President Obama announced on Tuesday that he is deploying 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, beginning in early 2010. For troops already deployed and in theater, the onset of winter will exacerbate logistical challenges in Afghanistan as many of the main supply routes are narrow, dangerous roads that are easy for insurgents to target, and even more difficult to maneuver during the winter.
Photo: U.S. Marines conduct a convoy patrol on December 31, 2004 along the Khost-Gardez pass in Afghanistan in order to disrupt insurgent activity along the supply route. Courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps Cpl James L. Yarboro and the U.S Department of Defense.
Two weeks ago I wrote about the debate around what role the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) could play in analyzing climate change. As I noted in that post, the CIA has already been playing a role since the mid-1990s. That got me thinking about the debate back when the CIA first stood up its Environment Center and started using its satellites to collect climate data. For this week’s Reading Old Magazines I took a look at an October 17, 1995 op-ed in The Washington Times, “Is the CIA being led astray?” While this is a newspaper article and not our usual old magazine, author Bruce Fein, a lawyer and free-lance writer with The Washington Times, offers some interesting points that help one understand the debate back when the CIA firsts began integrating climate change into its work.
During that time opponents seemed to bemoan looking beyond traditional security threats to include environmental concerns and climate change into intelligence assessments. “The national security of the United States is ill-served…by an agency without personnel made of sterner and less starry-eyed stuff,” Fein wrote. His suggestion that incorporating these concerns might pacify national security experts and intelligence analysts is indicative of the attitude at this time that including threats other than war was a luxury that could undermine hard security priorities.
Yesterday the Woodrow Wilson Center's Environmental Change and Security Program hosted the Army Environmental Policy Institute’s 31st sustainability lecture on the Department of Defense’s (DoD) strategic energy opportunities and challenges. Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health Tad Davis introduced keynote speaker Dr. Amory Lovins who sits on the Defense Science Board’s Task Force on DoD Energy Strategy and helped advise the 2008 DSB report, More Fight – Less Fuel.
According to Lovins, DoD’s long energy logistics tail is putting the Department’s core mission at risk and it is paying for it in “blood, treasure, and lost combat effectiveness.” Fuel and fuel logistics are what has become largely understood as the “soft underbelly” of the Department of Defense. As Lovins pointed out, 1/2 of DoD personnel and 1/3 of its budget are dedicated to logistics. When the Defense Science Board was conducting its study several years ago it concluded that 1/2 of in-theater causalities were associated with convoys as well (though Lovins noted that this number does not reflect today’s total). Lovins also pointed out that of the military’s top 10 most fuel-intensive platforms, 8 are noncombat systems. “It’s an odd way to fight a war when the water heater uses more fuel than a helicopter,” Lovins said.
Instead of writing a full recap of day one of the Naval Energy Forum, I thought I’d just present the highlights (below) as I Tweeted (Twittered?) them yesterday. You can watch today’s proceedings on the Navy’s website; our own Sharon Burke presents around 10:45 a.m. during a panel discussion on "Greening DON." Many interesting tidbits throughout the day, and noteworthy that they had about 700 attendees and still turned away another 100. These issues are growing concerns for the nation and for the U.S. military, in no small part because of the leadership the Navy has shown. My kudos to all our Navy friends for hosting this forum.
“Energy has always been an important point in the military,” said Dr. Barbara McQuiston, special assistant for energy at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), in an October 6, 2009, interview with Armed with Science – a Department of Defense webcast. “You can go back to history and look at fodder to feed the horses in the Napoleonic wars; and you can look at today, all the way to Afghanistan where energy is a key enabler and, at times, a key limitation.”
Scientists at DARPA are working with multiple private sector partners on energy technologies that could have a “real game-changing nature [for] the future,” McQuiston said. In particular, DARPA scientists have a robust portfolio that includes programs in “energy creation, energy conversions, and energy control” aimed at improving tactical energy independence by shrinking the long logistics tail of forward deployed military units in countries like Afghanistan.
We wanted to note the important natural security news items from the weekend, but this will be our only post today. Happy Labor Day everyone!