Operational Energy

Energy is an essential enabler of military capability, and the Department depends on energy-resilient forces and weapon systems to achieve its mission. However, contested logistics, reliance on commercial technology and infrastructure, and our own energy use each pose challenges to ensuring energy secure forces in competition, crisis, and conflict.

10 U.S. Code section 2924 defines Operational Energy (OE) as the energy required for training, moving, and sustaining military forces and weapons platforms for military operations. The term includes energy used by tactical power systems, generators and weapons platforms. In FY22, the DoD consumed over 73 million barrels of fuel to support worldwide operations and training. Reflecting the Department’s worldwide operating footprint, 48% of this energy was purchased outside of the U.S.

The 2022 National Defense Strategy (NDS) emphasizes the Department’s primary focus on strategic competition against adversaries – primarily China and Russia – armed with long–range weapons, significant anti–access/area–denial (A2/AD) systems, and substantial cyber capabilities that can degrade the ability of the Department to provide energy to forces and facilities. These adversary capabilities are threatening to fundamentally undermine our ability to deploy, operate, and sustain Joint Forces.

Based on this security environment, the 2022 NDS states the Joint Force “must be able to securely and effectively provide logistics and sustainment to continue operations in a contested and degraded environment,” and that the Department will make “reducing energy demand a priority, and seek to adopt more efficient and clean-energy technologies that reduce logistics requirements in contested or austere environments.” Further, the Deputy Secretary of Defense directed that the “Department’s capability development activities, from requirements to acquisition to sustainment, must increase energy supportability and must reduce energy demand across all capability solutions.” Decreasing demand can reduce the volume and frequency of resupplying Joint Forces with energy, reducing the logistical burden of energy requirements and enhancing the energy resilience in the face of all hazard threats.

These imperatives inform initiatives designed to increase energy supportability, reduce operational energy demand, and enhance the resilience of our energy logistics and infrastructure. As the Department seeks to increase the operational effectiveness of the Joint Force, we also recognize the impacts of climate change and the opportunities to pursue initiatives that enhance warfighting capability while also mitigating the effects of climate change. As we work to ensure that the military forces of the United States retain operational advantage under all conditions, we are leveraging efficiency and resilience so that our forces are agile, capable, and effective.

Oversight of Department operational energy activities rests within the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment (ASD EI&E) who is responsible for overall supervision of matters relating to energy, installations, and the environment for DoD. The ASD EI&E supports the Secretary in ensuring the readiness of the armed forces for their military missions by pursuing energy security and energy resilience (10 U.S.C. 2911) and ensuring the types, availability, and use of operational energy promote the readiness of the armed forces for their military missions in contested logistics environments (10 U.S.C. 2926).

To enable the development, demonstration, and fielding of Joint operational energy activities, OASD(EI&E) oversees the Operational Energy Capability Improvement Fund (OECIF) and Operational Energy Prototype Fund (OEPF). Together, OECIF and OEPF apply cutting edge science and technology to developing and demonstrating innovative, cost-effective, supportable energy solutions to meet Joint requirements, lower carbon emissions, and maintain freedom of action in energy constrained environments. More information about the two programs can be found here and information about recurring calls for proposals is found here.

To fulfill these statutory drivers, the DoD issued its new Operational Energy Strategy in May 2023. Through the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Environment and Energy Resilience (ODASD E&ER), the Department will pursue the following four lines of effort:

Energy Demand Reduction. The DoD needs to reduce operational energy demand to reduce risks and enhance military effectiveness in contested environments. In the near-term, the Department will focus on enhancing the supportability and reducing operational energy demand of all current platforms and acquisition programs but will be weighted significantly toward the largest single users of energy. The Department also will identify opportunities for changing how we employ current forces in steady-state operations. These efforts will support the long-term goal of leveraging new technologies to increase range, endurance, tempo, and operational flexibility while reducing energy demand of platforms and operations.

Energy Substitution and Diversification. In addition to reducing how much energy is required to conduct effective military operations, the Department will consider the adoption of new energy sources that reduce logistical burdens in contested environments. Broadly, the Department will explore hybridization, electrification, Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), hydrogen, nuclear, and other energy technologies, to power land, sea (surface and subsurface), and air platforms. The current state of the market and the Department’s need for high performance capabilities in austere environments suggests continued reliance on liquid fuels in the near- to mid-term. However, industry and the Department continue to explore and develop alternatives to fossil fuels that maintain or enhance operational effectiveness while also improving supply chain resilience.

Supply Chain Resilience. Given the strategic end state of assuring energy to deployed forces, the Department needs to understand the supply chain implications (e.g., cost, risks, effects on energy demand and supportability) of leveraging new energy technologies in capability development. In the near-term, the Military Departments will assess the political, economic, kinetic, and cyber risks of energy supply chains, to include alternative energy sources (e.g., electricity, hydrogen, SAF, battery storage, etc.), and the overreliance on unfriendly foreign sources for energy components and rare-earth elements essential for end-user energy systems required to support the full spectrum of defense readiness and response. Over the long-term, the Department will improve supply chain resilience and survivability through continuous innovation and analytics.

Enterprise-wide Energy Visibility. The Department’s efforts to reduce energy demand and increase capability are contingent on the ability to understand the scope, scale, and distribution of energy use and availability across a worldwide battlespace, and to make that information accessible to commanders and decisionmakers. The Department will enhance energy command and control capabilities to improve its understanding of the energy required to create the desired effects. In the near-term, the Department will focus on enhancing enterprise-wide planning for energy supply and demand by updating all relevant equipment-level usage characteristics and rates to ensure accurate and timely assessments. In the long-term, the Department will seek real-time and enterprise-wide energy visibility for the full spectrum of military activities, to include peacetime competition and offensive and defensive planning for contingency operations.

Strategy Enablers. The Department’s Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation (RDT&E) efforts are a key enabler of this strategy. Adoption of commercial sector technologies and the development and fielding of DoD-specific innovations are essential to energy demand reduction, energy diversification and substitution, supply chain resilience, and enterprise-wide energy visibility. The Operational Energy Capability Improvement Fund (OECIF) and Operational Energy Prototype Fund (OEPF) are particularly focused on operational energy technologies that improve Joint combat effectiveness. With appropriate analysis across the DOTMLPF-P spectrum, Service and DoD-wide RDT&E investments will be utilized across each line of effort, and relevant to multiple near-, mid-, and long-term goals.

Key initiatives along these lines of effort include implementation of the:

  • Contested Logistics Working Group as per the FY22 NDAA and execution of its charter
  • 2023 DoD Operational Energy Strategy
  • Operational Energy related aspects in the DoD Climate Adaptation Plan

*FY22 DoD Annual Energy Performance, Resilience, and Readiness Report