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CHIPS Articles: Talking with Rear Adm. Philip Hart Cullom

Talking with Rear Adm. Philip Hart Cullom
Director, Energy and Environmental Readiness Division, N45 Director of Task Force Energy
By CHIPS Magazine - July-September 2010
Energy consumption poses geopolitical, economic, and environmental challenges that call for aggressive technology and policy changes. The Department of the Navy is aggressively working on all fronts to ensure the U.S. Navy remains the largest, most versatile, most capable naval force in the world today.

To ensure readiness, the Chief of Naval Operations directed several initiatives last year to study the effects of climate change, energy consumption and savings. In December 2008, the CNO established Task Force Energy to:
• Raise visibility and awareness of energy as a strategic resource;
• Optimize energy considerations in budgeting and acquisition; and
• Recommend Navy-wide energy conservation, environmental stewardship, and alternative energy strategies.

Rear Adm. Philip Cullom, as the director of Task Force Energy, has been working across the fleet, aviation community and shore commands on several initiatives that include reducing tactical fuel consumption, increasing sources of renewable alternative energy, and promoting environmental stewardship.

CHIPS asked Rear Adm. Cullom to talk about the work of Task Force Energy and the Navy's Energy Strategy on June 3.

CHIPS: The U.S. Navy has had conservation programs in place for a long time, is there a new urgency to move more quickly now?

Rear Adm. Cullom: Yes. The early programs were a result of the first energy crisis back in the '70s so they are fairly longstanding. But it is pretty clear now that energy is definitely going to be our most precious resource for the next decade — if not the entire 21st century. In that regard, there may be significant challenges in the near term that may impact us with regard to three things: resource availability, price fluctuations in energy costs, but probably most importantly, a challenge to our combat capability with regard to logistics.

In the Navy and Defense departments, there are federal mandates that emphasize energy-related 'specs' in evaluating systems afloat and ashore. There is also a need to better answer a couple of things such as several presidential initiatives to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. At the Naval Energy Forum in October 2009, the Secretary of the Navy announced five goals: increase alternatives [fuels] afloat; increase alternatives ashore; sail the Great Green Fleet; acquisition excellence; and reduce non-tactical energy use. All of these goals and initiatives serve as drivers to change.

CHIPS: Can you talk about the Navy's Energy Strategy (Figure 1) and the government and research partners you are working with?

Rear Adm. Cullom: Certainly. The Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of Agriculture signed a Memorandum of Understanding in February 2010 for the two departments to work together on energy problems. As you might presume, it really centers on biofuels. I have been working extensively with senior executives at the Department of Agriculture toward meeting the Secretary’s goals on increasing alternative [fuels] afloat and sailing the Great Green Fleet. There is also a Memorandum of Understanding in progress with the Department of Energy and the entire Department of Defense. We have long been in consultation with the other services about their energy programs to find areas of synergy.

You may recall the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) money that the services received in 2009. The services worked together to deconflict investments and identify which projects would be best for each service to champion.

The Navy does a lot of great work on thinking holistically about what the Department of the Navy might fund, not only for the Navy, but for the Marine Corps as well. We have [projects] that cover ground equipment that are important for the Marine Corps infantry and the Marine Corps at large, as well as our Seabees, our explosive ordinance technicians and SEALs because there is a lot of commonality between the equipment the Navy and Marine Corps use. We fund research and development for that equipment, as well as some things that are more specific for ships and aircraft.

The Navy’s energy strategy is really about combat capability. This is true for the projects we have funded under ARRA and in Navy funding for the next fiscal year. It’s also about not funding something if it doesn’t give us additional combat capability. The key legs are: efficiency, conservation and alternatives. What I mean by alternatives are, in essence, ‘off-ramps’ to petroleum for tactical platforms. Alternatives to shore [energy] are sources that reduce our reliance on the electrical grid; for example, increased use of geothermal energy, wind farms and solar panels to power bases.

We also have strategic imperatives; they are essentially fivefold: assuring mobility; protecting our critical infrastructure; expanding our tactical reach; lightening the load; and greening the footprint. Warriors at the pointy end understand that assuring mobility means being able to do the mission. Protecting our critical infrastructure means how to assure that all of our bases and infrastructure are able to support our combat capability to allow the ships, aircraft, submarines and other tactical fighting units to complete any mission.

