Email this Article Email   

CHIPS Articles: Interview with The Honorable Jackalyne Pfannenstiel

Interview with The Honorable Jackalyne Pfannenstiel
Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Energy, Installations and Environment)
By CHIPS Magazine - July-September 2010
Jackalyne Pfannenstiel was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy (ASN) for Energy, Installations and Environment by President Obama on March 5, 2010. In this position, Ms. Pfannenstiel is responsible for formulating department-wide policies, procedures, advocacy, and strategic plans; as well as overseeing all Department of the Navy functions and programs related to installations, safety, energy and environment.

This includes effective management of Navy and Marine Corps real property, housing and other facilities; environmental, natural, cultural, and marine resources protection, planning, conservation and compliance, both ashore and afloat; safety and occupational health for both military and civilian personnel; timely completion of closures and realignments of installations under base closure laws; the U.S. – Japan agreement to realign U.S. forces in Japan and relocate 8,000 Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam; and the development of the Department of the Navy's energy strategy, policies and guidance.

Ms. Pfannenstiel is former chairman of the California Energy Commission, a state regulatory body with authority over power plant licensing, building and appliance efficiency standards, and energy policy development.

ASN Pfannenstiel: Thanks for the opportunity to speak with you. I'm delighted and honored to be in this position. These are exciting times for the Department of the Navy as we move forward on a number of important initiatives, including some aggressive energy goals.

CHIPS: Your office's mandate is so broad, from conservation and housing, to safety, the environment, and the development of the department’s energy strategy, policies and guidance; can you talk about your priorities?

ASN Pfannenstiel: Well, we do have a large portfolio, but that's what makes the job interesting. Just about everything we do has broad policy implications, and it's all important. It is, therefore, difficult to separate and prioritize among these key programs. That being said, my background is in energy, so I'll offer you my energy priorities. I have three and they are all — not surprisingly — directed to achieving the Secretary of the Navy's energy goals. First of all, I want the department to become as energy efficient as possible, both on our bases and throughout our operations. That means embracing renewable energy, conservation programs and efficiency technology. We need to foster investments, incentives and behavioral changes that will reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels.

Energy reduction measures tend to have rapid paybacks, so we can reduce costs as we move away from fossil fuels. As well as reducing our overall use, the Secretary has set a goal of 50 percent of the bases being energy self-sustaining by 2020. I believe we can achieve this goal while operating our bases economically and maintaining them as desirable places to live and work.

Second, I would like the Navy and the Marine Corps to support the development of alternative energy through using our buying power, our land, our unique tactical needs, and our creativity to offer test beds for energy innovations.

Third, I would like to assure that energy is recognized throughout the Department of the Navy as a critical — and scarce — strategic resource. We need to treat energy with the same consideration as other critical resources in the department.

CHIPS: The Secretary of the Navy has said he believes that the Navy can be a leader in green energy. Do you have any thoughts on this?

ASN Pfannenstiel: We have the opportunity and the incentive to move away from fossil fuels and power our bases, ships and aircraft with green fuels. Under the Secretary's leadership, we've already made enormous strides in this direction. We commissioned the USS Makin Island, our first electric-drive surface combatant and tested an F/A-18 engine on biofuel. We will continue to find opportunities to apply these and many other promising technologies.

CHIPS: You and Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan kicked off the first of several energy forums in April to look at ways to increase biofuels production and meet the Navy's renewable energy needs. The forum comes as a result of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) recently signed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of the Navy to encourage the development of advanced biofuels and other renewable energy systems. Since the Secretary of the Navy has made reducing the department's dependence on fossil fuels a top priority, how soon do you expect to see tangible results from the MOU?

ASN Pfannenstiel: We're working with USDA to support President Obama's and the Secretary's initiatives to replace fossil fuels with energy from renewable sources.

We held an energy forum in Hawaii because that's where a key part of the USDA's biofuel is centered. With USDA funding, the Navy has been generating power from methane gas at a Kauai landfill at the Pacific Missile Range Facility.

We're also working with other partners, for example, with Hawaiian Electric and the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company on a biofuels project in which USDA's Research Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Office of Naval Research, and the University of Hawaii are assessing the most sustainable opportunities for producing advanced biofuels and renewable electricity from sugarcane and other biomass crops grown in Hawaii. We expect the first tangible results by this fall.

CHIPS: What sort of baseline are you starting from?

