At a briefing yesterday before the Defense Energy Security Caucus, Admiral Philip Cullom, director of the Navy’s Energy and Environmental Readiness Division, spoke to the Navy’s energy security efforts as enhancing the Navy’s war fighting capabilities. And really, that’s what the Navy’s and the other services’ efforts are all about – increasing operational effectiveness through energy efficiency, conservation and innovation. It’s important to remember this point because the choices the services are making in their energy security strategies reflect new technologies and requirements that bolster, not detract from, mission effectiveness. The Navy, for example, would not support the development of alternative liquid fuels that compromise the performance of its air or ship fleet. The choices they make must serve their war fighting capability.
In his remarks yesterday, Admiral Cullom reminded the audience that the Navy has a history of doing this very well. In April 1942, several months after the attacks against Pearl Harbor, Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle orchestrated a counterattack against Tokyo using a fleet of B-25s launched from the deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet. But the Navy had never done this before, and didn’t know if it could: the carrier runways were too short for the heavy B-25s to takeoff, and it was unclear if they could carry enough fuel for the aviators to reach allied forces in China safely. So, as Admiral Cullom reminded the audience, Doolittle stripped the B-25s of every non-essential piece in the aircraft, making the B-25 lighter and thus more fuel efficient, extending its range several hundred miles so that the aviators could hit their targets and fly to China. It was a successful war-time demonstration of how making air platforms more efficient could enhance the military’s war fighting capability in ways that in the months before seemed impossible.