By Mark Correll, P.E., SES, M.SAME
Warfare is changing, challenging our established mission assurance methods to maintain and enhance U.S. warfighting dominance. Critical capabilities are increasingly interconnected while we also face growing asymmetric threats and unprecedented changes to the natural operating environment.
To address our new reality and intricacies specific to U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force installation energy needs, the Department of the Air Force has released its first Installation Energy Strategic Plan (IESP) to better align installation energy efforts with mission needs.
Issued in January 2021 to replace the 2017 Air Force Energy Flight Plan, this new roadmap for the department’s approach to installation energy captures major shifts in thinking. By placing a greater focus on resilience, mission, and the growing importance of water availability, the IESP sets out to create an enterprise that is ultimately more prepared to deliver energy and water whenever and wherever it is needed to protect the nation, its values, and its interests.
CALLS FOR NEW APPROACH
More than ever before, Air Force and Space Force missions rely on assets distributed across multiple installations. The IESP builds on the 2017 Flight Plan’s initial strategic shift away from an installation-centric view of mission assurance in favor of prioritizing energy projects based on equally weighted factors of resilience, cost-competitiveness, and cleaner energy generation. While this approach reflected requirements at the time, leadership subsequently determined that it is no longer sufficient to lead the enterprise into a future state focused on mission assurance.
The changing operational environment also introduces greater vulnerabilities that may hamper mission success. Dependence on energy and water systems is growing in scale and complexity as missions become more interconnected and technology-driven. A disruption in one location can have cascading impacts on other parts of the mission that may be miles away. By crippling crucial enabling systems, these disruptions could compromise our ability to effectively conduct missions, while additionally causing significant economic damage and threatening national security in general. These rapid changes in the operational landscape have prompted the department to rethink its approach to mission assurance.
Mission assurance can only truly be enhanced through more resilient energy systems. The IESP provides the path.
SUCCESS LIES IN EXECUTION
The IESP sets a new course to create an overall enterprise more aware of how threats to enabling systems like energy may impact mission assurance, more cognizant of how its investments can support resilience, and ultimately more prepared to deliver what is needed. The plan also highlights the responsibility of both mission owners and installation personnel in identifying vulnerabilities, planning to fill gaps, and collaborating to find resources to fill those gaps.
The IESP pursues three goals in order to achieve the new installation energy vision of Mission Assurance through Energy Assurance: Identify Enabling System Vulnerabilities; Improve Resilience Planning; and Ensure Resilience Results.
Identify Enabling System Vulnerabilities. This goal centers on taking a holistic approach both to determine where these mission vulnerabilities exist and the scope of their impact on a mission. To assess installation energy resilience through real-world testing, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense has led power outage exercises across the services. The Department of the Air Force will complete a total of five Energy Resilience Readiness Exercises (ERREs) by the end of FY2021, documenting lessons learned and best practices resulting from the process to refine execution. This effort will enable the Air Force and Space Force to begin to meet the legislative requirement included in the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act prescribing five ERREs per year.
Improve Resilience Planning. This goal seeks to develop a plan that accounts for enabling system vulnerabilities and connects the identified vulnerabilities directly to potential mission impacts. Notably, Installation Energy Plans (IEP) are a central effort to improve energy and water resilience; they provide an important decision-making structure to define energy mission requirements, incorporate long-term plans for energy resilience capabilities, and ensure reliable and available utilities for key missions. Developing initial IEPs for priority installations and large energy consumers will establish a common planning baseline to not only mitigate installation enabling system vulnerabilities but to recognize how those vulnerabilities can cascade throughout the mission.
Ensure Resilience Results. This goal seeks to make the important link between resilience planning, project implementation, and monitoring and verification over the longer term. It completes the process of considering mission resilience from vulnerability identification through to solution execution. The Department of the Air Force will encourage installations to first identify any mission resilience gaps based on quantitative analysis outputs and then demonstrate how project funding requests will fill those gaps.
SUPPORTING THE VISION
While providing an overarching strategy is key to aligning installation energy efforts with mission needs, incorporating relevant policies, useful tools, and a governance structure is also essential in supporting airmen and guardians in realizing mission assurance through energy assurance. The IESP sets the direction for where the installation energy program is going, while policies will determine the guardrails for how we operate and a governance structure will ensure that we are going in the right direction. For example, Air Force Policy Directive 90-17 establishes the framework for energy and water resources management, to include both use and resilience of energy and water. Additionally, Department of the Air Force Instruction 90-1701 builds on the installation energy policies and provides the directive guidance and procedures for installation energy and water management.
To further bolster the IESP, the department also has established a multi-tiered hierarchical governance and management structure composed of the Facility Energy Board, Facility Energy Group, and the Facility Energy Panel. This coalition provides strategic guidance and coordination for development, review, validation, and approval for near- and long-term facility energy and water project planning.
Ultimately, the IESP along with the policies, tools, and governance structure come together to provide the Air Force and Space Force with a more agile posture to strengthen their operational effectiveness in air, space, and cyberspace.
EYES ON THE HORIZON
A changing landscape across the globe reminds us of the importance of having a roadmap to provide installations with the guidance and tools necessary to progress toward greater mission success, as the challenges of today, while robust, are certain to increase into the future.
When disaster strikes or emergencies occur, those who have planned and incorporated end-to-end resilience into their missions will be best positioned to fly, fight, and win—even as the world around them becomes increasingly connected to, and dependent on, enabling systems.
Mark Correll, P.E., SES, M.SAME, is Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety & Infrastructure, HQ U.S. Air Force; email@example.com.
[This article first published in the March-April 2021 issue of The Military Engineer.]