Last Update: July 25, 2015

U.S. Military rethinking its energy policies; speech by Adm. Mullin at the Energy Security Forum of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

300 Years of FOSSIL FUELS in 300 Seconds Fueling the Future Force: Preparing the Department of Defense for a post-Petroleum era

The following speech was delivered by Admiral Mullin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about some rethinking required about energy policy. One thing it shows is the changed thinking patterns regarding what's "normal". Extra emphasis has been placed on some key sections below. The original can be found here: (

Energy Security Forum

As Delivered by Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff , Washington, D.C. Wednesday, October 13, 2010


ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN: Thank you and good morning. And thank you, Sharon, for that kind introduction and your leadership in helping all of us focus on energy security -- a challenge I believe is an enduring one for our military and our nation. And it's taken us far too long to get to this point.

I do spend a fair amount of time traveling both overseas and domestically, and domestically, so that I can stay connected with the American public and in a small way better connect, then, to our men and women in uniform. But most importantly, I travel to hear and learn from others.

Recently, I traveled to Tucson and the very first question I fielded during a town hall meeting was not related to our policies in Iraq or Afghanistan or other topics you might expect but related to their interconnection -- to the interconnection between energy, security and our global future.

And at the University of Arizona, the very next place I visited later that day, an engineer named Vincent Polowski (sp) shared with me that he believed the number-one national security challenge in the 21st century would be climate change. Vincent is not alone in his concerns. And we are in fact seeing evidence of climate change's potential impacts on our security.

Near the polar cap, waterways are opening that we couldn't have imagined it a few years ago -- opening trade routes, presenting both opportunity and vulnerability and rewriting the geopolitical map of the world. And it's not just the people of Arizona who are thinking about these things. Americans around the country are starting to connect the dots between energy, security and our future.

My friend and columnist Tom Friedman has spoken eloquently about -- of the growing need and awareness to rethink our views on energy and minimize our dependence on overseas energy sources that fuel regimes that do not always share our interests and values while not further damaging a world that is already becoming overheated, over polluted and overstretched.

We in the Defense Department have a role to play here. Not solely because we should -- should be good stewards of our environment and our scarce resources but also because there is a strategic imperative for us to reduce risk, improve efficiencies and preserve our freedom of action wherever we can.

So this morning I would like to offer my perspectives on how we think about energy, its relationship to our security and ultimately how I believe we need to look at this much more broadly as we plan for the future.

Now as I begin, while these issues are deeply important to our future, I certainly do not claim to be an expert on energy, security or climate change for that matter. In fact, I have to confess, that as a young naval officer back in 1960-whatever -- (laughter) -- energy consumption of any kind, candidly, wasn't something I spent a lot of my professional or personal time thinking about. In those days on my first -- (inaudible) -- ship our version of energy security was knowing where the next oiler was going to be.

Quite simply, like most of America, my shipmates and I operated under a "burn it if you've got it" mentality. We were providing supporting fire off the coast of Vietnam and when we needed fuel we got it. A few years later, in fact, the very first ship I commanded, the USS Noxubee, was a gasoline tanker dedicated to keeping fuel flowing throughout our fleet.

Now, I do not want to imply that we were deliberately wasteful or reckless. We just held a very conventional view that fuel was cheap, easy and available, without ever really connecting it to any broader geopolitical implications. Clearly, that is not the world we're living in today.

Many of us here this morning are acutely aware of the cost and challenge in terms of both blood and treasure of providing energy to our forces in Afghanistan today. And recent headlines of NATO fuel convoys being attacked only serve to remind us of these vulnerabilities.  DOD is using 300,000 barrels of oil every day.  The energy use per soldier creeps up every year. And our number-one import into Afghanistan is fossil fuel.

Yet there is no doubt we are making some progress. Secretary Mabus, who will speak towards the end of this session, is leading the Navy on an ambitious path to cut the nontactical petroleum by 50 percent by 2015 and sail great, green fleets by 2016.

The Air Force as well is pushing forward, focusing on three goals of reducing demand, increasing supply for renewable and alternative sources and changing the culture. And Gen. Schwartz is here and, in fact, for the last several years, from my perspective, the Air Force has led the way in this area.

In fact, all the services are moving forward. And many of these innovations, including most of the 80 showcased today in the courtyard are starting at the tactical level. Just recently, the Marines of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton arrived in Helmand with a complement of solar-powered, electricity-generation capabilities, insulated tents and ultra-efficient electronics.

When we consider the estimates of a fully burdened cost of diesel fuel approached $400 a gallon and required 1.3 gallons of fuel to use per gallon delivered at some forward-operating locations, these benefits start to really add up. This translates to fewer Marines maintaining fuel storage and distribution systems, fewer Marines dedicating their lives to protect the convoys in the routes used to deliver the fuel, or as this conference theme tells us: Saving energy saves lives.

In a similar systems approach, the Army out of Fort Irwin employed insulating foam on the roofs of its overseas deployment structures to save millions per month in air conditioning costs. And they are now working on a shower-water recycling system for their forward operating bases. Now as much as I applaud this latest innovation, I'd probably recommend that Gen. Chiarelli, who is here today, continues to wear his shower shoes until they work out all the kinks. (Laughter.).

But I specifically mentioned this effort because while it may not sound like an energy issue on the surface, when you consider the costs of transporting -- (inaudible) -- fresh water, we can see how important it will be to take a holistic view of energy security and, more broadly, our overall sustainability.

Simply put, we cannot think about energy after we get there -- wherever there may be. Energy security needs to be one the first things we think about before we deploy another soldier, before we build another ship or plane and before we buy or fill another -- (inaudible). And the demand for energy is not going to ease anytime soon.

Friedman reminds us that this hot, flat and crowded world has introduced 3 billion more people to the global marketplace, all wanting their own version of the American dream, fueling an ever-growing need for energy to drive the goods and services thereby to make their lives better.

In short, the world isn't what it used to be whether we wish it to be so or not. And we can either lead the change or be changed by the leadership of others. I prefer the former. And this endeavor, one that is so central to our future, our global future, calls out for America's leadership. In fact, in the national security strategy, President Obama writes of American innovation being a foundation of America, American power and leadership.

And this concept, in particular, will be critical to achieving energy security in a sustainable world. And while leadership at the top certainly matters, this can't be just a top-down effort. True innovation doesn't work that way. Every one of us, every American must play a part -- changing how we live, how we work and perhaps most importantly, how we think about these challenges.

So to start with, let's agree that our concept of energy must change. Rather than look at energy as a commodity or a means to an end, we need to see it as an integral part of our system; a system that recognizes the linkages between consumption and our ability to pursue enduring interests.  When we find reliable and renewable sources of energy, we will see benefits to our infrastructure, our environment, our bottom line and, I believe most of all, our people.

And the benefits from sustainability won't just apply to the military. For while we account for more than 90 percent of the government oil consumption, we represent less than 2 percent of our national usage. Yet we know that government-led innovations and technology innovations like GPS, the cell phone, the Internet have dramatically benefitted our nation before.

So we have to consider the entire system with all its connections and all of its interdependencies. The national security strategy recognizes these connections and interdependencies and concludes that strength and stability at home equate to credibility and influence abroad. And more specifically, that the way our nation gains access to, develops and consumes energy has significantly -- has significant security implications.

This effort is not merely altruistic. It is essential. Failing to secure, develop and employ new sources of energy or improving how we use legacy-energy systems creates a strategic vulnerability and, if left unaddressed, could threaten national security. And every one of us bears responsibility. We ought to think about energy efficiency relative to how we drive our ships, our planes, our tanks and deploy our soldiers and Marines.

There are important things to look at to be sure. But we can also make improvements closer to home. For instance, each of the services is bringing several bases up to a net-zero energy standard within the next few years -- goals I enthusiastically support.

These efforts will not just achieve savings in the long run but will ensure the environment around our bases is cleaner and healthier for our people and their surrounding communities. At Twentynine Palms, California, for example, a new micro-grid controller will make the Marine Corps' largest base an even better neighbor by reducing its energy consumption, diminishing its carbon footprint and better enabling it to be independent of California's power grid when needed.

And these (maiden ?) ventures may help us avoid mandates to divert resources away from operations, towards medical and environmental rehabilitation due to unfortunate or unintended consequences associated with Industrial-era energy and activity. Beyond these immediate benefits, we may even be able to help to stem the tide of strategic security issues related to climate change.

This is no small matter. In addition to the newly developing waterways near the polar ice caps in 2008, the National Intelligence Council identified 20 of our bases that are physically at risk as a result of a rising level of the ocean. In regards to what the cause of these changes is, the impacts around the world could be sobering and far-reaching.

As glaciers melt and shrink at a faster rate, water supplies have been diminishing in parts of Asia. Rising sea levels could lead to a mass migration and displacement similar to what we have seen in Pakistan's flood. And climate shifts could drastically reduce the arable land needed to feed a burgeoning population as we have seen in parts of Africa.

The scarcity of and potential competition for resources like water, food and space, compounded by an influx of refugees if coastal lands are lost, does not only create a humanitarian crisis but creates conditions of hopelessness that could lead to failed states and make populations vulnerable to radicalization. These challenges highlight the systemic implications and multiple-order effects inherent in energy security and climate change.

We know our efforts here will not be easy. They will take planning and they will take time. And like previous technological innovations, progress won't be linear. It will come with setbacks and dramatic leaps, just as we have seen in the industrial and IT revolutions of the past.

One way we can foster more service and progress is to take a long view on how we design our next generation of ships, vehicles and aircraft. When the Air Force fields its next-generation tanker it will be more efficient in terms of fuel consumption and transportation. From a maintenance-per-flight-hour perspective, it will reduce costs in terms of money, time and man power over the lifecycle of the aircraft.

And we here in town are not that focused on lifecycle costs and lifecycle impacts of what we design. We need to be much more so. Too often, we focus on a platforms capability while artificially ignoring environmental and energy costs that all come with a price to pay -- some financial and some, frankly, that are generational and even more profound.

So we've made some progress. But I still believe that these advances will be negligible compared to the benefits we will see when we leverage the creativity and innovation of our men and women in uniform, our civilians and our families.

A warning: Without our younger leaders, our current advances will quickly be swamped by the great market forces at hand in the energy market. Fortunately, I believe this is an area where we can learn from our young people who are from a generation that grasps the need to get the mission accomplished while managing our resources and valuing our environment. And our successful departure from fossil fuels to renewable, sustainable energy will quite likely depend on these future leaders and innovations that they bring forward. So we need to listen to them.

Ultimately, as we gain proficiency in generating sustainable, renewable energy sources as a nation we build national strengths and stability. We've created additional freedom of action for ourselves. Yet we cannot, nor should we do this alone. As we consider a challenge that transcends conventional boundaries of government, business and nation, it is clear that partnerships within the interagency, with industry and internationally will be essential as we push the bounds of what is possible and affordable.

These chosen alliances give our nation the opportunity to pursue not just defense but security, not just survival but prosperity; in a word: sustainability. Thank you again for today's dialogue. I am proud of the work that the men and women of the Department of Defense are doing, the work many of you are leading to ensure we turn our own energy security from a vulnerability to a strength it could be.

Few of us can argue that the need is not there. Many of us can see that the right technology is emerging. And I hope all of us can agree that the time for change is now. Thank you. (Applause.)


About the Author(s)

David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.

U.S. Military rethinking its energy policies; speech by Adm. Mullin at the Energy Security Forum of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

300 Years of FOSSIL FUELS in 300 Seconds Fueling the Future Force: Preparing the Department of Defense for a post-Petroleum era
( comments powered by Disqus