February 26, 2010

Song of the Week: Because No One Should Read Too Much on Fridays

A war machine, like any mechanism, needs fuel in order to run. When that war machine is operating in an environment where the necessary fuels are sparse, a person has two options: 1) Get it there somehow, or 2) Give up.  The current engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, as their architects have elected to go with option one, are fed by often-long convoys transporting supplies (fuel and water) for both man and machine.

Convoy, released by C.W. McCall in 1975, follows the journey of truck driver Rubber Duck, within an ever growing convoy on the way to its destination.  Due to the high value of its cargo, the convoy is convinced that “Ain't nothin' gonna get in our way,” despite the fact that they come under fire from, “armored cars, and tanks, and jeeps, and rigs of every size. . . And choppers filled the skies.”

Unlike at the finale of this country classic, however, sometimes the most protected convoy can end in ambushed disaster, resulting in astronomical costs for the operation (in time, dollars and blood).  The Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) states that resupply casualties historically account for 10-12 percent of total Army casualties, the majority being water and fuel related, making this, quite literally, a deadly issue.

The Department of Defense and the U.S. Army, taking note of this critical issue, sought to find an “option three” in their 2009 report on U.S. military casualties suffered in fuel and water convoys. The report concluded that:

Since 2004, resupply casualties have been decreasing in Iraq and increasing in Afghanistan. Energy and water technologies are emerging that can substantively reduce the need for resupply convoys in theater; and therefore potentially reduce casualties without sacrificing operational effectiveness. . . Resupplying troops in theater with fuel and water is a mission in which personnel vulnerability can be reduced through increased use of energy efficiency, renewable energy and on-site water production in theaters of operations.

The report also estimates that if fuel usage was cut by as little as 10%, in a five year projection, 35 fuel-related casualties would be avoided (70 over ten years), and if an ambitious 50 percent reduction were made 175 fuel-related causalities could be avoided over 5-years (and for those following their simple math, 350 over ten years).

If Rubber Duck had been in Iraq or Afghanistan, knowing these statistics, I imagine he would not have been all too keen to invite everyone to “Come on and join our convoy.”

This blog post is dedicated to CDR Herb Carmen, son of a truck driver.

Most of us here at the Center for a New American Security have two real loves:  our work and the work of the dynamic musical architect Lady Gaga. In addition to creating much dancing around the office, this got those of us on the natural security team thinking about how we might join these two realms which we so adore into one epic mass of pure joy. The task at hand became the challenge to partner the field of natural security and music into a Natural Security Playlist that was both true to form and didn’t suck.  Essentially it would be the nerdiest attempt at broad-spectrum field mash-ups since the invention of nerdcore hip-hop. On Fridays, we will start mixing up our usual photos of the week with video and song, beginning today. The songs we choose will demonstrate natural security concepts, along with our brief explanations. We have a long list going, but if you have any suggestions for other natural security jams, let us know in the comments!