December 02, 2010

DOD Assets Deserve Their Own Energy Management

Yesterday, everyone's favorite CNASer and uber-colleague Tom Ricks forwarded us an Air Force news story on the interest in alternative energy use for upcoming Space Fence projects. According to the report:

Ongoing technical and cost analyses could lead program officials to seek a mixture of alternative energy sources to fuel the next generation of massive ground-based radars that will track space objects and debris.

In October, Electronic Systems Center officials here released a Request for Proposal announcement for the Space Fence program. Valued at more than $3.5 billion, the program is expected to deliver a system of geographically dispersed ground-based sensors to provide timely assessment of space events...Regardless of the ultimate design, however, officials already know the huge S-band radars that will track mass of objects in space will require a lot of energy.

The combination of energy sources eventually used to power these systems will depend largely on siting and other project-related specifics. The article highlights that use of renewable fuels in the energy mix for these systems will help in long-term cost predictability and ensuring supplies, yet these decisions are bound to be extremely complex.

In the DOD-energy-focused report that John Nagl & I released a few months ago, we recommended that DOD adjust its organizational structure to recognize the distinctly different energy decisions required for static sites, weapons systems, and aviation and expeditionary assets. Check out pages 18-19 of the report here.

This Air Force article was another reminder that improving DOD's energy security will require organizational change for proper management, not just plans. Overall, kudos to the Air Force and its partners for considering renewable energy source for Space Fence...a positive turn after last week's highly disappointing news that it was flight-testing coal-derived fuels in UAVs.