To do that you have to have power to ensure the critical infrastructure can support the missions and that the energy is protected.

Expanding tactical reach means making sure the energy investments we make allow planes to fly longer and further. It means making sure ships do not have to refuel every four or five days, but rather can potentially extend that by three to five times longer. From a logistics standpoint, by lightening the load we do not have as many fuel convoys snaking their way across long stretches of terrain, vulnerable [to attack]. Expanding tactical reach and lightening the load reduce the warriors exposure to threat and save lives.

Greening the footprint means being a good environmental steward. By using alternative fuels and reducing energy usage, we are reducing greenhouse gases, lessening the Navy’s dependence on petroleum, and reducing the risks associated with a volatile energy market. This is all achieved while remaining focused on the Navy’s mission and ensuring combat capability.

CHIPS: You mentioned alternatives to the electrical grid and biofuels — do you think the technology is mature enough and that the competition is robust enough to meet the Navy demand?

Rear Adm. Cullom: The Secretary of the Navy oftentimes uses the analogy of the ‘Field of Dreams.’ He said, and I’d like you to quote him: ‘The market power of the Navy and Marine Corps ispretty big. Together, these two services consume about a third of the petroleum power used in the federal government. And the federal government consumes 2 percent of all petroleum that the United States uses. So it’s like the reverse of Field of Dreams, if we come, they will build it. As we build demand, the supply will come.’ (Remarks by The Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, Climate and Energy: Imperatives for Future Naval Forces, March 23, 2010.)

The need is significant, and by 2020, it is going to translate to roughly 8 million barrels of biofuel per year to meet the Secretary’s goal of alternatives afloat.

CHIPS: The Navy is working on a number of projects to reduce fossil fuel dependence and cut costs. For example, the new LHD, Makin Island, has a revolutionary hybrid propulsion plant. At high speeds it runs on gas turbine engines, and at lower speeds it runs on an electric drive, just like a hybrid car; the Navy is experimenting with silicone-based hull paint that is nontoxic and anti-fouling coating; and the Navy, successfully on Earth Day 2010 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., flew an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, powered by a 50/50 blend of biofuel and standard petroleum-based JP-5 jet fuel. Are these just experiments or will these changes be operationalized within the fleet and how soon?

Rear Adm. Cullom: Our goal is to move from first steps — an experiment — into prototyping those experiments, determining the success of the prototype, and when they prove successful, replicating these successes to thereby change the fleet to where we need to be with energy in one or two decades. It really is about how these experiments translate into long-term changes for the Navy. (See Figure 2 for the Navy’s Energy Profile.)

When we flew the Super Hornet, the ‘Green Hornet’ as we call it, it wasn’t just a one-time flight so we could all declare success and say, ‘Hey, look at us.’ It was one of 15 test flights, the whole purpose of which was to certify that F/A-18 engine type on the 50/50 blend. The goal of that process was to be able to certify a drop-in replacement fuel for petroleum.

Our goal is to engineer the fuel, not the platform, or the engine. We’re transforming the Navy we have and making it more resilient by enabling it to operate on more types of fuels.

Engineering the fuel and not the platform saves us money and gives us a lot more capability. And that is just the first of many steps we are planning to take over the next couple of years to give us those off-ramps to petroleum for the entire fleet (ships, aircraft, ground vehicles), not just the F/A-18. The goal is not to have just one source, for example, camelina which is what powered the Green Hornet, but other types of biofuel fuels.

Second and third generation biofuels give us an optimal ability to have more than one type of fuel without the need for separate [fuel] tanks or separate planes, so we can operate one day on petroleum if that is the only fuel available, or on biofuel, and preferentially so, if that’s available.

This gives us redundancy and a multitude of sources. When we look at these second and third generation biofuels and the feedstocks, we chose camelina or an algae-type because we don’t want to compete with a food source. We don’t want something that takes massive amounts of energy to produce or requires a lot of land or water — both precious resources.

