Defense Management:

DOD Needs to Increase Attention on Fuel Demand Management at Forward-Deployed Locations

GAO-09-300: Published: Feb 20, 2009. Publicly Released: Mar 3, 2009.

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The Department of Defense (DOD) relies heavily on petroleum-based fuel to sustain its forward-deployed locations--particularly those that are not connected to local power grids. While weapon platforms require large amounts of fuel, DOD reports that the single largest battlefield fuel consumer is generators, which provide power for base support activities such as cooling, heating, and lighting. Transporting fuel to forward-deployed locations presents an enormous logistics burden and risk, including exposing fuel truck convoys to attack. GAO was asked to address DOD's (1) efforts to reduce fuel demand at forward-deployed locations and (2) approach to managing fuel demand at these locations. This review focused on locations within Central Command's area of responsibility. GAO visited DOD locations in Kuwait and Djibouti to learn about fuel reduction efforts and challenges facing these locations.

DOD components have some efforts under way or planned to reduce fuel demand at forward-deployed locations. Many of these efforts are in a research and development phase, and the extent to which they will be fielded and under what time frame is uncertain. Notable efforts include the application of foam insulation to tent structures, the development of more fuel-efficient generators and environmental control units, and research on alternative and renewable energy sources for potential use at forward-deployed locations. In addition, during visits to Kuwait and Djibouti, GAO met with officials about local camp efforts aimed at reducing fuel demand. DOD lacks an effective approach for implementing fuel reduction initiatives and maintaining sustained attention to fuel demand management at its forward-deployed locations. Moreover, DOD faces difficulty achieving its goals to reduce dependence on petroleum-based fuel and its logistics "footprint," as well as operating costs associated with high fuel usage, because managing fuel demand at forward-deployed locations has not been a departmental priority and fuel reduction efforts have not been well coordinated or comprehensive. GAO found that DOD's current approach to managing fuel demand lacks (1) guidance directing locations to address fuel demand, (2) incentives and a viable funding mechanism to invest in fuel reduction projects, and (3) visibility and accountability for achieving fuel reduction. Although it may not be practical for DOD to decrease fuel usage at every forward-deployed location and base commanders must place their highest priority on meeting mission requirements, fuel demand is likely to remain high until the department gives systematic consideration to incorporating fuel demand in construction, maintenance, procurement, and other policy decisions for forward-deployed locations. The 2009 defense authorization act requires DOD to establish a director of operational energy and an energy strategy, providing the department with an opportunity to increase attention on improving fuel demand management.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To establish an effective approach to managing fuel demand that would facilitate the widespread implementation of fuel reduction intitiatives and sustained attention to fuel demand issues at its forward-deployed locations, the Secretary of Defense should designate the new, congressionally-mandated DOD Director of Operational Energy Plans and Programs as the department's lead proponent of fuel demand management at forward-deployed locations, and through this designation, require that the director develop action plans as part of the congressionally-mandated DOD energy strategy. Specifically, the strategy should incorporate the department's action plans for (1) facilitating departmentwide communication and consistency, when appropriate, in the development or revision of combatant command and military service guidance that establishes requirements and provides guidelines for managing fuel demand at forward-deployed locations (2) establishing incentives for commanders of forward-deployed locations to promote fuel demand reduction at their locations, as well as identifying a viable funding mechanism for the department and commanders of forward-deployed locations to pursue fuel reduction initiatives (3) establishing visibility over fuel demand management at forward-deployed locations, including plans for sharing good fuel reduction practices and solutions to identified challenges and (4) establishing accountability for fuel demand management at appropriate levels across the department.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has taken a number of actions that collectively meet the intent of this recommendation. Based on a June 2012 follow-up report on DOD operational energy, we found that the Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs (OEP&P) had taken the lead on addressing fuel demand management issues across DOD, developed and published an operational energy strategy, and also released its operational energy implementation plan which lays out actions items aimed at multiple organizations across DOD such at the Joint Staff, the military service departments, Combatant Commands (COCOMs) and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) for addressing fuel demand issues. The implementation plan specifically calls for the development of policies and guidance within DOD to address fuel demand management issues. DOD also published a report on May 31, 2011 confirming the Department had taken actions to address fuel demand management issues at forward-deployed locations based on the recommendations we included in our 2009 report. In addition, in April 2012 U.S. Forces-Afghanistan issued a fragmentary order on fuel demand management procedures in Afghanistan. This guidance provides subordinate commands with specific direction necessary to begin reducing fuel demand at its forward-deployed locations. We also reported in 2012 that DOD has placed an increased emphasis on funding fuel demand management initiatives. For example, in September 2011 the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics issued a memorandum to support reprogramming overseas contingency operations funds to expedite the deployment of fuel demand management equipment. In addition, to ensure fuel demand management initiatives are being properly funded, in fiscal year 2012 OEP&P began publishing an annual operational energy budget certification report. This report serves two purposes. First, it ensures the services' budgets are adequate for the implementation of various fuel demand management initiatives, and second, it allows OEP&P to provide oversight and visibility over fuel demand management initiatives throughout DOD. Furthermore, DOD has taken additional steps to address this recommendation by establishing a senior-level Defense Operational Energy Board in March 2012 which helps provide visibility and accountability over operational energy efforts. Lastly, according to OEP&P officials, DOD has created a number of working level forums to enhance the synchronization of its operational energy efforts. These forums include the Operational Energy Working Group, Defense Logistics Agency-Energy Cross Talks, a SharePoint site to capture and share best practices, and a monthly OEP&P-hosted meeting with the operational energy representatives in each of the combatant commands.

