Energy initiatives, space capabilities top priorities for Air Force

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mareshah Haynes
  • Defense Media Activity San Antonio
When the Air Force saves energy, it also saves money, the environment and possibly even lives, according to Undersecretary of the Air Force Erin C. Conaton.

Ms. Conaton discussed ongoing service energy initiatives, as well as Air Force space programs, during a visit here Oct. 27 for Air Force Week Cocoa Beach 2010.

"Every gallon of fuel that we have to take over to Afghanistan is one more gallon of fuel that has to be moved by convoy, in potentially dangerous situations," Ms. Conaton said. "So our first imperative is to reduce our use of energy so that we're not putting people at risk in delivering it to the warfighter."

This is also a time when Air Force officials are focused on making every dollar count, she said.

"Every dollar we're not spending on fuel is a dollar we can spend on benefits for our Airmen and their families, on readiness and on new weapons systems," Ms. Conaton said. "So for both those reasons, I think it's really important to focus on energy in addition to all the environmental and greater societal benefits that go with it."

The Air Force's energy initiatives include an effort to shift the way Airmen think about both their personal energy footprint and that of the service, she said.

"We've got a strategic plan in the Air Force that talks about reducing demand, increasing supply and changing the culture," Ms. Conaton said. "We're trying to spend as little as possible on energy and find ways to decrease that demand while finding alternative sources for that supply."

Officials are looking at solar arrays, wind-power systems and both synthetic and bio-fuels for aircraft, the undersecretary said.

"The Air Force is the largest consumer of energy in the Department of Defense, which itself is the largest consumer in the federal government," she said. "During a time when budgets are tight, we want to decrease the amount of money we're spending on fuel and increase the amount we're spending on Airmen, their families and our readiness."

In preparation for a "greener" Air Force, officials have been making strides to prepare for the day when commercial vendors are ready to supply synthetic and bio-fuel to the service on a larger scale.

"We're working on making sure we can certify all the various airframes in the Air Force fleet to run on those types of fuels, so when the private sector is ready to sell this in bulk, we'll be a ready user of that capability," Ms. Conaton said.

Since 2006, Air Force engineers have certified different airframes on synthetic fuels and, in the last 6 months, certified the A-10 Thunderbolt II on a bio-fuel mix, Ms. Conaton said.

As Air Force officials make progress with energy consumption, they also continue to maintain excellence in space, the undersecretary said.

"Space is not just something the Air Force relies upon," Ms. Conaton said. "It is something the nation relies upon, and certainly something our joint warfighting partners rely upon."

Whether it is navigation and timing data or communications links, none of the forces fighting in Afghanistan today could operate as effectively without the capabilities Air Force operators provide in space, Ms. Conaton said.

"We're also very focused on our launch operations," she said. "We've had a 10 year-plus success rate, and we're very focused on keeping that going."

Ms. Conaton said the Air Force officials are working closely with their partners in the National Reconnaissance Office and at NASA to ensure continued successful space operations