We want something that can be easily produced as a readily available fuel for the Navy. Another benefit is [that] we are removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to grow these feedstocks and produce fuel that is usable for the Navy.

CHIPS: That’s remarkable! I didn’t realize platforms would not change.

Rear Adm. Cullom: We looked at a lot of different alternatives. You could redesign an engine to run on a different kind of fuel, but you have to use scarce resources to reengineer the fleet that you have. That doesn’t make much sense. What makes a lot more sense is using the fleet that you’ve got and try to figure out an alternative, renewable and sustainable fuel source.

That’s not to say we are not going to do some engineering to our engines for the tactical [platforms] and unmanned vehicles to improve efficiency. The efficiency piece is almost more important than the alternative piece because efficiency is the barrel of fuel that is forever saved and the carbon GHGs (greenhouse gases) not emitted. That is great for the environment, produces long-term savings, and yields more combat capability — which is the most important thing.

CHIPS: Do you anticipate that energy considerations will drive budgeting and acquisition in the near term? Can you talk about how you are working toward an operational Great Green Fleet by 2016?

Rear Adm. Cullom: I’m not really the expert on acquisition; the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition staff is working on that in regard to policy. They are better suited to directly address that question, but I will come back to some aspects of what we are doing inside the Navy lifelines.

We are looking at an electronic environmental tool and getting as many of our electronic assets to be registered to EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool). (See Figure 3.) Energy Star features on electronic assets will help. We are trying to be prepared to offer up as many good ideas as we can, like donating and recycling electronics at the end of life, or extending product life as much as we can (that is life cycle costing), and using multifunctional devices like printers [that are also fax machines and scanners]. That’s what we are doing inside Navy lifelines to prepare for the policy that the Secretary of the Navy will come forward with for acquisition excellence.

We are budgeting for energy. There is a great place where energy and information intersect, specifically with regard to data and operations centers and how we collect, sort, manage, share and analyze information using the smallest energy footprint possible. Every one of those centers requires a significant amount of energy, and each year our need for more information puts pressure on the energy resources required.

If we look at the problem in the right way, we can minimize the energy footprint and make the data centers more resilient, improving our ability to protect our critical infrastructure. Information is an essential piece of our critical infrastructure.

CHIPS: I read an opinion piece that said thank heavens the Navy is working on energy reforms because military organizations turn things around much more quickly than other government organizations. Do you think the Navy can lead in energy savings?

Rear Adm. Cullom: Absolutely. The Secretary of the Navy talks about the Navy leading the way — to be at the forefront of the changes. As an early adopter, the Navy can accelerate good ideas by experimenting, prototyping and then replicating those successes.

When you are early adopters, like the Navy and Defense Department, it does point the way for the rest of government and the country. The Navy is determined to reduce its carbon footprint while at the same time ensuring readiness.

CHIPS: A report in the New Statesmen from May 13 cautioned that China is already leaping ahead in green technology while the United States is still dependent on foreign fossil fuels. Do we need to play catch-up?

Rear Adm. Cullom: I’m glad you asked that question because it is topical. Although China’s command economy can move very swiftly, I am a firm believer that the United States has an incredible competitive advantage. That advantage is America’s penchant to always look for new frontiers, particularly in our matchless ability to innovate.

The American experience includes our diversity as a nation which always leads us to incredible ways to look at a problem. It’s the source of our creativity. Some people may say that we are behind, but some of the U.S. efforts underway today may actually be leading.

As announced last November by President Obama and China’s President Hu Jintao, the U.S. and China are also partnering together on many innovative energy initiatives to strengthen cooperation on clean energy. These partnerships advance U.S. technology in a growing Chinese market.

CHIPS: How will the Energy Strategy affect individual commands and personnel?

Rear Adm. Cullom: Your readers might say what does this mean to me? As we look at the energy future and as Navy leadership looks at this, we hope that they are energized, no pun intended, to look at the way they do business and be able to inform the Navy to make good decisions and to understand that energy is at the heart of everything in the Navy.

CHIPS: So you want naval personnel to take here is a great place where energy reform as a personal mission. Do you think that the individual service member and Navy civilian can contribute?