ASN Pfannenstiel: The baseline for commercial production of non-food source biofuels is very low. Ethanol-based biofuels have been around for a number of years, but we are looking at other crops where new development opportunities are emerging.

CHIPS: You talked about energy usage on the bases. Are you going to mandate specifics for energy consumption, for example, Naval Station Norfolk will get 50 percent of its power from renewable and alternative fuels?

ASN Pfannenstiel: In addition to meeting the 'zero net energy' goal, half of our shore energy use needs to come from alternative sources by 2020. We'll achieve this through a combination of reduced energy use and increased use of alternative energy resources. The exact combination will be base-specific, depending on the base's access to renewable and alternative energy.

CHIPS: There are green alternatives for building materials and soft furnishings. Will the Navy mandate green products for its offices?

ASN Pfannenstiel: We've already started down that road and are making great progress. For example, all new buildings in the department must be certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver. In addition, the Marine Corps has a directive that all new roofs must be evaluated for solar panels. Where they make sense, they'll be part of the roofing project. These are excellent strategies, but I think we can go further. Where it is economically advantageous for us to raise our standards of energy efficiency, we should do so.

CHIPS: The Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy Office was recently established to develop and use proven business models and investment strategies that leverage public and private investment to achieve naval, defense and national energy goals. Can you talk about these business models?

ASN Pfannenstiel: We believe a combination of public and private resources will be necessary to develop alternative energy products. The department can grow the market for products and help provide opportunities for private investors. We've already begun discussions with venture capital firms about investment potentials that could work for both of us. We have a number of ongoing programs — such as leases on our properties, power purchase agreements and public-private partnerships — where we can provide sites or markets to leverage private investment. For example, we may be able to help Hawaiian Electric find pilot programs or test sites for biofuel power generation.

We're actively soliciting creative ideas on developing the renewables industry. What we've found is that there is a high level of interest in the private sector as this fledgling industry is looking for markets, test sites and new applications for renewable energy products.

CHIPS: Is there an understanding for continuing research and development in energy-related fields with a number of partners at this time?

ASN Pfannenstiel: There's a great deal of research and development in the fields of alternative and renewable energy. Much is happening in the public sector, for example at the Department of Energy (DOE) labs such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado. Also, universities are heavy players in the energy technology field. A sharing of research and development investment among federal and state agencies, universities, and the private sector would accelerate development and production of these alternatives.

CHIPS: Will energy concerns affect acquisition policies?

ASN Pfannenstiel: One of the Secretary's energy goals is to incorporate energy features into our contracts. On May 24 of this year, the Department of the Navy announced the intention to pilot a Preferred Supplier Program. This could bolster government contractors with exemplary performance in cost control, quality and energy efficiency — among other factors. Under this program, firms could be recognized for achieving energy efficiency targets.

CHIPS: Outreach to the Navy and Marine Corps to get the green energy message out is so important to change the culture.

ASN Pfannenstiel: That's absolutely true. An important part of my role is to stress that energy efficiency is fundamentally mission critical. Reducing our imports of fossil fuels will promote our energy security and independence. In addition, as we adopt alternative energy sources, we will be easing the logistics burden of transporting fuels into combat areas.

CHIPS: We've been talking a lot about energy, but lastly I want to ask you about your trip to Guam. Will you be working with the Joint Base Guam Program office and the Defense Department on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan and relocation of 8,000 Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam?

ASN Pfannenstiel: Yes, I'm working with others in the Pentagon, other federal agencies, and the leaders in Guam to develop plans for the relocation of the Marines. We're focused on ensuring that the necessary infrastructure for the Marines doesn't disrupt the island. In fact, this is an opportunity to build an infrastructure that will be a model for the Western Pacific. President Obama used the phrase 'One Guam, Green Guam' to describe our goal that the infrastructure 'outside the fence' is up to the infrastructure standards on the base.

LEED standards can be found at: Go to for more news about the DON’s energy programs.

The Honorable Jackalyne Pfannenstiel
The Honorable Jackalyne Pfannenstiel
Related CHIPS Articles

CHIPS is an official U.S. Navy website sponsored by the Department of the Navy (DON) Chief Information Officer, the Department of Defense Enterprise Software Initiative (ESI) and the DON's ESI Software Product Manager Team at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific.

Online ISSN 2154-1779; Print ISSN 1047-9988
Hyperlink Disclaimer