WASHINGTON May 18 The U.S. Defense Department,
the nation's single largest consumer of energy, is putting
increased focus on cutting its energy consumption and ensuring
that future weapons are more energy efficient, the Pentagon's
new chief weapons buyer said on Monday.
Reducing energy consumption is a big priority for the Obama
administration, which has vowed to fight climate change, and
could save billions of dollars at a time of mounting budget
pressures, said Ashton Carter, who became undersecretary for
acquisition, technology and logistics last month.
Carter called energy a big driver of Pentagon policies and
strategies, and said the department had already tripled
spending on energy research and development programs to $1.2
billion over the past two years, plus $300 million from the
federal stimulus bill.
"Energy is a driver. I'm seeing it crop up everywhere,"
Carter told an event hosted by the Center for Naval Analyses to
release a new report on the energy risks to national security.
"I'm committed to staying on top of this."
He said the Pentagon used 0.3 million barrels a day of oil,
about 1.5 percent of the U.S. total usage of 21 million barrels
a day -- which in turn accounts for about one quarter of total
world consumption of 86 million barrels a day.
In fiscal 2008, rising oil prices sent the Pentagon's fuel
bill soaring to $20 billion from $13 billion a year, he said.
Carter lauded a new report released Monday by the center
that was prepared by a high-level panel of retired admirals and
generals, saying the issue would play a key role in several
reviews of defense programs now under way at the Pentagon.
The report concluded that heavy U.S. use of fossil fuels
and the fragile U.S. electricity grid posed significant
security risks to the country and the military.
Warning of the destabilizing nature of increasingly scarce
resources, the report called on the Pentagon to fully integrate
energy security and climate change goals into national security
and military planning.
Charles Wald, a retired Air Force general, who headed the
CNA Military Advisory Board, which wrote the report, said the
U.S. military urgently needed to address this issue.
"We have waited too long to fix this problem." Wald said.
But he said military requirements still ultimately trumped
any concerns about energy use, when asked about the Navy's
recent decision to maintain the high speed of its new Littoral
Combat Ship rather than cut fuel use by swapping out the
propulsion system and accepting a slower speed requirement.
Carter said the military was already moving to better
estimate and factor in the cost of getting fuel to the
battlefield to run its tanks and warplanes and other weapons.
Using that "fully burdened" approach, fuel cost about $13
per gallon in Afghanistan, while the price jumped to about $42
per gallon when delivered by an aerial refueling tanker.
Increasing energy efficiency could also save lives, Carter
said, noting that about 70 percent of the convoys used in
Afghanistan were carrying fuel and water, but guarding those
convoys put soldier's lives at risk.
In Iraq, most of the fuel consumed by the U.S. military was
used to power air conditioning units for tents, Carter said.
Just spraying foam on those tents could reduce energy use by 45
percent, but that innovation had just been tested, he said.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates' recent decision to cancel
the manned ground vehicle portion of the Army's modernization
program also presented an opportunity to ensure that any future
vehicles were far more fuel efficient, he said.
Fuel use would also be an important consideration when the
military decided which truck would replace its fleet of
thousands of Humvees, Carter said, noting that such energy
savings could contribute to the greater national effort.
Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), BAE Systems (BAES.L), and a
joint venture of General Dynamics Corp (GD.N) and Humvee-maker
AM General LLC are competing for the work, which could be worth
$40 billion in the longer term.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)