Rear Adm. Cullom: Absolutely. Just the other day [May 28], I presented the CNO Environmental Awards to Navy commands. In the last year, the Navy has won two Presidential Energy Awards and eight Department of Energy Awards.

It’s the leadership at an individual command that can make the difference in being able to do things better on both an energy front and environmental front. It gives us a competitive advantage, increases readiness, and makes us more energy secure.

I believe that individual Sailors and individual commands are at the heart of this. It really requires a cultural change in how you look at energy.

CHIPS: Do you think people understand that there is an urgency to becoming more energy secure?

Rear Adm. Cullom: No, they probably don’t understand because how many folks still own an SUV? How many people are like frogs in a boiling pot? The temperature continues to rise, but they don’t know it. The gas prices are going up again, but most people believe that there will be perturbations in demand, prices will go up, and they will go down. But the trend line is without question going up.

As long as the temperature doesn’t go up too quickly the frog doesn’t jump out of the pot; he boils to death. Will we as a nation boil to death before we figure it out? As you saw from the presentation I made about where energy consumption is today (Figure 4) and where it is going to grow to in 2030 (Figure 5), and where energy needs will grow in the world — it’s surprising.

Some of these forecasts were even surprising to me, like the African continent, Eastern Europe, to portions of South America, to India and China, where the economies are growing dramatically.

Those forecasts are drivers that create an increased demand on finite energy resources. Although petroleum is still found, it gets harder and more expensive to extract and use. It really makes issues more challenging because petroleum is not renewable or sustainable, and it continually adds to greenhouse gas emissions.

CHIPS: You are an enthusiastic spokesman for energy reform.

Rear Adm. Cullom: I have one-year old twin daughters. I want them to grow up in a world that I would like to grow up in. I don’t think people realize how important energy is going to be for our grandchildren.

CHIPS: There are a lot of skeptics.

Rear Adm. Cullom: There are. As a baby boomer, my parents were of the ‘Greatest Generation.’ I certainly admire what they did to contribute to our way of life in the United States. I’m not so certain that the baby boomer legacy is as great unless we do some pretty significant things in the next few years. I don’t want baby boomers to be the locusts that go through the field and consume all the seed corn.

We are known as the ‘consumer generation,’ and by eating all the seed corn we leave nothing for our children and grandchildren. I’d much rather have us be known as the ‘regeneration generation.’

Keep in mind that philosophy piece, while never losing sight that we have a mission, whether it is flying a plane, driving a ship, diving in a submarine, or providing the combat support that is needed to glue it together. The commercial that talks about transforming data into information into knowledge is really true.

At the end of the day, you can’t make good decisions if the information is not brought together in the right way, and energy is a component of that and a critical combat capability.

Thanks. It was great talking to you today.

EPEAT is a system that helps purchasers evaluate, compare and select electronic products based on their environmental attributes.
Energy Star is a joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy helping to save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.

Environmental Stewardship Websites
• Currents, the Navy’s Environmental Magazine (quarterly):
• Department of the Navy Energy Program:
• Department of Defense Energy Support Center:
• Environmental Quality Division:
• Energy Star:
• Joint Service Pollution Prevention and Sustainability Library:
• Naval Air Systems Command Environmental:
• Naval Safety Center:
• Navy Environmental Sustainability Development to Integration (NESDI) Program:
• Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center – Environmental Health: Environmental_Health
• Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving, Pollution Abatement:
• Scripps Institution of Oceanography:
• Task Force Energy: or
• Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution:

Navy Environmental Policy
• Chief of Naval Operations Instruction (OPNAVINST) 5090.1C. Navy Environmental and Natural Resources Program Manual:

Rear Adm. Philip Hart Cullom
Rear Adm. Philip Hart Cullom

Figure 1. Navy Energy Strategy
Figure 1. Navy Energy Strategy

Figure 2. Navy Energy Profile
Figure 2. Navy Energy Profile

Figure 3. Navy IT: It
Figure 3. Navy IT: It's C51, Not Just Computers

Figure 4.
Figure 4.

Figure 5.
Figure 5.
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