WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2011 -- In a keynote address, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said improving energy security directly translates into improving our national security.
Dempsey discussed the importance of energy in today's military environment while addressing the Pentagon Energy Security Forum in the Pentagon Auditorium, part of a week-long Energy Security Event and Energy Awareness Month.
He said energy will be essential to keeping our military the most effective, the finest fighting force in the world.
"Without improving our energy security, we are not merely standing still as a military or as a nation, we are falling behind," Dempsey said.
He noted, as a division commander in Iraq, energy management determined his ability to maneuver operationally. He said, having spent decades living and working on military installations, he knew full well the powerful impact that conservation can have on the division's bottom line.
Dempsey noted that within the Department of Defense, the "energy culture" has dramatically changed and improved since the days he was a young Army armor officer. But, he noted,
"Today's war fighters require more energy than at any time in the past and that requirement is not likely to decline," he explained. "During World War II, supporting one Soldier on the battlefield took one gallon of fuel per day. Today, we use over 22 gallons per day, per Soldier."
"We're also more expeditionary than ever. These energy needs require a vast yet vulnerable supply chain that our enemies target," Dempsey said.
On the ground, Dempsey said, energy requirements often drive how long Soldiers can stay out on patrol and how many resupply convoys are put at risk to support them.
"I'll give you one example. For a 72-hour mission, today's infantry platoon carries 400 pounds of batteries to power their equipment -- night vision devices, communication gear, global positioning systems and flash lights -- 400 pounds of batteries per platoon. That's per 30 men for a 72-hour mission," Dempsey said. "But, we need to lighten the energy load of each war fighter and the physical weight and resupply that it entails."
Dempsey said saving energy saves lives.
"In Afghanistan, fewer supply convoys will directly relate to fewer casualties," he said. "And it's not only about defense, meaning defense of operations. Units with greater range and agility, with more warriors engaged in the mission rather than resupply, will ultimately result in 'more tooth, and less tail.' That's great news for us and even worse news to our adversaries."
"This is why I am committed to the goals set forth in the Department's first-ever Operational Energy Strategy. Goals that include reducing energy demand at all levels of our forces while increasing the resilience and operational effectiveness of our equipment and our Soldiers."
Dempsey also discussed new technologies, which are making a difference, to include solar panels, micro grid systems and high capacity batteries.
"I will do everything I can as chairman to support these innovations, and to get the right emerging technologies into our troops' hands as soon as possible," Dempsey said.
"As Chairman, I'm particularly focused on looking beyond current requirements to what the force will need to look like in about a decade. Some of you have heard me speak about Joint Force 2020. Well, in the coming months, you will hear me talking even more about Joint Force 2020, and energy efficiency and energy availability must be part of that equation," Dempsey said.
Dempsey recognized efforts in designing more fuel efficient Ground Combat Vehicles, utilization of hybrid technologies, investments in backup fuel cells for military installations, and the Army's Net Zero pilot programs.
"These are important steps. But, as I said, more must be done," he said.
Dempsey said that to enhance our energy security, we must look beyond vulnerabilities and instead, focus on and view energy as an opportunity.
"Traditionally, we must spend money to increase capability. Here, we may have the opportunity to increase capability and save money, at least that is what we ought to aspire. Systems that pay for themselves in days or weeks or months delight both the warfighter and the comptroller. There are some energy wins out there right now and we need to go after them," he said.
Dempsey ended his remarks saying, "What you're doing here today is vitally important for our future. Whenever our forces go into harm's way, they must have the best tools possible. Improving our energy security can help us do that and we really don't have the time to waste."