America’s energy choices are inextricably linked to national and economic security. America’s oil dependence leaves the nation vulnerable to hostile nations and diverts hundreds of billions of dollars out of the economy each year. Declining oil supplies combined with increased global demand will only increase these pressures and impact our ability to remain militarily strong and agile. DOD is uniquely positioned, because of its own energy security needs, to help drive the market for innovative applications and broad utilization of clean energy technologies. Key partnerships with other federal agencies and the private sector can help DOD unleash the full force of American innovation and investment leadership in clean energy technologies.

On July 29, 2010, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a briefing about why and how the military is addressing security concerns through clean energy innovations. The CNA Military Advisory Board’s new report, Powering America’s Economy: Energy Innovation at the Crossroad of National Security Challenges, explores the growing challenges presented by the close connection between the U.S. energy portfolio and its economic and national security. As the largest single energy consumer in the nation, the Department of Defense (DOD) can play a key role in supporting innovation, commercialization, and widespread deployment of clean energy. This report examines how DOD can harness the leadership characteristics inherent to the military culture, leverage its organizational discipline, and cultivate strategic relationships within the federal interagency network to move America forward in clean energy technology innovation. The briefing presented key findings from CNA’s report and offered recommendations for turning the nation’s growing energy problems into opportunities to bolster national and economic security through energy innovation.

  • A clear indication of how seriously the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE) are taking the threat of climate change and the need for new sources of energy can be found in the release of the third CNA Military Advisory Report, in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Report’s focus on the effects of climate change on military installations and preparedness, and the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between DOD and DOE in which the two agencies pledged a research partnership in pursuit of clean energy technology.
  • The need for a move away from fossil fuels towards cleaner sources of energy has been consistently highlighted during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Many of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who risked their lives to transport oil can testify to the dangers of our dependence on fossil fuels.
  • The new CNA report focuses on the direct tie between U.S. economic viability and U.S. energy supply. The United States sends billions of dollars each year to hostile nations for fossil fuels.
  • The military consumes a great deal of energy in its everyday operations and relies heavily on a stable electric grid. Thus, energy efficiency improvements and the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy sources would be a means of ensuring mission success and strengthening U.S. national security.
  • To advance clean energy innovation, partnerships are needed between such agencies as DOD, DOE, the Department of Agriculture and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The United States also needs a national energy and climate policy which will put a price on carbon. The more time it takes to pass such legislation, the more economic might we cede overseas.
  • DOD and DOE should fuse their clean energy programs, funding, and skills because DOE is good at development and DOD has large-scale operations and facilities which are ideal testing places. By defining a structural alignment, the two agencies can create a lasting relationship which will outlast the ad hoc relationships which characterized their joint-research projects in the past.
  • A key change must be made to how we approach innovation by expanding from research and development (R&D) to RD3: research, development, demonstration and deployment. The MOU encourages this approach.

Speaker Slides