Topping Off

By John Liang / June 8, 2010 at 5:00 AM

A top Air Force official late last month told an energy forum that the service needs to find ways to measure progress in meeting energy goals, and is also reviewing its organizational structure for handling energy issues -- labeling both of these as key priorities on the energy front.

As Inside the Air Force reported May 28:

The service will spend about $6.7 billion on aviation fuel and $1.4 billion on installation support this year, Air Force Under Secretary Erin Conaton said. She was confirmed by the Senate on March 4. The White House has stated that American dependence on fossil fuels is a national security issue so officials must decrease demand and diversify the sources of supply, she said.

“All of us in government are charged with being good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” she said during a May 27 energy conference in Washington. “We need to be able to demonstrate to ourselves, to the Congress and to the American people that our energy dollars are being spent in the most effective manner possible.”

In its issue released today, sister publication Defense Environment Alert fleshed out Conaton's remarks:

Conaton in follow-on remarks commended the service's December 2009 strategic energy plan, whose three pillars are lowering energy demand, increasing supply and changing culture. But she said the military still needs "a bit more detail on how we're going to measure progress over time. One of the questions I keep asking, not just on energy but across the board, is: how do we know how we're doing?" she said at a media availability following her speech. Conaton was confirmed by the Senate for the No. 2 Air Force slot March 4. She noted that metrics are important to considering return on investment for energy-related projects.

"Over the long-term, we need to develop force-planning tools that help us understand how energy performance contributes to force effectiveness, capability and operational risk," she said.

Conaton also signaled the plan to consider if the Air Force's organizational structure is well-suited to addressing operational energy issues. "We have a fantastic emphasis on installations energy, and as DOD is taking a closer look on the operational side, I think we are too, trying to take a look at: is the organization that we currently have at the staff level the most effective?" she said at the media availability. While she said she takes her job as the Air Force's senior energy official "really seriously," many issues come across her plate every day, and she wants to make sure the Air Force has officials who are constantly focused on meeting the service's energy goals. "So we're in the process of taking a look at what the best way is to do that," she said.

She particularly pinpointed the Air Force's operational uses of energy, as opposed to facilities' energy consumption, as posing "greater challenges in reducing demand" and finding ways to measure progress. "We've taken the first steps in reducing fossil fuel usage by almost 9 percent since 2005," she said during her speech. "But we have more steps to take and we need ways of measuring progress as we go, not just in aggregate terms, after the fact."