Energy & Climate Change
Defense Energy Goals Require Collaboration With Sister Agencies
By Alex A. Beehler
President Obama and congressional leaders decry global climate change as a threat to the security and stability of all nations, including the United States. There is also increasing momentum to demonstrate results at the United Nations global climate change negotiations at Copenhagen in December.
Against this backdrop, the Defense Department is facing mounting pressure to elevate global climate change as a top national security priority. This is currently under consideration by the National Defense University in war games and may be addressed as part of the Quadrennial Defense Review due in February, and as part of the Department of State’s new Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review.
In its strategic review, the Defense Department should examine internal processes dealing with energy issues and its relationships with sister federal agencies.
Congress recently provided the department a great opportunity to implement such a wide-ranging, policy-setting perspective. As part of the 2009 Defense Appropriations Bill, Congress required the Defense Department to establish a directorate of energy policy. Once this new organization is positioned and staffed within the office of the secretary of defense, it will provide much needed guidance and direction on energy policy and responsibilities throughout the department.
Having the deputy secretary of defense simultaneously sign out a comprehensive energy directive defining goals, visions and delegated authorities would be a timely, productive reinforcement. The military services and components would then have clear direction and responsibility to establish their own high-profile energy policy offices and the appropriate authority to commit funding and personnel resources necessary for implementation throughout the regional commands and field operations.
When such structures are in place and fully functioning, the department will be able to address its energy-related operational needs more holistically and comprehensively. For instance, the services will be able to integrate more effectively at the installation level energy renewable programs with those of energy efficiency, less encumbered by traditional organizational stove piping which has limited the synergistic successes of each program. The military components will be better prepared to comply with new regulatory requirements such as greenhouse gas reporting and monitoring, commencing in 2010, and the administration’s new executive order on energy.
Further examination could more easily occur on such pressing concerns as exposure of certain bases, particularly their power generating facilities, to flooding. The military components and the Pacific Command could more easily address the over reliance of military operations in Hawaii on imported oil from non-friendly nations. All services could more easily engage in the reduction of the energy “tail” and “trail” at forward base operations. And careful reexamination of past Pentagon opposition to any new offshore energy development in U.S. waters off the East Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean should be undertaken.
There is more the department should be doing to further enhance its achievements in the energy arena. As the entity that uses most of energy in the entire federal government, Defense should more proactively engage with sister agencies that have energy regulatory portfolios. This is especially timely given the current heightened activity of these agencies. Myriads of interagency working groups and task forces on which the department has active representation provide some productive exchange, but there is no substitute for a strategic approach initiated by the Pentagon.
Earlier this year, the Obama administration announced the launch and initial funding of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). First authorized by Congress in 2007 and modeled on the highly successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, ARPA-E joins other DARPA-based organizations — the Homeland Security Advanced Research Project Agency and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity. While each of the “ARPAs” has its own distinct mission, the areas of potential overlap in the interrelationship of energy and national security are extensive, and thus, the opportunities for research successes are great.
DARPA, as the oldest and most-established group, should take the lead in coordinating research efforts.
Conversely, a draft National Institute of Standards and Technology publication on smart-grid interoperability standards was recently released. But in the 90-page document there is no apparent mention or reference to the Defense Department.
The department’s stewardship of the environment has been demonstrated in a wide range of activities — from curtailment of 98 percent of use of ozone depleting substances to funding cutting-edge research on detection of buried unexploded ordnance. Military agencies have led the way in improved portable battery packs, geothermal and desalinization projects and research on marine mammals.
The Defense Department is poised to take its “islands of excellence” in alternative energy and energy efficiency, and become a leader. Excellence will best be achieved when the interconnectedness of programs and problems traditionally defined as “environment,” “energy” and “sustainability” is fully examined and synergistic efforts are fully explored.
Alex A. Beehler is a former acting deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment.