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Gen. Dempsey's Remarks at the Pentagon Energy Security Forum

By As Delivered by General Martin E. Dempsey, The Pentagon, Washington, D.C.
I heard Secretary Hammack tell you I’m an armor officer by background which means that I was probably among—I’d have to check whether I’m right about this with the Navy, but I was probably among the most energy consumptive hogs that ever walked the face—you know the M1 tank, two gallons to the mile. You know the drill.

So. Thank you Katherine for that kind introduction. And to you and Secretary Burke and Dr. Robyn for leading the efforts here to encourage us to think differently about energy and how energy relates to our security.

As a student of literature and history, I feel obliged to note that 160 years ago today, Herman Melville’s classic, Moby Dick, was first introduced to the public.

No, you’re not in the wrong place and I’m not here to give you a lecture about the nuances Herman Melville’s work, Moby Dick. So what connection does your presence here today have to this great American novel?

In a word, energy. Ishmael, Captain Ahab and the crew of the fictional ship Pequod were part of a global industry largely dedicated to one thing – the pursuit of a critical source of energy … and at that time, of course, whale oil.

And 160 years later, some things just haven’t changed. We’re still engaged in a nearly, in a seemingly endless energy and quest for the pursuit of energy.

So, let me make this point up front: improving our energy security directly translates to improving our national security.

It will be essential to keeping our military the most effective, the finest fighting force in the world. And, it is inherent to our responsibilities as good stewards of the nation’s resources. Without improving our energy security, we are not merely standing still as a military or as a Nation, we are falling behind.

As a division commander in Iraq, energy management determined my ability to maneuver operationally. And having spent decades living and working on military installations, I know full well the powerful impact that conservation can have on our bottom line.

The Department’s “energy culture” has changed markedly, dramatically really, since I was a young Army armor officer and that’s a very good thing.

Today Americans are more energy conscious in our homes and at work and so too are we in our military. But, we can and must do even better – particularly in pushing progress out to the field, to the flightline and into the fleet.

Today’s warfighters require more energy than at any time in the past and that requirement is not likely to decline.

During World War II, supporting one soldier on the battlefield took one gallon of fuel per day. Today, we use over 22 gallons per day, per soldier. We’re also more expeditionary than ever. These energy needs require a vast yet vulnerable supply chain that our enemies target.

But to enhance our energy security, we must look beyond vulnerabilities and instead, focus on and view energy as an opportunity.

And the opportunity is vast. Energy spans every activity and corner of the department.

In the air, jet fuel equates to on-station and loiter time. At sea, marine fuel consumption rates impact operating and transit speeds. On the ground, energy requirements often drive how long soldiers can stay out on patrol and how many resupply convoys we have to put at risk on the road to support them.

I’ll give you one example of that. For a 72-hour mission, today’s infantry platoon carries 400 pounds of batteries to power their equipment – night vision devices, communication gear, global positioning systems and flash lights … 400 pounds of batteries per platoon – that’s per 30 men – for a 72-hour mission.

As some have observed only jokingly, if you want to find a US Army patrol in Afghanistan, simply follow the trail of batteries and you will eventually come upon them.

Now, that platoon is also more capable than ever. That’s a good thing. I don’t want them to ever have to face a fair fight.

But, we need to lighten the energy load of each warfighter—and the physical weight and resupply that it entails.

Fortunately, some new technologies that Sharon and others have championed are already making a difference. They include solar panels, micro grid systems and high capacity batteries. I will do everything I can as Chairman to support these innovations, and to get the right emerging technologies into our troops’ hands as soon as possible.

Because fundamentally we know that saving energy saves lives. In Afghanistan, fewer supply convoys will directly relate to fewer casualties. And it’s not only about defense, meaning defense of operations. Units with greater range and agility, with more warriors engaged in the mission rather than resupply, will ultimately result in “more tooth, and less tail.” That’s great news for us and even worse news to our adversaries.

This is why I am committed to the goals set forth in the Department’s first-ever Operational Energy Strategy—goals that include reducing energy demand at all levels of our forces while increasing the resilience and operational effectiveness of our equipment and our soldiers.

As Chairman, I’m particularly focused on looking beyond current requirements to what the force will need to look like in about a decade. Some of you have heard me speak about Joint Force 2020. Well, in the coming months, you will hear me talking even more about Joint Force 2020 … and energy efficiency and energy availability must be part of that equation.

We’re already making progress as I’ve said. We’ve designed more fuel efficient Ground Combat Vehicles; installed hybrid systems on some Naval ships; and invested in fuel cells to provide backup power to military installations and I know the Army is running a pilot on three installations right now to get at a net zero baseline for energy consumption.

These are important steps. But, as I said, more must be done. And it must be done not as individual services, but must be done jointly. And I’m counting on the people in this room to get it done.

One of those people is Lieutenant General Brooks Bash, my Director of Logistics on the Joint Staff. And I don’t know where you are Brooks, but would you stand up so we can see you and hold you accountable for whatever we do in the future. [laughter] Let’s give Brooks a round of applause. [applause]

And actually, I haven’t been Chairman long enough to have given each of my directors their sort of marching orders so this is an opportunity for me to do that and Brooks, you now know how much I care about the future of energy in the Joint force and I’ll be counting on you as my point man in this arena.

Finally, let me touch on the budgetary realities we face. Secretary Panetta has very been clear that we must scrutinize every single area of our operations. Nothing is off the table and that includes investment and wise investment in energy and technology.

Yet energy advances are unique in the opportunities they afford. Traditionally, we must spend money to increase capability. Here, we may have the opportunity to increase capability and save money, at least that is what we ought to aspire.

Systems that pay for themselves in days or weeks or months delight both the warfighter and the comptroller. There are some energy wins out there right now and we need to go after them.

What you’re doing here today is vitally important for our future. Whenever our forces go into harm’s way, they must have the best tools possible. And improving our energy security can help us do that and we really don’t have the time to waste.

So I thank you for your presence here today, for your participation and I look forward to the outcomes, deliverables and implementation of the best of ideas as we go forward. Thank you very much. [applause]