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News | Sept. 14, 2010

DOD to reduce fuel, water consumption

By Lisa Daniel American Forces Press Service

Defense Department officials plan to reduce the military's water and fossil fuels consumption by more than 20 percent in the next decade, under an Obama administration plan to make government agencies better stewards of the environment.

Ashton B. Carter, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, wrote in the DOD's portion of the Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan that the DOD's priorities for 2010 and 2011 are to invest in fixed installations, enhance buildings and ensure sustainability concepts in doctrine and policy.

White House officials released the plan Sept. 9. It includes a roadmap submitted from officials in each department, outlining how they will reduce their impact on the environment while meeting mission goals. The plan is the result of an executive order by President Barack Obama.

The department's goals are in line with the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, which highlighted for the first time the importance of having a strategic approach to climate change and energy.

"Our military's heavy reliance on fossil fuels creates significant risks and costs at a tactical, as well as a strategic level," Mr. Carter wrote in the plan. "We measure these costs in lost dollars, in reduced mission effectiveness, and in U.S. Soldiers' lives. Freeing warfighters from the tether of fuel will significantly improve our mission effectiveness, as will reducing our installations' dependence on costly fossil fuels and a potentially fragile power grid."

The DOD's eight overarching goals include:

-- Reducing the use of fossil fuels in facilities and vehicles, while using renewable sources of energy
-- Improving water management
-- Further reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a 34 percent reduction since fiscal 2008
-- Curbing greenhouse gases further through contracted landfill disposal, increased teleworking and less air travel
-- Reducing and better managing solid waste, such as by using less paper
-- Minimizing chemicals released into the environment through better electronics disposal and pesticide applications
-- Promoting sustainability as the norm in procurements and buildings
-- Building sustainability into management systems, and with coordination with local and regional planning boards

The goals apply to all of the department's mission and program areas, with the objective of incorporating sustainability principles into daily operations, officials said.

Making such changes will improve mission effectiveness, while enhancing the environment, said Shannon Cunniff, the DOD's director of chemical and material risk management.

She added that implementation will be challenging.

"Implementing the plan won't be easy, but it will be rewarding," she said. "We'll lower our vulnerabilities associated with reliance on fossil fuels and a fragile power grid, and preserve other assets critical to our readiness and training and, over the long run, we'll save money by doing so. It's a win-win-win (situation)."

The DOD has been recognized in recent years as a leader in environmental sustainability, and Ms. Cunniff said she expects that to continue under the new plan.

The DOD "has the innovative spirit and creativity, as well as the mission benefits, to drive successful implementation of the plan," she said.

"I'll bet that (the Defense Department) can and will lead the nation in making smart investments that protect assets for current and future generations to enjoy and use," she added.

The federal government occupies nearly 500,000 buildings, operates more than 600,000 vehicles, employs more than 1.8 million civilians, and purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services. As the single-largest energy consumer in the U.S. economy, the federal government spent more than $24.5 billion on electricity and fuel in 2008 alone, officials said in a White House news release.

Executive Order 13514, issued Oct. 5, 2009, requires agencies to set a 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, increase energy efficiency, reduce fleet petroleum consumption, conserve water, reduce waste, support sustainable communities, and leverage federal purchasing power to promote environmentally responsible products and technologies.

To promote accountability, annual progress will be measured by the Office of Management and Budget and be reported online to the public.