October 13, 2010

Recapping Day One at the Naval Energy Forum

The U.S. Navy kicked off its two-day Naval Energy Forum yesterday at the Regan Building, “Seapower Repowered: Energy as a Force Multiplier and Strategic Resource.” Unfortunately, I was not able to get across the street to listen to the numerous government and non-government officials build on the discussion the Navy has hosted on energy security over the last several years. I did, however, follow along on Twitter via @NavalEnergy, Task Force Energy’s Twitter handle.

While delivering his keynote address, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead validated CNAS’s work in this area, explicitly stating that “Natural Security will have implications on national security” (via @NavalEnergy). We were humbled to hear this, of course. Not because Roughead used a term we’ve developed to encompass our body of work, but because it suggests that more and more defense department officials recognize the increasing role that natural resources play in national security and defense policy.

On energy security, the Navy has been the most forward leaning of the services. “Energy is viewed as a critical warfighting element,” Roughead told the audience, keeping with the theme of energy as a force multiplier. “If we can ween ourselves away from fossils fuels…that reduces risk,” Roughead emphasized.

It is encouraging to watch the Navy continue the discussion and draw in a larger audience of stakeholders. But what’s more encouraging is that it seems that the Department of Defense broadly is capitalizing on the momentum the Navy has initiated, giving energy security the attention it deserves, which is important. According to National Defense Magazine:

Chief of Naval Operations Navy Adm. Gary Roughead said the time is right for the Pentagon to embrace ambitious goals to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, before the momentum is lost. It is important to set bold targets, he said. “Otherwise inertia will take over and we’ll lapse back into the way we’ve always looked at things.”

If the Department of Defense wants to set and reach ambitious energy goals, for instance, readying itself to operate all of its systems on non-petroleum fuels by 2040, officials must continue to be unequivocal on energy as a national security priority, and to put energy security in the context of other national security priorities, such as missions in Afghanistan. As Roughead remarked, “It’s more than simply, how green can we be seen, it really is an operational issue for us.

We’ll continue to follow along today and report back any developments.