Enhancing Readiness: Modernizing the Army’s Energy Posture
By: J.E. “Jack” Surash, P.E.
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Energy & Sustainability)
PENTAGON – The Army must be ready and be prepared for the threats of tomorrow, while caring for our Soldiers, Family Members, and Army Civilians.
The Army’s top priorities are Readiness, Modernization, and Reform.
Energy and water resilience enables Army Readiness.
Installations are the backbone of our Force, and are where our Soldiers, Civilians and contractors work. They are also the Army’s power projection platforms where our Soldiers train and prepare for combat. In order for our installations to succeed, they must be energy resilient.
Energy and water resilience enables the Army to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to changing conditions and to withstand, respond to, and recover rapidly from disruptions in the availability of energy, land, and water resources.
A key component of preparedness and energy and water resilience is maintaining and modernizing Army installations while safeguarding them from potential energy disruptions.
The Army’s Energy and Sustainability program continues to help modernize the Army’s energy posture by promoting the concept of “islandable” capabilities on our installations and working toward operating independent from the commercial electrical grid this will help enhance the performance of combat equipment through improved operational energy.
By refocusing Army resources to increase installations’ ability to withstand energy disruptions caused by natural, physical, and cyber-attacks; our strategy is increasing Army readiness and modernizing critical infrastructure on installations through third-party financing and teaming with industry.
Recently, the Army assessed installation resilience in the event of an electrical failure by intentionally “unplugging” from the power grid in controlled Energy Resilience Readiness Exercises (EEREs), held across four installations (Forts Stewart, Greely, Knox, and Bragg). We applaud these installations for their voluntary participation in these exercises.
In 2009, Fort Knox was without power for 10 days due to ice storms. Since then, the installation worked with their local utility provider to increase energy resilience. During their recent Energy Resilience Readiness Exercise, Fort Knox continued to operate when its microgrid started a series of diesel and natural gas-powered generators to power the installation. Fort Knox continues to work towards its goal of meeting 100 percent of the installation’s energy needs with onsite natural gas.
Other installations experienced challenges when critical systems either failed to start or failed within an hour of operations. Although these exercises left room for improvement, these exercises are instrumental for future energy resilience planning by providing scenario-based evidence to determine deficiencies.
Such exercises not only highlight gaps, but shape conversations between energy managers, garrison commanders, and Army leadership. While many installations perform tabletop exercises, until exercised, critical failures or lack thereof are only speculated.
On the Operational Energy side, our Soldiers and their related combat equipment are more energy resilient than ever before. This is essential to readiness. Soldiers and equipment that can travel further, on less fuel, and less battery life. This shortens logistical supply chains, decreases fuel consumption, and makes Soldiers and units more lethal with extended range and lift.
Former Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper said, “Ensuring installation energy and water resilience is a vital component to maintaining critical enablers.”
The Secretary told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Army will attain our Total Force Readiness recovery goals by 2022. The Army of 2022 will provide the best troops with the best training to ensure readiness. To do this, the Army must always be prepared for war by providing world-class training facilities, maintaining combat equipment, and ensuring the ability to command and control, through our network and systems backbone.
As we continue our pivot to resilience, help ensure Total Force Readiness, and become more energy and water resilient, we are excited to do so under the leadership of the new Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy & Environment, Alex Beehler.
Assistant Secretary Beehler joins the Army after serving as Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Environment, Safety and Occupational Health) from 2004 to 2009.