Energy Security Is a Strategic Imperative in the U.S. Navy

01/17/2014 - Assistant Secretary McGinn underscores benefits to mission assurance from its clean energy initiatives

Public-private partnerships are at the center of the Pentagon’s current efforts to reduce its dependence on foreign oil. On Jan. 16, The Pew Charitable Trusts hosted a forum at the Naval Heritage Center in Washington to explore lessons learned by the U.S. Navy’s work deploying clean energy to enhance mission assurance and to save money. The event, held in conjunction with the release of Pew’s new report, “Power Surge,” featured a keynote address by Dennis McGinn, assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations, and the environment and a retired vice admiral.

Secretary Dennis McGinn

Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s national security and energy programs, delivered a short welcome, noting the Navy’s role as a leader in the Pentagon’s clean energy initiatives. She then introduced John Warner—the former U.S. senator and secretary of the Navy, and currently a Pew Distinguished Fellow—who worked in Congress with nonprofit and private-sector partners to establish the Navy Memorial and Naval Heritage Center.

For many who serve in our nation’s armed forces, Sen. Warner observed in his remarks, the commitment to ensuring America’s security and future prosperity continues long after they formally take off the uniform. Secretary McGinn’s continuing work on U.S. energy security—both in his initial retirement and in his recent return to public service—embodies this proud tradition, Sen. Warner noted. He closed by stressing the need for cooperation between leaders in the Pentagon and the energy sector to aid the military’s efforts to lower energy costs and enhance operational capacity, saying, “We’re all in this to help this great nation of ours.”

Joking that returning to the Pentagon after 12 years often made him feel like Rip Van Winkle, Secretary McGinn stated that the Navy’s energy initiatives are focused on ensuring future mission capacity and capability by making tough decisions on energy use today. 

“This effort is all about our national security in the strategic sense. We [must] produce solutions for our entire society, our entire economy. And that is really important in a world that is getting increasingly crowded and competitive for resources that are increasingly risky and costly to draw from the ground.”

Secretary McGinn argued that the key to achieving strategic security goals in a dynamic world was improving flexibility in its energy mix and reducing current U.S. force projection vulnerabilities. Increasing efficiency and embracing new advanced energy sources will allow the Navy to save lives and apply more strategic combat pressure by redeploying troops from guarding fuel convoys and other related missions, he said.

To meet this goal, the Navy is pursuing a number of initiatives, including combined heat and power, advanced smart metering, advanced biofuels, geothermal and landfill gas, and improved efficiency standards in facility construction. Operational energy, at sea and on shore, and efficiency are essential, he stressed. “[We must] squeeze as much capability out of every kilowatt-hour or megawatt of electricity that we possibly can.”

“We can’t do it alone,” Secretary McGinn warned. “Partnerships with the private sector are absolutely essential. We want good ideas to flow in, and good ideas to flow out.”

“Our top line is really our bottom line: We want our energy program to improve our operational capability [and] our capacity to carry out those operations, whether it’s regional war on down to humanitarian assistance [and] disaster relief,” he said in closing.

Read the keynote address transcript.

Listen to audio recording of the "Power Surge" webinar.

View slides from the "Power Surge" report webinar (PDF).

Read a copy of Power Surge: How the Department of Defense Leverages Private Resources to Enhance Energy Security and Save Money on U.S. Military Bases.

View a snapshot of the report in a Pew infographic.

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