San Francisco Chronicle Op-Ed - National security hinges on sound energy policies
Michael Breen - Like many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, I learned the hard lessons of energy security on the battlefield. Our military is the largest consumer of energy in the world, and our adversaries have continually exploited this dependence as a vulnerability. For thousands of veterans like me, that meant daily firefights in isolated combat outposts to protect the truck convoys bringing the fuel we needed to power generators and vehicles.
The Department of Defense has been leading efforts to develop new ways to power our force more effectively, including wearable solar panels and hybrid-electric vehicles to reduce the need for those dangerous fuel convoys. But with budget restrictions dominating the news cycle and many of our troops returning home, it is easy to forget that energy needs are a key national security challenge.
Luckily, we have leaders in Congress working to ensure that our military has the tools and resources to accomplish its missions. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, introduced the Department of Defense Energy Security Act, legislation designed to help create a more formidable, more effective and more efficient fighting force.
True energy security for our military will require a comprehensive approach relentlessly focused on three core principles: freedom of action, assured access and minimizing risk.
To maintain freedom of action and respond quickly and decisively to threats, our military must increase the range and endurance of its ships, aircraft and vehicles. The bill provides for innovative financing of efficiency projects - ranging from installing LED lighting on ships to retrofitting aircraft with more efficient turbines - at no cost to taxpayers.
Meanwhile, our domestic military installations are overly reliant on a dangerously fragile civilian electric grid. Our troops at home require uninterrupted sources of electricity as they directly support operations overseas and play an increasing role in disaster assistance to local communities.
California Assembly members already are leading efforts to increase renewable energy generation on military bases in California, supporting the Department of Defense's goal of generating more than three gigawatts of electricity from renewable sources by 2025. In addition, the Udall-Peters bill creates a program to help ensure critical military installations remain functional even if the civilian electric grid goes down. These efforts combined provide our military assured access to energy.
Finally, the Department of Defense has explicitly defined climate change as a threat-multiplier, making natural disasters and conflict over scarce resources more frequent and extreme. To minimize risk, our military must be ready to respond to threats with a unity of effort across the military services. The Udall-Peters bill will create a database that ensures that the hundreds of energy projects and technologies our military already is developing will be mutually reinforcing and not redundant.
The Udall-Peters legislation makes our military more efficient abroad and more resilient at home, and the challenges it seeks to answer will only grow more pressing without action. Every citizen should rally behind this legislation and urge their representatives in Congress to provide the policy support to our military necessary to its enduring mission to fight our nation's wars and keep us safe.
Mike Breen is the executive director of the Truman National Security Project and the Center for National Policy.