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Pentagon Factors Operational Energy into Acquisition

by Kris Osborn on July 25, 2013

Operational EnergyThe Pentagon has taken steps to formally integrate “energy efficiency” as a metric in the requirements process it uses for procurement and weapons development, senior officials said.

Energy performance has now become a mandatory key performance parameter in a part of the Pentagon’s developmental process known as Joint Capabilities Integration Development System, or JCIDS, said Sharon E. Burke, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs.

The JCIDS process, a collaborative analytical look at acquisition and development, is used to establish and refine requirements for procurement programs, often paving the way forward to next-step milestones in the process.

“We’ve become a force that uses a lot more energy than it used to,” she said. “We’re building energy efficiency into modernization. We have a long way to go because with a lot of the platforms that are entering the acquisition process — their fuel consumption is quite a bit higher. We’re increasing our fuel demand.”

In particular, Burke mentioned increasing power demands for next-generation electronics, ships, aircraft, weaponry and developmental items such as the Navy’s prototype Laser Weapon System that depends upon large “pulses” of energy to operate.

There are more than 300 operational energy initiatives across the Department of Defense, Burke explained. About $1.6 billion was spent on these programs in fiscal year 2013 and, depending upon budget developments, as much as $2 billion is expected for fiscal year 2014.

The Pentagon office for Operational Energy Plans and Programs was stood up by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009 in response to requests from fielded forces, members of Congress and Pentagon leaders.

One analyst described this effort as a bit of a double-edge sword, indicating that this effort may bring both great rewards and also run the risk of adding too many requirements to an already taxed procurement process.

“On one hand, you are looking across the entire force and doing an in-depth analysis. This effort can bring lower costs, better performance, improved operational flexibility and a reduced logistics tail — which can save lives,” said Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a Va.-based think tank.

“At the same time, are we now adding more requirements, more oversight and more reviews to a process that many believe is already too long and too cumbersome. Will this add complexity to getting stuff out the door?”

Also, some members of Congress have at times criticized the military’s operational energy platform, pushing back on various “green” efforts on the grounds that some of them may raise costs. Also, many members have raised questions about costs with regard to specific programs such as the Navy’s use of biofuels, an effort to power the fleet using alternative fuels.

Overall, the drawdown in Afghanistan means forces and Forward Operating Bases are more distributed or dispersed and the “re-balance” to the Asia-Pacific underscore the unyielding appetite for greater energy efficiency in combat circumstances and across increasingly greater distances, Burke explained.

While saving money by increasing energy efficiency remains a huge part of the calculus in today’s budget environment, the tactical and logistical advantages provide an edge on the battlefield, Burke explained.

“Anti-access/Area denial means that the supply chain is fully in play in the battlefield. That is going to be true going forward,” she said. “How do you build energy performance into the future force, which will have much bigger fuel requirements and much more sophisticated anti-access challenges? What are your options for making energy an advantage rather than a limiting factor?”

Considering these dynamics and the need for longer-dwell intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and longer-range strike capability necessitated by A2/AD, energy considerations are a key part of the equation when it comes to Pacific re-balance and the stepped up development of unmanned systems across the services.

“Unmanned systems give you a totally different way of looking at energy security. Not only is there much lower fuel costs but you can be a little more experimental with the way you power them,” Burke said.

Meanwhile, supply lines, fuel and energy efficiency have proven to be of paramount importance during the land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Burke added.

For example, fewer convoys needed to deliver fuel to remote outposts in Afghanistan due to increased efficiency results in both decreased expenditures and logistical footprints.

At the same time, greater fuel efficiency for ships, UAS and aircraft will help offset what many refer to as the “tyranny of distance” – the vast geographical expanse known to the Pacific theater.

Building energy efficiency parameters more formally into the process will help weapons and program developers perform the needed integration earlier in the developmental process, thus reducing costs and risks typically associated with the acquisition process.

As a result, Burke and other senior Pentagon officials have been working with combatant commanders and service acquisition personnel to work on the integration for this effort.

“You want to be able to put a value on better energy performance, so you need to know the value of a technology in operation. What does it cost you do support that technology? What is the unit cost? The only way you can know this is if you have the right analysis to bring to the process,” Burke said.

The Pentagon has already had some successes with the development and implementation of energy-efficient emerging technologies across the services. The effort spans a wide range of technologies from small, portable solar-powered blankets and lightweight batteries for the Army to hybrid-electric Navy amphibious assault ships and much more in between, Burke explained.

In addition, one key example of the approach to build energy efficiency more formally into the acquisition process is found in the ongoing procurement of the Air Force’s Combat Rescue Helicopter, a new helicopter program designed to replace the service’s currently serving HH-60.

“In the RFP [Request for Proposal] we were looking for better energy performance. It will be a criteria in the contract,” Burke explained.

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