    Recommendation: To establish an effective approach to managing fuel demand that would facilitate the widespread implementation of fuel reduction intitiatives and sustained attention to fuel demand issues at its forward-deployed locations, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, to require that fuel demand considerations be incorporated into the Joint Staff's initiative to develop joint standards of life support at DOD's forward-deployed locations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has issued new guidance that meets the intent of this recommendation. In January 2013, DOD published DOD Directive 3000.10, Contingency Basing outside the United States. This new directive includes guidance that directs commanders to be as efficient as possible with fuel resources. Our review of DOD Directive 3000.10 shows that DOD has increased its attention on incorporating fuel demand considerations into standards and guidance used by DOD for operating at forward-deployed locations. For example, DOD Directive 3000.10 states that it is DOD policy to pursue increased efficiency in contingency basing by using operational energy efficiently in accordance with the guidance stated in the DOD Operational Energy Strategy and DOD Directives.

    Recommendation: To establish an effective approach to managing fuel demand that would facilitate the widespread implementation of fuel reduction intitiatives and sustained attention to fuel demand issues at its forward-deployed locations, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps to develop guidance that implements combatant command requirements for managing fuel demand at forward-deployed locations. The guidance should include specific guidelines that address energy-efficiency considerations in base construction, maintenance, procurement, and policies regarding fuel usage at a location. In establishing guidance, the military services should coordinate their efforts with the new DOD Director of Operational Energy Plans and Programs to ensure departmentwide communication and consistency, where appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In responding to our draft report, DOD concurred with this recommendation. The department stated that guidelines on policy will be general in nature and allow command commands flexibility. While we believe that forward-deployed locations within different regions could require different guidelines, our audit work revealed that current guidance for Central Command and Army guidance used in Central Command and European Command contain only a general reference to energy efficiency -- that semi permanent locations are to be designed and constructed with finishes, materials, and systems selected for moderate energy efficiency -- and that this guidance is not effective in implementing fuel demand considerations at forward-deployed locations. Our report concludes that fuel demand is likely to remain high until DOD gives systematic consideration to incorporating fuel demand management into construction, maintenance, procurement, and other policy decisions for forward-deployed locations. Therefore, we continue to believe that the military service guidelines on fuel demand management should provide enough specificity to appropriately address these issues so that DOD can achieve its goals of reducing its fuel demand, logistics burden, and operational costs. As of July 27, 2010, no action had been taken by DOD. In May 2011, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs prepared, and DOD issued, "Energy for the Warfighter: Operational Energy Strategy." The strategy states that reducing demand for energy must be the most immediate operational energy priority for the department. To reduce the demand for operational energy, the strategy directs a number of actions including the designation of combatant command and service operational energy leads to coordinate energy data collection; and integrating improved efficiency and management of energy into planning for and management of contingency bases (i.e., forward-deployed locations). Moreover, in a June 2011 memorandum, the Commander for International Security Assistance Force/United States Forces-Afghanistan directed commanders to take ownership of unit fuel demand. To do so, the memo states that an office will be established to assist commanders with measuring and managing unit fuel consumption. The memo further states that commanders will make energy-informed, risk-based decisions on factors such as base camp design, power and water generation, and distribution. While this memo is directed at U.S. forces in Afghanistan, we believe that given the strategic importance of the area in ongoing operations and its directions to commanders, along with DOD's operational energy strategy's emphasis on improving efficiency and management of energy at contingency bases, these actions meet the overall intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To establish an effective approach to managing fuel demand that would facilitate the widespread implementation of fuel reduction intitiatives and sustained attention to fuel demand issues at its forward-deployed locations, the Secretary of Defense should direct the combatant commanders, in consultation with their military service component commands, to establish requirements for managing fuel demand at forward-deployed locations within their areas of responsibility and provide