By Vice Adm. Phil Cullom
Deputy chief of naval operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistics
Energy Action Month 2016 closes out today. As it ends, I ask our warriors around the Navy to treat today as the beginning of next year’s journey toward achieving a more secure energy future.
During operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, our adversaries frequently targeted the Achilles’ heel of our logistics chain – the convoys that brought massive amounts of fuel and other supplies to resupply the front lines. During these conflicts, we learned some hard lessons. We’re learning from them as we tackle ways to reduce the amount of liquid fuel used by deployed forces. It’s about using less fuel to gain more enduring combat capability. Reducing the number of convoys required to accomplish the mission means less exposure to attacks and less operational threats to our personnel. These are at the core of WHY we have pursued energy efficiencies and that effort transcends every military operational landscape – on land, at sea and in the air.
For our sea services, refueling ships, aircraft or tactical vehicles is a key capability essential to persistent presence worldwide. We do it extraordinarily well but, as we know, the refueling process impacts our maneuverability, agility and logistics at sea. If platforms can travel farther on a gallon of fuel or remain longer on station in a mission-ready posture without refueling as frequently, we enhance our persistent combat capability and that ultimately saves lives. The DON’s commitment to energy has always been on the cutting edge.
You can take great pride in the accomplishments of our worldwide deployment of the 2016 Great Green Fleet that focused on getting more fight with less fuel. The number of units involved in these efforts in every theater is impressive; you’ve pushed the envelope in experimenting with technology, operational concepts, and alternative sources afloat and ashore that better sustain our operations in every way.
But we can’t stop there. We have an obligation to those who have gone before us to dedicate and challenge ourselves to ensuring our adversaries never exploit energy to achieve an advantage or use it against us. We should all remember a line from a poem written after World War I by Archibald MacLeish, “We leave you our deaths, give them their meaning.” The loss of life and sacrifices we suffered in our most recent conflicts can’t be in vain. The choices we make today and in the future can have life and death consequences for our Sailors who stand the watch every day. Our energy management actions impact operational risks for the Navy and our nation. We need to take these lessons to heart for the next fight, wherever that may occur, and in whatever environment.
This is not about saving fuel or saving money; if it does, that’s an extra benefit that we must reinvest. In the end, this is ALL about our combat capability and what it means to you, our warfighters. Our goal is to extend time on station and ensure we are where it matters, when it matters. History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme. During World War II, Fleet Admiral Ernest King said “oil is ammunition” to emphasize the connection between energy, logistics and warfighting. It remains so today and with the advent of energy weapons envisioned in the coming decades it will literally be true. We won’t need rocket motors, powder casings or even explosive warheads. Electricity and energy itself will take the place of all three. In the meantime, all of us must positively disrupt the energy future for our entire naval enterprise. We must get more combat capability out of every gallon, Btu and kilowatt hour. Simply put, power yields more presence. Our access to and use of energy must continue to be secure, reliable and resilient. As we ‘net the Navy’ together for the future, we must ensure all parts of the net are secure to support our ships, submarines and aircraft. To get this right across the continuum of land and sea, we must realize the shore is an integral part of this equation since it serves as the backbone from which our forces fly, sail, submerge and communicate. We must therefore guard against vulnerabilities throughout our entire netted kill chain.
Each of us has a role to play, regardless of warfare specialty or whether we’re Sailors or Navy civilians because we’re all part of one Navy team. As we continue to incorporate new and innovative energy technologies and efficiency practices across our operational and shore platforms, now and into the future, the stakes are too high not to get it right. Looking across all Navy communities, we must recognize that Energy Action Month does not end October 31. Today, I challenge you to think about the future and do your part in this important endeavor to honor and to give meaning to the lives of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Past and future Sailors deserve nothing less than our full commitment.