ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, July 19, 2011) -- More than 400 Soldiers, Airmen, industry partners and government staffers attended the first joint Army - Air Force Energy Forum July 19, 2011, to join the fight with DoD in reducing the need for imported oil.

Even retired Senator John W. Warner, former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, came to support the forum, as noticed by Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal, who thanked him for coming.

Westphal, during the opening panel discussion, said he had found a report from January 2001 by the Defense Science Board Task Force on Improving Fuel Efficiency and Weapons Platforms. Its title was "More capable war fighting through reduced fuel burden."

"It's startling that their recommendations are exactly what we're talking about today. They were complaining about the department not really doing things like looking how it accounts for energy cost, not taking into account the transportation costs and other costs of getting fuel to the war fighter -- the logistics and cost benefits.

"The same things we are wrestling with today, they were saying in 2001," Westphal said.

He added there's one difference between this forum and that report.

"This forum is joint with the Air Force, and it gives us a chance to learn some of the things they're doing and ways in which they're innovating. Working with Erin Conaton, under secretary of the Air Force, day to day, I'm learning about ways that she does things that I need to think about.

"I think this is an opportunity to collaborate and to bring more resources to bear, so at some point, I hope, she and I will be having a conversation about how we'll partner on some of these things," he said.

Conaton said she thinks there's more consistent attention on energy today than there was in 2001.

"The ideas I think are the same. But there's been a bit of a groundswell. There's attention at the highest levels of the administration," she said. "Congress is focused on energy and security, a number of retired flag and general officers are talking about why this is important, not as a global good, but from an operational perspective."

"And the leadership in the Department of Defense, both civilian and uniformed, are all kind of pushing behind this, and you can look at each of the services. The Navy is doing a tremendous amount in this area. So, I think we're building on each other's work going forward," Conaton said.

The theme of the two-day forum, "Power the Force; Fuel the Fight," proved apt when Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, talked about the three categories of energy.

"In the Army, when we talk about energy, we sort of break it into three categories: Soldier power, basing power, and vehicle power," Hammack said.

She noted how the Army has already reached 70 percent of non-tactical vehicles using alternative fuel, well on the way to 100 percent.

"In basing power, we have a lot of investments in our installations. We have announced a Net Zero initiative where we're working with installations to drive them toward net zero energy, so they don't use more energy than they're able to produce on site," Hammack said.

She added that there's also net zero water, where the installations won't use more water than they inject into the local aquifer, so they're not draining these subterranean sources of fresh water.

"And net zero waste," she said, "because we do not want to be sending waste to landfills. We need to increase the recycling, we need to increase the re-use, and as a last resort look at waste to energy.

Net Zero is an Army pilot program, she said.

"We have 17 pilot installations that are going to try and get there by 2020 and a lot of other installations that are watching how they're getting there and working to get there in the same timeframe, or some of them had said that they're going to beat our pilot installations," Hammack said.

She said that BRAC, or Base Realignment and Closure, has enabled the Army to consolidate facilities, consolidate operations and return more than 70,000 acres to local communities.

"We've also reduced our energy footprint and we have more efficient, new construction on those bases that we have consolidated to," she explained. "It has enabled us to streamline our facilities, take down some of our older ones instead of 15 smaller old buildings, we have one new building that's very energy-efficient and it's about an $18-billion investment over the last six years for the Army."

"We're already seeing some of the returns on this investment and it's enabling us to emerge much leaner, greener lean green fighting machine," Hammack said.

The chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley, agreed.

"When we look at energy security, and if you think about how dependent our economy is on energy and how dependent our nation is on energy every president since Richard Nixon has talked about reducing our dependence on imported oil as a primary source of powering our country.

"And nobody knows better the impact of that dependence than the Department of Defense and the armed services," Sutley said.

"We care about energy because we want the war fighters to be able to have what they need to fight downrange," Conaton said.

Wednesday guests to the forum will include Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army; Gen. Philip Breedlove, vice chief of staff of the Air Force; and Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, to name a few.

The day will take close looks at energy conservation and efficiencies, alternative fleet vehicles, water and waste sustainability, technology, finance, renewable energy, and partnership opportunities.