Army’s 3 Focus Areas for Reducing Fuel Reliance

Contributor:  Colonel Peter Newell
Posted:  11/28/2012  12:00:00 AM EST
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What's being done to manage and lessen the Army’s reliance on fuel as an energy source? The following interview features comments from Colonel Peter Newell, Director, Rapid Equipping Force – who highlights what’s being done to sustain the force in an era of uncertain fuel supply.  

You've spoken before about making the troops more sustainable. As we drawdown in war regions, our troops are spreading out, thus making fuel conservation more challenging.  What's being done to manage and lessen our reliance on fuel as an energy source for the Army?

The Army has identified three (3) focus areas that will reduce our tactical forces' reliance on fuel resupply operations:

First is the emphasis on educating & training Soldiers and Leaders, and helping to spur cultural change. While power generation and distribution operations at large Forward Operating Bases (FOB) is provided by LOGCAP (Logistics Civil Augmentation Program) services, units operating at the tactical edge bear the burden of managing their own power operations but lack the expertise and experience to efficiently provide power  on their combat outposts.

The equipment is not organic to the unit but is theater provided equipment (TPE) that is passed on to rotating units as they arrive in theater. Providing OE Advisors to each of the BCTs focusing on the combat outpost has proven to be effective in teaching Units how to use existing equipment while introducing new technologies aimed at reducing fuel demands. Developing programs of instructions designed for the end-user before deploying is currently underway.  Leader training is essential to understand not only how to employ and manage systems but also understand the 2nd and 3rd order effects of inefficient fuel consumption.

Second is efficient power generation materiel solutions. From the recent introduction of the AMMPS generators to hybrid power generating systems, the Army is looking at generating more electricity with less fuel. Use of APUs in vehicles have also reduced Idling requirements to keep vehicle based communications and sensors powered efficiently.

Third is reducing demand. Environmental Control Units (AC & Heating) is one of the biggest consumers of electricity in our combat outposts.  Another focus area for the Army is looking at better insulated structures and energy-efficient appliances. 


What's being done from a process and technology perspective to sustain the force in an era of uncertain fuel supply?

The Army is currently conducting a complete DOTMLPF (Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership, Personnel, Facility) review of how we sustain the fight in an Asymmetric war. The "M" component is looking at the feasibility of introducing Renewable, Alternative and Hybrid power solutions as well as intelligent micro-grid technologies onto the modern-day battlefield.  On-going efforts such as REF's E2E effort are informing the review process.


Evaluate the current energy strategy for the Rapid Equipping Force - what challenges would you say are hindering the Army in being a more sustainable force?

Success of REF's NETZero initiative is very much dependent on the level of "buy in" from the Commanders on the ground. Convincing Commanders of the operational value of reducing reliance on fuel, and how it will equate to more operational flexibility can be challenging. In this case, the Army is a victim of its own success. Our Army has proven during 10 years of conflict that it can move supplies to anywhere on the battlefield.

We have developed a culture that supply will meet demand. We need to change the culture. In an era of unconstrained OCO funding, efficiency was less important than effectiveness. Costly precision airdrop can deliver two weeks of supplies in the most remote locations in hours vs. the days required for ground movement. Use of "white" trucks and commercial aircraft to deliver supplies reduces risks to our Soldiers but introduces both reliability and security concerns.


What does it mean to minimize soldier intervention to maximize chances of success? Give examples.

If we introduce a new Materiel Solution to reduce reliance of fuel resupply operation, we need to manage the additional workload added to the already overtaxed Leader and Soldier. Automating and adding intelligence to systems is one method. Example: REF has introduced hybrid power systems to several combat outposts. The hybrid systems include Solar Panels, Energy Storage, JP-8 Generator and a power manager. The generator running at 90-100 % powers the Load (the system requiring electricity), any excess power is stored in the batteries. When the battery is fully charged, the power manager shuts of the generator and the load is powered by the batteries.

When the batteries are drained the power manager turns the generator back-on.  During daylight the batteries are also storing energy from the Solar Panels.  The automation and intelligence is key for Soldier acceptance. Without autostart capability, Soldiers would prefer to just have the generators running 24/7.

Colonel Peter Newell Contributor:   Colonel Peter Newell

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