By J.E. “Jack” Surash, P.E., SES, M.SAME

The U.S. Army is the largest consumer of installation energy in the Department of Defense, spending more than $1 billion per year on facility energy and water. With few exceptions, Army installations rely on commercial energy and water sources to accomplish critical missions. Uninterrupted access to energy and water is essential for readiness and the Army’s requirement to deploy, fight, and win.

Vulnerabilities in interdependent electric grids, natural gas pipelines, and water resources supporting Army installations jeopardize mission infrastructure, base security, and the ability to project power and sustain global operations. As the Army’s initial maneuver platforms, installations must be able to operate and meet power projection requirements in and from an increasingly contested multi-domain operational environment.

The Army Installations Strategy, published in December 2020, represents a pivot from an Industrial Age paradigm characterized by rigidity and purpose-built specialization to a data-rich, reconfigurable Information Age construct. The strategy also indicates that Army installations support total ground force operations to mobilize and project capabilities anywhere in the world, at any time.

The Army Installation Energy and Water Strategic Plan aligns with Army Installations Strategy, establishing resilience, efficiency, and affordability as strategic goals. The strategic objectives of this plan are measurable through 12 metrics that clearly depict the Army’s progress in achieving resilient, efficient, and affordable installation energy and water infrastructure. Building and measuring resilience improves the Army’s capability to prevent and recover from any disruption to energy and water utility services. That means greater readiness, and a higher likelihood of mission success.

Black start exercises can help the Army to increase energy resiliency and address natural and man-made threats to readiness. DOD PHOTO BY AIRMAN 1ST CLASS JOSEPH MORALES


Each Army installation is required to conduct routine and full-scale testing of emergency and standby systems that support critical missions in order to validate system readiness. Black start exercises evaluate how an installation maintains operational capabilities during an extended utility outage. These “pull the plug” scenarios have been completed at Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Greely, Alaska; Fort Knox, Ky.; and Fort Stewart, Ga., with the next to be held at Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; and Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. In addition to evaluating how a base handles sudden power disruption, these exercises identify overall resilience deficiencies and can help prioritize future projects to address them.

The exercises to date confirmed capabilities related to infrastructure, operations and maintenance, and the requirement for identification of critical loads to ensure configuration to appropriate backup generation. They also revealed gaps not always discovered during table top exercises and have resulted in better communications between the Army, local communities, and utility companies that service the installations.



The 50-MW Schofield Generating Station in Hawaii, which provides power to Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Army Airfield, and Field Station Kunia in the event of an outage to the main Oahu grid, is a great example of energy resilience and the Army’s efforts to work with industry to combat climate change. This project is a result of a collaborative effort between the Hawaiian Electric Company and the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, along with several other inter-related stakeholders, including the Army Office of Energy Initiatives, the Army Corps of Engineers, Army Materiel Command, and additional headquarters organizations.

A successful test of the system was completed in May 2021 by successfully “islanding” the three Army sites from the utility’s electric grid for 24 hours. The test was the first demonstration of a utility-owned asset powering the microgrid at U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii and providing energy resilience during an outage.

The station is the only baseload power generation facility on Oahu located above the tsunami inundation zone, which is critical for combatting the increasing threat of climate change and extreme weather events. Its black start capability enhances grid resilience to benefit the Army. The station is located behind the installation fence line, making it the most secure and resilient utility plant in Hawaii. During normal operations, the facility provides electricity to the grid daily to diversify the power supply and mitigate voltage and frequency effects caused by wind or solar variability.

The Army recognizes climate change as a growing global security threat. In line with direction from senior leaders, the Army is taking a holistic approach to addressing climate threats to our missions, plans, resources, and capabilities to secure the American people and their interests.

Addressing climate change is an operational necessity and an opportunity for driving change. The Army is poised to build on past efforts with a focus on integrating climate change factors within assessments and planning, installation resilience, science and technology, operational energy, sustainable land management, and procurement. Subsequent implementation plans, policies, and directives will drive Army priorities to address climate change, reduce climate damage, lower demand, and gain efficiencies. Key resources in developing these efforts are the Army Climate Assessment Tool and the Army Climate Resilience Handbook.

The Army Climate Assessment Tool (ACAT), developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was launched in July 2020 to help installations identify climate-related threats that could degrade mission readiness. Currently in use at all Army installations in the United States, ACAT incorporates the latest actionable data and model results regarding climate change and extreme weather as prescribed by the scientific community. The Army Climate Resilience Handbook serves as a companion to the ACAT and provides a guide for garrison planners to develop appropriate climate resilience measures.

In May 2021, the Army established the Army Climate Change Working Group to support both Executive Order 14008 and Executive Order 13990 as well as Defense Department efforts to assess the impacts of climate on security strategies, operations, and infrastructure. The working group is synchronized with the Office of the Secretary of Defense Climate Working Group. Priorities include examining efforts that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and resilience measures to reduce harm from climate hazards.


The Army is exploring a range of technologies through its Installation of the Future initiative to modernize installations. By exploring “smart city” sensor-based capabilities that support readiness, promote resilience and efficiency, provide real-time awareness, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we are preparing today for the uncertainty of tomorrow. The need to be resilient is now—and the Army will continue to collaborate with the other services, utility providers, private industry, and local communities to accomplish greater energy security and resilience efforts. We are committed to preparing installations and our force to address climate change and other natural, cyber, and physical threats to Army readiness.

J.E. “Jack” Surash, P.E., SES, M.SAME, is Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy & Environment;

[This article first published in the September-October 2021 issue of The Military Engineer.]