Defense Management: Increased Attention on Fuel Demand Management at DOD's Forward-Deployed Locations Could Reduce Operational Risks and Costs

GAO-09-388T Published: Mar 03, 2009. Publicly Released: Mar 03, 2009.
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This testimony discusses the Department of Defense's (DOD) efforts to reduce fuel demand at its forward-deployed locations, particularly those that are not connected to local power grids. In 2008, more than 68 million gallons of fuel, on average, were supplied by DOD each month to support U.S. military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Transporting large quantities of fuel to forward-deployed locations presents an enormous logistics burden and risk. Long truck convoys moving fuel to forward-deployed locations have encountered enemy attacks, severe weather, traffic accidents, and pilferage. For example, DOD reported that in June 2008 alone, 44 trucks and 220,000 gallons of fuel were lost due to attacks or other events while delivering fuel to Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. High fuel demand, coupled with the recent volatility of fuel prices, also have significant implications for DOD's operating costs. The fully burdened cost of fuel--that is, the total ownership cost of buying, moving, and protecting fuel in systems during combat--has been reported to be many times higher than the price of a gallon of fuel itself. While DOD's weapon systems require large amounts of fuel, the department reports that the single largest battlefield fuel consumer is generators, which provide power for base support activities such as air conditioning/heating, lighting, refrigeration, and communications. A 2008 Defense Science Board Task Force report noted that Army generators consume about 26 million gallons of fuel annually during peacetime but 357 million gallons annually during wartime. Today, we are publicly releasing a report that addresses DOD's (1) efforts to reduce fuel demand at forward-deployed locations and (2) approach to managing fuel demand at these locations. Our review focused on locations that were in Central Command's area of responsibility.

DOD has efforts under way or planned to reduce fuel demand, but the department lacks an effective approach to enable widespread implementation and sustained attention to fuel demand issues at forward-deployed locations. Many of DOD's efforts to reduce fuel demand at forward-deployed locations 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 by DOD components 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 our visits to Kuwait and Djibouti, we found local camp efforts aimed at reducing fuel demand. DOD generally lacks guidance that directs forward-deployed locations to manage and reduce their fuel demand--at the department level, combatant command level, and military service level. While DOD is driven to address energy issues at its U.S. installations largely by federal mandates and DOD guidance, agency officials were unable to identify similar guidance for forward-deployed locations, and they told us that fuel reduction has been a low priority compared with other mission requirements. Our analysis of combatant command and military service guidance related to forward-deployed location construction showed that the existing guidance is largely silent with respect to fuel demand management and energy efficiency. DOD has not established incentives or a viable funding mechanism for fuel reduction projects at its forward-deployed locations, which discourages commanders from identifying fuel demand management as a priority. funding from supplemental appropriations related to the Global War on Terrorism, and delays in receiving this funding can present challenges in covering existing costs, making it difficult for commanders to fund more expensive fuel reduction projects. Without incentives and a viable funding mechanism, commanding officials at DOD's forward-deployed locations are unlikely to identify fuel reduction as a priority for making a significant investment of resources. DOD's current organizational framework does not provide the department visibility for fuel demand issues at its forward-deployed locations. We found that information on fuel demand management strategies and reduction efforts is not shared among locations, military services, and across the department in a consistent manner. Moreover, DOD guidance does not designate any DOD office or official as being responsible for fuel demand management at forward-deployed locations, and we could not identify anyone who is specifically accountable for this function through our interviews with various DOD and military service offices. for DOD, and military department-level operational energy officials. DOD has not yet established a director or strategy for operational energy. In meeting the requirements, DOD has an opportunity to improve visibility and accountability for fuel demand management at forward-deployed locations.

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