specific guidelines as appropriate. Officials may wish to consider identifying a triggering mechanism in the guidance, such as a specific length of time after a location is established, when fuel demand management should become a consideration in forward-deployed location sustainability. In establishing requirements, the combatant commanders should coordinate their efforts with the new DOD Director of Operational Energy Plans and Programs to ensure departmentwide communication and consistency, where appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In responding to our draft report, DOD partially concurred with this recommendation, stating that it believes the combatant commanders must be the decision authorities for when reduction efforts should begin to be tracked and what conservation measures are employed, in order to avoid distraction from tactical operations. While we agree that the combatant commanders should be responsible for establishing requirements for managing fuel demand at their forward-deployed locations, it is important that this effort be coordinated with the new DOD director of operational energy as well as with the service component commands. Our report recommends that DOD designate the new director of operational energy as the lead proponent of fuel demand management at forward-deployed locations, and through this designation, facilitate department wide communication and consistency of requirements and guidelines for managing fuel demand, as well as establish visibility and accountability for fuel demand management. DOD generally concurred with our recommendations pertaining to the new director's responsibilities. In order to effectively carry out these responsibilities, attain visibility over fuel demand issues across the department, and serve as the DOD official accountable for such issues, the director of operational energy should be consulted by the combatant commanders in establishing fuel demand management requirements to ensure department wide communication and consistency occurs where appropriate. As of July 27, 2010, no action had been taken by DOD. In May 2011, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs prepared, and DOD issued, "Energy for the Warfighter: Operational Energy Strategy." The strategy states that reducing demand for energy must be the most immediate operational energy priority for the department. To reduce the demand for operational energy, the strategy directs a number of actions including the designation of combatant command and service operational energy leads to coordinate energy data collection; and integrating improved efficiency and management of energy into planning for and management of contingency bases (i.e., forward-deployed locations). Moreover, in a June 2011 memorandum, the Commander for International Security Assistance Force/United States Forces-Afghanistan directed commanders to take ownership of unit fuel demand. To do so, the memo states that an office will be established to assist commanders with measuring and managing unit fuel consumption. The memo further states that commanders will make energy-informed, risk-based decisions on factors such as base camp design, power and water generation, and distribution. While this memo is directed at U.S. forces in Afghanistan, we believe that given the strategic importance of the area in ongoing operations and its directions to commanders, along with DOD's operational energy strategy's emphasis on improving efficiency and management of energy at contingency bases, these actions meet the overall intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To establish an effective approach to managing fuel demand that would facilitate the widespread implementation of fuel reduction intitiatives and sustained attention to fuel demand issues at its forward-deployed locations, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force to assign their senior energy officials, among their other duties, responsibility for overseeing fuel demand management at forward-deployed locations operated by their military department components. In carrying out this responsibility, the officials should identify and promote sharing of good fuel reduction practices and solutions to identified fuel demand challenges at their component's forward-deployed locations and communicate those practices and solutions to the DOD Director of Operational Energy Plans and Programs for potential use across the department.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In responding to our draft report, DOD concurred that the military department senior operational energy officials be assigned responsibility for oversight of fuel demand management at forward-deployed locations operated by their military service component commands. As of July 27, 2010, no action had been taken by DOD. As of July 2011, DOD had established military-department level energy officials. The officials were directed, as part of their duties, to facilitate communication on energy issues. Moreover, DO also published its "Energy for the Warfighter: Operational Energy Strategy, which the directs a number of actions including the designation of service operational energy leads to coordinate energy data collection; and integrating improved efficiency and management of energy into planning for and management of contingency bases (i.e., forward-deployed locations).

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