize program" to encourage new ideas and approaches
and demonstrate DOD interest. Partnering would mitigate some industry
risk and could potentially:
- accelerate engineering breakthroughs to
adapt current technologies to military vehicles and other civilian
- lead to developing and proving the advanced
manufacturing processes required for new energy technologies
- create procurement strategies that support
new industry and manufacturing plants until private demand can sustain
- stimulate interest and investment in energy
- make U.S. industries more competitive in
the future oil-dependent energy environment.
A true energy strategy must result from careful,
reasoned analysis. To this end, lively debate on this vital issue
is urgently needed. Each proposed element of the framework should
be examined and new directions or alternative elements of a strategic
This much is clear: so long as DOD systems
and associated logistics are wed to an oil infrastructure, meaningful
advances in adaptability and agility and overall force transformation
will likely be superficial at best. Moreover, the artificially low
prices reported for the cost of fuel do not allow for market adjustments
in response to the rising costs of oil. The consequence of this
pricing approach is that investments in fuel efficiency appear too
expensive in cost-benefit analyses and program tradeoff studies
used to prioritize system acquisition decisions. However, investments
in fuel efficiency actually create savings opportunities that enable
investment in technologies. In turn, these new technologies will
help maintain the U.S. military's capability advantage over potential
As Britain's Royal Navy discovered more than
a century ago, transformation relies on new and diverse sources
of power. By divorcing DOD systems and infrastructures from oil,
we can easily imagine new operational capabilities, an adaptive
logistical system, and a radically altered strategic landscape.
1. Nicholas A. Lambert, Sir
John Fisher's Naval Revolution (Columbia: University of South Carolina
2. Jon Tetsuro Sumida,
"British Operational Logistics, 1914-1918," The Journal
of Military History 57, no. 3 (July 1993), 447-480. Also see Erik
J. Dahl, "Naval Innovation: From Oil to Coal," Joint Force
Quarterly 27 (Winter 2000-2001), 50-56.
3. Defense Science Board
Task Force on Improving Fuel Efficiency of Weapons Platforms, More
Capable Warfighting Through Reduced Fuel Burden (January 2001),
4, available at <www.acq.osd.mil/ dsb/reports/fuel.pdf>.
4. Ibid., 13.
5. Ibid., 16.
6. Michael T. Klare,
Blood and Oil (New York: Owl Books, 2004), 10.
7. Clayton M. Christensen,
The Innovator's Dilemma (New York: Harper Business Essentials, 2003).
8. Sohbet Karbuz, "The
U.S. Military Oil Consumption," Energy Bulletin, available
at <www. energybulletin.net/13199.html>.
9. Defense Science Board,
10. Ibid., 42-44.
11. Ibid., 19-20.
Also see Amory B. Lovins et al., Winning the Oil Endgame (Snowmass,
CO: Rocky Mountain Institute, 2004), 88.
12. Ibid., 14.
13. Lovins et al.,
14. Defense Science
Board, 15-16. Also see Lovins et al., 87.
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