By C. Todd Lopez
Army News Service
WASHINGTON — The Army’s been talking about Soldier resilience for years. But Army installations must also be resilient, said the assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, or ASA.
“We never know what the next conflict is going to be or where it is going to be, or who our partners are going to be,” said Katherine Hammack, ASA (IE&E). “So we need to be ready to ensure that we can do whatever this nation asks of us. Most of our bases are deployment platforms. And so we need to be ready to support this nation, ready with enough energy to operate, with enough water to support the base population, and those Soldiers who might have to deploy on a moment’s notice.”
Hammack and Lt. Gen. David D. Halverson, commander of Army Installation Management Command, spoke last week during a press event here.
But what does resiliency mean for an Army installation?
“It’s the ability to remain operational with a wide ranging amount of scenarios,” Hammack said.
“It could be natural disaster,” like the flooding that affected Fort Jackson this month. “It could be a hurricane situation, like we saw with superstorm Sandy. A resilient installation is able to operate and support its own population and the local community. In the case of a natural disaster, it’s able to operate and deploy Soldiers to help in regional situations and help anywhere around the world. That means ready access to energy, to water, and the land the Army needs to train and deploy — sometimes air space as well.”
“We need our Soldiers to be able to be resilient, because the Army life is a tough life,” Halverson said. “They a have to be mentally fit and warfighting fit, and they have to be able to deal with the arduous aspects of war.”
Installations, he said, must meet the same resilience as Soldiers if the Army will continue to operate in the face of the unknown.
“We are going to have things that affect us that we don’t control, such as natural disasters,” he said. “We need an installation that is resilient.” Just as Soldiers need to be resilient, “our installations have to be resilient too.”
National security depends on it, he added.
One of the most resilient installations, Hammack said, is Fort Drum, New York. There, an old coal power plant has been converted to a biomass energy production facility that has 60 megawatts of generation capacity, using wood chips and shrub willow as its fuel.
Hammack said the facility has three months’ worth of fuel situated within five minutes of the plant.
“That means that the base is going to have the power it needs, and actually that plant can supply three times the amount of power that the base needs,” she said. “So it can support the local community in the case of an ice storm, which they have seen, that has shut down power grids.”
Fort Drum is also resilient when it comes to water, she said, as the base gets its water from two sources — including water that comes from wells on the installation.
In another location, Hammack said, another installation didn’t fare so well due to its lack of resiliency.
“One of bases was shut down two summers ago because off base, a backhoe hit a water main and shut down water to the base,” she said. “There was one pipe coming into the base and it drained the water towers. That’s not very resilient. When we talk about resiliency, it’s adaptability to a multiple range of solutions, by a diverse set of sources of supply.”
When it comes to power, Hammack said the Army is looking to partner with the private sector to get them to invest in helping the Army create resiliency on installations. The Army, she said, is looking at power generation happening closer to installations or even on installations, similar to trends in the private sector, including wind generation, solar generation, biomass, and other options.
“Fort Knox, Kentucky, put in multiple natural gas fire cogeneration systems that are supplying both electricity and hot water at the point of use,” Hammack said. “One is located near a hospital and another is located near the post exchange and commissary. So you have that distributed generation. That is a lesson from the private sector that we are adapting to.”
While not every installation in the Army currently has its own power generation capability, Hammack said it’s a goal.
“We made a commitment to the president we’d have one gigawatt of renewable energy on Army bases by 2025. And we are well on our way to it,” she said. “In fiscal year 2015 we broke ground on over 100 MW of renewable energy systems and we are on track to meet that commitment we made.”
BASE REALIGNMENT AND CLOSURE
On a related note, Hammack said the Army needs another round of Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, to shut down facilities that are no longer in use, but which continue to incur maintenance costs.
“We have the same number of installations, yet we are expected to operate with 30 percent less funding,” Hammack said. “It’s really hard when a lot of your installation costs are fixed costs. What we really need is BRAC authorization, to allow us to analyze where we have excess capacity and an opportunity to consolidate.”