WASHINGTON — A recent energy resilience evaluation at U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii demonstrated that Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Army Airfield and Field Station Kunia could be isolated and powered during a significant outage to ensure mission continuity, according to Army installation and energy leaders.
The joint Army and Hawaiian Electric Company evaluation held in May was just one example of how the Army has collaborated with industry partners to develop best practices in the event of a physical or kinetic attack, natural disaster, or cyber-enabled event, said Jack Surash, the senior official performing the duties of the assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment.
"The Army's ability to accomplish its mission of protecting U.S. national security interests at home and abroad depends on resilient, uninterrupted access to energy," Surash told reporters Wednesday. "Energy and water resilience, or uninterrupted access to energy and water, is absolutely essential for Army readiness."
During the evaluation, Hawaiian Electric disconnected the three installations from the primary power grid in the early hours of May 22, according to Army Office of Energy Initiatives officials.
In less than an hour, the company established a microgrid powered by the utility-owned Schofield Generating Station, or SGS, and restored power across the Army service area.
"In the event of an emergency where power is lost, Schofield Barracks and U.S. Army Hawaii can be back up and running in just a matter of hours," said Maj. Gen. James B. Jarrard, commander of the 25th Infantry Division.
"This enables us to support the state of Hawaii if requested," Jarrard said, adding that Wheeler Army Airfield can be utilized as an active field or staging area for the National Guard, Civil Air Patrol, or Federal Emergency Management Agency during an emergency.
The next day, Hawaiian Electric introduced solar-generated power sources to the microgrid and later restored main power to the three installations that evening, officials added.
During normal operations, the SGS provides power to the Oahu grid throughout peak demand periods and also mitigates variations caused by wind or solar power generation. The station is also the only baseload power generation facility on Oahu located above the tsunami inundation zone.
"It gave us a great sense of confidence in our systems," Jarrard said. "No matter what emergency hits the island, we are going to be able to continue our operations … whether that is in support of civil authorities or preparing to deploy [forces] throughout the Indo-Pacific region."
Resilient power, water
The Army is aware of the increased threat to its energy and water infrastructure, as the majority of the service's installations rely on commercial utilities to maintain its mission. The recent Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack and the persistent and uncontrolled danger triggered by natural disasters have created a wide-ranging impact across the country, Surash said.
The Army Installations Strategy, or AIS, is a foundational document driving the service's goal to ensure power projection through resilient installations, Surash added. The strategy, released last year, will also target quality of life initiatives for Soldiers and families and combat climate change, as leaders look to modernize its installations by 2035.
Along with the AIS, the Army Installation Energy and Water Strategic Plan establishes a vision for the Army's utility infrastructure to sustain critical missions and sets strategic objectives and targets, he said.
One goal includes sustaining water and power on installations for up to two weeks without commercial support, said Gregory S. Kuhr, the G-4 facilities and logistics director at Army Installation Management Command.
A series of studies on previous power outages and water shortage patterns led to the Army's 14-day requirement, Surash said in a previous interview.
Senior commanders or a higher headquarters can change the duration to match mission-critical operational requirements, Surash said. When a time has not been stipulated, the Army will default to a 14-day benchmark for sustained utilities.
The entire process will take some time to complete, as leaders are currently analyzing the unique needs of their installation, determining necessary resources, and developing plans of action, Kuhr said.
"The need to be resilient is now," Surash said. "The Army will continue to collaborate with Congress, the [Department of Defense], and other services, along with private industry, utilities, and local communities to enhance installation resilience, efficiency and affordability in support of Army readiness."