REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Redstone Arsenal's "red carpet" was rolled out in December for a top Army official whose awareness of Arsenal programs and capabilities could well lead to a higher profile when it comes to funding of installation services, and energy security and management.

Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, spent Dec. 13-16 at Redstone Arsenal for what she described as a "learning visit" to meet with Arsenal and community officials; and to tour the Prototype Integration Facility, Hazardous Devices School, Redstone Gateway, new Army Materiel Command headquarters, Raytheon construction site and an environmental remediation site as well as Huntsville's Solid Waste Disposal Authority waste-to-steam plant and the recently opened Veterans Memorial.

Hammack was appointed to her current position by President Obama in June 2010. She is the primary adviser on all Army matters related to installation policy, oversight and coordination of energy security and management. She is also responsible for policy and oversight of sustainability and environmental initiatives; resource management including design, military construction, operations and maintenance; base realignment and closure; privatization of Army family housing, lodging, real estate, utilities; and the Army's installations safety and occupational health programs.

With responsibility for all Army installations worldwide and for the Army's energy initiatives, Hammack said the information she gained during her visit will prove valuable as she advises secretary of the Army John McHugh and the Army's chief of staff Gen. Raymond Odierno as well as members of Congress.

"We are entering hearing season," Hammack said of Congress. "My job is to help members of Congress understand why we need the budgets we need, and to better understand mission capabilities and the needs to support those missions. This visit makes me better equipped to explain those things to members of Congress. … And with more missions here, Redstone Arsenal will certainly be attracting more attention."

Redstone's role within the Army has much potential for growth as the nation relies more on science and technology for the advantage on the battlefield, she said. That role can also grow as the installation's efforts impact the civilian world, similar to the Army's development in the late 1960s of a Cold War communications network that grew into what is now the Internet.

"We develop science and technology that has a lasting impact not only on the primary mission but also on society as a whole," Hammack said. "We need to continue investing in science, technology, research and testing because this will be transformational to better our nation and our nation's capabilities."

Hammack praised the Garrison and all of Team Redstone for three days filled with information on Arsenal missions, programs and initiatives.

"It was a great opportunity to understand the Redstone mission," she said. "The incredible variety of capabilities here is what impressed me the most.

"The Army is so big that sometimes we don't recognize the skills, talents and capabilities here at Redstone in the civilian and contractor work force, and the tremendous effort put into programs at Redstone."

The assistant secretary's trip included information gathering on weapon systems and propulsion systems developed at Redstone as well as the Army Materiel Command's logistics efforts in providing fuel, supplies and materiel to the Army worldwide and especially in remote areas.

"This was a great opportunity to learn. But it also was a great opportunity to confirm that we've got a lot of great people here working hard and developing great things," she said.

While at Redstone, Hammack did a fly-over tour of the Arsenal, giving her an impression of its size and diversity.

"From the air, I got a better feel of capabilities of the installation," she said. "I understood better the plan to consolidate and co-locate like missions. BRAC was an enabler to build new facilities and consolidate groups to enhance efficiencies. As the Army enters an era of reduced budgets, we have to ask how we can do the mission needed with fewer resources and in a much more efficient manner."

To that end, Hammack reviewed a three-year plan for Redstone that renovates existing buildings to allow for further consolidation of efforts and reduction in the amount of leased space used by the federal government off-post. She praised the plan, saying it would reduce costs, add efficiencies and effectiveness, and have a positive impact on the mission.

Hammack was also impressed with the Arsenal's working relationship with the local community on such projects as the Redstone Gateway and the waste-to-energy steam plant.

"I really have to compliment the foresight," Hammack said during a press conference concerning the Huntsville facility where city and county waste is converted into steam for use to heat and cool Arsenal buildings.

"This is not a brand new facility, but a facility that has been around for a while, and managing waste so that it does not go to a landfill is really what's appropriate for our future."

The Army Energy Program -- known as Net Zero -- calls for managing energy, water and waste in ways that improve efficiencies that benefit mission requirements. Net Zero Energy installations produce as much energy on site as they use. Net Zero Water installations limit the consumption of freshwater resources and return water back to the same watershed so as not to deplete groundwater and surface water resources. Net Zero Waste installations reduce, reuse and recover waste streams, converting them to resource values (such as steam energy) with zero landfill refuse.

"Thinking about our waste from a cradle-to-cradle basis on how we're generating the waste and what happens to waste at the end of life by being able to reduce it -- and ideally reducing it to zero -- is an appropriate strategy," Hammack said. "Net zero waste is the direction we want to go … so that we're not sending it to a landfill, so that we are returning it to some resources."
While Hammack said she admired the relationship Redstone has with the city of Huntsville that turns waste into a resource, she also appreciated Redstone's proactive approach to future waste reduction measures.

"Redstone is looking at what our needs are going to be in the future: the amount of energy we need, the amount of steam we need and how we can work together to ensure that we are able to accomplish the mission," she said.

"Remember that our primary mission is to support and defend this nation and Redstone has a critical mission in the research and development that is going on here. … The better we are able to work together and ensure we are able to accomplish those missions is really important not only to the local area but to the United States as a whole."

Hammack said the Net Zero initiative is extremely challenging for Redstone because of the energy intensive work being done at the installation.

"It's hard to reduce energy without reducing capability," she said. "The challenge is just like with force modernization. With engineering and testing, you have to do things smarter and more efficiently."

When building new facilities, they should be built and equipped with less energy usage in mind. Redstone followed that rule during the construction of new LEED (Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design) green certified buildings related to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure recommendations that brought new tenants to Redstone. But even in older buildings, energy efficiencies can be realized by updating things like lighting and air conditioning systems, improving insulation and finding better ways to use work space.

Along with energy efficiency, issues with energy security must also be addressed. Redstone needs to address threats of nature (such as the April 27 tornadoes) and threats of man that can compromise energy efficiencies of the installation, Hammack said.

Even though her trip to Redstone didn't include seeing young Soldiers training and learning the fundamentals of serving, Hammack did see local high school and college students working side-by-side with scientists and technicians in the Arsenal's science labs.

"They are the future of science and technology, and we have a responsibility to prepare them and to train the work force," she said. "We need to develop future scientists who will help develop the future of the Army. … These young students have an important mission to help improve our strategic advantages and improve our science so we have the capabilities to empower the Soldier."

Hammack's personal visit to the Veterans Memorial and her conversation there with veteran leaders, including retired Brig. Gen. Bob Drolet, left her in awe of the community's effort to recognize its veterans.

"The memorial really recognizes the sacrifices that have been made by fine men and women. For the community to invest in that memorial is really a tribute to the community itself and an appreciation of the sacrifices that have been made," she said.

Although it is disheartening to recall that communities in the 1960s and '70s didn't recognize and welcome home the veterans of the Vietnam War, those same veterans are ensuring that today's war veterans are getting the recognition they deserve.

"Today's war (just completed in Iraq and ongoing in Afghanistan) is much more personal," Hammack said, referring to the 9/11 attacks. "We are defending our home and freedom. It's more readily appreciated that we have threats at home and that we need to defend against them."