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Energy Efficiency and the Case for Military Acquisition Reform

Historically, world superpowers have shared at least one commonality: a strong and capable military.  According to Former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, a strong military is always “ready and modern.”[i]

Now and in the future, the U.S. military must constantly adapt to changing technology and diverse threats. According to some of the highest military officials in the U.S., such as Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, energy efficiency must be a top priority in the short- and long-term.[ii]  In fact, each military branch has an energy office solely dedicated to determining where and how energy consumption reductions can be made and how servicemembers’ equipment can be more energy efficient.  Within an energy office, there are groups focused specifically on increasing energy savings from different types of military power.  For example, in the Navy energy office, there are four Working Groups – Aviation, Expeditionary, Alternative Fuels, and Maritime – tasked with creating and implementing the Navy’s energy goals.[iii]

Integrating energy efficient technologies and renewable energy into the armed services is cost-effective.  If less energy can drive higher productivity, then the government, and ultimately taxpayers, will save money.  These measures generate life-saving benefits for servicemembers in the field.  For example, if a Navy ship, which provides protection to a U.S. asset, must leave its posting to refuel, a new replacement ship must cover.  The transfer of station creates significant vulnerability.[iv]  Using a more efficient fuel or employing energy efficient measures, such as turning off engines at specific times, will reduce the frequency of refueling and military exposure.

The need to update the U.S. military’s energy resources and equipment is understood across government and industry sectors.  U.S. President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan, announced in June 2013, committed the U.S. military to using more advanced biofuels to power their resources.[v]  The plan also calls for the deployment of three gigawatts of renewable energy on military installations, including solar, wind, biomass and geothermal by 2025.[vi]

President Obama issued Executive Order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, on March 19, 2015, which requires federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, to undertake energy efficiency measures in federal facilities, such as Energy Star compliance.[vii]   Ultimately, the money saved by reducing energy costs can be used to invest in weapons technology or training.  As Commander in Chief, President Obama has consistently stated that energy independence is critical to protecting America and her allies.

Congress also agrees.  In 2007 President Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), which directs the military to reduce its energy consumption thirty percent by 2015.[viii]  Despite some progress, at of the end of FY 2014 the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) reported that it had reduced energy consumption by 17.6 percent, rendering EISA’s reduction target nearly impossible.[ix]  What are DOD’s barriers to energy efficiency? Is there a legislative fix?

On June 9, 2015, U.S. Senators Hirono and Wyden introduced the Department of Defense Energy Security Act of 2015, which aims to improve the military’s deployment of energy efficient technologies by creating a central online database used across DOD to share best energy saving practices in real-time.[x]  As partisan, minority legislation, the Department of Defense Energy Security Act of 2015 could sit idly in the Senate Armed Services Committee for a significant amount of time before being marked up.  Moreover, while this legislation directs important improvements, it does not provide a faster means of integrating energy efficient technologies in the military.

DOD considers acquisition – the levels between identifying and purchasing a new or updated weapon or technology – to be a main barrier to progress.[xi]  This process includes “the design, engineering, construction, testing, deployment, sustainment and disposal of weapons” related to a product.[xii]  On average, a product’s acquisition takes about ten years from identification to deployment in the field.[xiii]  Therefore, by the time the product reaches the “battlefield,” it is outdated.

For the military to deploy more energy efficient products and renewable energy technologies, the U.S. must accelerate the acquisition process.  Over the past fifty years, the government has attempted reform, including the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, but none have brought about a new acquisition system that is safe, timely, and fiscally responsible.[xiv]

As the next National Defense Authorization Act negotiations approach in Congress, meaningful acquisition reform should be included.  Specifically, simplifying the acquisition process by eliminating levels of bureaucracy in the process is critical to providing advanced energy efficient technologies to our military forces.  These reforms will help keep our military personnel safe and continue moving U.S. national security capabilities forward.

[i] Caspar W. Weinberger, The Uses of Military Power, Frontline (Nov. 28, 1984),

[ii] Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy – Energy, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Energy Installations, & Environment,

[iii] Operational Energy, U.S. Navy, Energy, Environment and Climate Change,

[iv] Id.

[v] U.S. President Barack Obama, Developing and Deploying Advanced Transportation Technologies, The President’s Climate Action Plan (June 2013),

[vi] U.S. President Barack Obama, Accelerating Clean Energy Permitting, The President’s Climate Action Plan (June 2013),

[vii] U.S. President Barack Obama, Sustainability Goals for Agencies, The White House, Executive Order — Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade (Mar. 19, 2015),

[viii] Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, United States House of Representatives, 27 (Jan. 4, 2007),

[ix] Energy Intensity, Department of Defense Annual Energy Management Report Fiscal Year 2014, 19 (May 2015),

[x] Department of Defense Energy Security Act of 2015, (June 9, 2015),

[xi] Anthony Andrews, Department of Defense Facilities Energy Conservation Policies and Spending, Congressional Research Service, 14 (Feb. 19, 2009),

[xii] Moshe Schwartz, Defense Acquisitions: How DOD Acquires Weapon Systems and Recent Efforts to Reform the Process, Congressional Research Service (May 23, 2014),

[xiii] J. Ronald Fox, The Transition Between Phases, Defense Acquisition Reform 1960-2009, An Elusive Goal, 29 (2011),

[xiv] Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, United States House of Representatives (Jan. 6, 2009),

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