Energy overhaul for U.S. Defense?

June 17, 2011 at 2:23 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 17 (UPI) -- The U.S Defense Department's new energy strategy will pave the way for a more secure, agile and flexible fighting force, an official said.

Under the new strategy, military equipment, as well as forces in the field, will use less energy and more alternative forms of energy, such as solar and biofuels rather than fossil fuels.

"To build and sustain this 21st century military force, particularly in an era of fiscal duress, the Department of Defense must use its resources wisely, and that includes our energy resources," states the strategy.

As the biggest single energy consumer in the nation, the Defense Department last year spent $15 billion on fuel, 75 percent of which was for military operations, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn said in unveiling the plan this week.

Amid soaring fuel costs and a growing reliance on energy to carry out military operations, the department has seen its gasoline costs skyrocket 225 percent in the last decade.

"Not only does [energy] cost the taxpayers, it costs the warfighters," the deputy defense chief said. "Every dollar spent on energy use is a dollar not spent on other warfighting priorities."

In addition to reducing costs, the strategy aims to improve military capabilities.

Currently, the Department of Defense "tends to treat energy as a commodity that will always be readily available, regardless of the strategic, operational and tactical costs," the strategy states.

Under the new strategy, energy is redefined as a "military capability," giving it a role in top military strategies.

"As conflicts become longer in duration and more expeditionary in nature, the amount of fuel that it takes to keep forces in the field has become a significant vulnerability," Lynn said.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, each soldier currently consumes up to 20 gallons of fuel a day, compared with about 1 gallon a day in World War II.

About 80 percent of land convoys in Afghanistan are used for transporting fuel, Lynn said. That makes them easy targets as they travel on routes laced with roadside bombs and prone to ambush, resulting in 1,100 insurgent attacks last year.

"The realities of global oil markets mean a disruption of oil supplies is plausible and increasingly likely in the coming decades," states the energy strategy in its conclusion.

The Department of Defense is scheduled to release a more detailed implementation plan for its energy strategy within the next three months.

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