FORT BRAGG, N.C. - "Energy ties everything together," said Gregory Bean, Directorate of Public Works director.

Indeed, energy, or what we may define as available power, constantly touches our lives. Reliable energy is a major cost and a vital, indispensable element of Fort Bragg's daily operations and its military mission. In fact, the cost of energy for the installation in 2010 was $43 million.

However, our need for energy has compromised our energy security, which is defined by the United States Energy Information Administration as "the uninterrupted physical availability of energy at a price which is affordable while respecting environmental concerns."

Many factors imperil the availability, affordability and viability of the energy resources upon which we have become so dependent. As stated in the USEIA Short-Term Energy Outlook published this October, limited supplies, coupled with rapid population growth, increasing demands and rising costs endanger our crucial energy reserves.

Other risks to our energy sources include the political instability of several oil-producing regions, the manipulation of available supplies, attacks on infrastructure, accidents, competition from other energy consuming nations, natural disasters and terrorism.

Furthermore, our dependence on foreign sources of energy leaves our economy, our borders and our military vulnerable to threats.

As a result, the Department of Defense has recognized the need for energy security at military installations throughout the world. Achieving the many goals associated with energy security can preserve fiscal resources, support the mission and potentially save the lives of our Soldiers.

For Fort Bragg, the realization of these objectives begins with conservation and efficient practices as well as the pursuit of alternative energy sources and Net Zero initiatives.

First, energy security carries financial benefits. Through conservation measures and efficient practices, Fort Bragg can save energy and thus save funds. In turn, those funds may be allocated to other aspects of the mission.

Energy security can support our military objectives and our Soldiers as well. "Energy conservation is one of the ways in which you can train the way you fight," said Capt. Michael Pollock, a staff officer with the 82nd Airborne Division.

Soldiers require reliable infrastructure to train, deploy and fulfill the mission and much of that infrastructure depends on energy, either directly or indirectly, from powering the utilities in our facilities to transporting supplies and people. Conserving our resources today ensures the continued functionality of our installations for war fighters in the future.

Additionally, energy security can reduce threats to our troops in theater and their missions, especially those missions involving the transport of fuel to power generators at forward operating bases. "If you learn to reduce energy use in garrison, you can take those lessons down range to reduce our reliance on fuel and our vulnerable logistics," said Pollock.

Pollock developed a commitment to resource stewardship from his experiences in fuel convoys during his deployments to the Middle East. "Energy security is critical to mission success," he explained.

"One of the most critical vulnerabilities of any military mission is our logistics. Fuel convoys, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan, are some of the most vulnerable aspects of our operations. Energy sustainability can help reduce our need for fuel and reduce fuel convoys in both their size and scope."

Army officials estimate that a one percent reduction in fuel consumption translates into a reduction of 6,000 Soldier convoys to protect fuel lines in theater.

According to Pollock, energy security relies on a culture of conservation. Although Fort Bragg has successfully decreased energy consumption, responsible energy use continues to be a priority, and it must be a priority for everyone who lives or works on the installation.

"Energy security cannot be answered by America's armed forces," said Fort Bragg garrison commander Col. Stephen Sicinski. "It has to be answered by the entire community."

Directorate of Plans, Training and Mobilization director Michael Lynch agreed. "The effective and efficient use of energy comes down to individual communities, individual people, the choices they make and the habits they have," he said. Energy conservation, however, does not have to translate into sacrifice. Individuals can conserve energy and reduce fuel consumption by implementing simple measures and transforming responsible energy use into a way of life.

These measures include powering down lights in vacant rooms, powering down computers when they are not in use and planning trips more efficiently to reduce fuel use.

To address our energy security issues and comply with federal mandates, the Fort Bragg energy program is pursuing alternative energy sources and Net Zero projects.

Net Zero installations produce as much energy as they consume or more energy than they consume. To that end, renewable technologies such as transpired solar collectors or "solar walls," photovoltaic sites and solar domestic hot water units are now implemented into our facilities.

Additional initiatives include maximizing energy efficiency in existing facilities, implementing water conservation practices, eliminating the generation of unnecessary waste, managing the solid waste stream, recycling and repurposing waste energy.

"The Net Zero vision is a holistic approach to addressing energy, water and waste at Army installations," said Paul Hora, energy awareness manager with Sandhills Utility Services.

"This approach enables the Army to appropriately steward available resources, manage costs and provide our Soldiers, Families and civilians with a sustainable future.

The Net Zero vision ensures that sustainable practices will be instilled in and managed throughout the appropriate levels of Army while maximizing operational capability, resource availability and well-being," Hora said.

In his treatise "Addressing the Challenge of Energy Security," R. K. Pachuari wrote, "Energy has always been an important ingredient for the economic and social progress of human society." Energy is and will always be an important ingredient for the military mission at Fort Bragg as well.

The challenges of energy security can pose risks to our financial, human and environmental resources. However, a steady focus on conservation, efficiency, alternative sources of energy and Net Zero initiatives can help us meet those challenges. As Pollock said, "Energy sustainability can secure our future if we all take a moment to pitch in."