Pentagon Conducts Costly Green Programs as Troops Cut Back

Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 12:55 PM

By Cheryl K. Chumley

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The Pentagon is spending billions of dollars to make the armed services more environmentally friendly even as it is instituting major cutbacks in military readiness.

"It is apparent that within the Obama administration, issues like global warming and green energy have become a priority over the core mission of any agency responsibility," said Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C.

"It is quite apparent that throughout this administration, on issues as critical as defense, that security is being usurped by an agenda," Stier, a former environmental energy planner in New York City during the Rudy Giuliani administration, told Newsmax.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, in a recent Armed Services Committee hearing, grilled Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, asking why the Obama administration is putting troops on the chopping block yet paying exorbitant amounts of tax dollars to green the military.

"The Department of Defense continues to spend billions of dollars unnecessarily on alternative-energy research programs. The Navy recently spent $170 million on algae fuel that costs four times as much as regular fuel, meaning that potentially $120 million was wasted," Cruz said.

The Pentagon's proposed budget includes a massive downsizing of troops — a total of "six brigade combat teams by 2019," Cruz said, calling that scale-back "an astounding amount of land combat-power that's proposed to be reduced."

Yet the Air Force just spent $14 million to develop turbine power in Alaska — but "it turned out there wasn't any wind there," Cruz said. So the project may be shuttered altogether, leaving taxpayers in the lurch.

The Navy, meanwhile, has been testing its biofuels for some time, and at considerable expense.

The Heritage Foundation estimates that biofuels cost the Navy six or seven times more than traditional fuels.

In a report from 2013 entitled "Biofuel Blunder: Navy Should Prioritize Fleet Modernization over Political Initiatives," the conservative Washington think tank reported that one gallon of biofuel costs $26 while a gallon of diesel costs around $3.60.

"Many argue that this rate will decrease over time as biofuel production increases, but in the interim, the Navy's readiness would be further damaged by wasting precious resources on biofuels that are seven times more expensive than the Navy's conventional fuels — not including the increased maintenance costs," the Heritage report said.

Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma requested in 2012 that the Navy provide an explanation and cost analysis of a mission to test what Navy Secretary Ray Mabus called his "great green fleet" during a Hawaii mission.

Inhofe penned a letter to Mabus, demanding estimates on the "type of fuel and cost to ship the fuel … total fuel burned, type of fuel used, and cost to transport the biofuel from the port to Hawaii; cost to the Navy to paint logos on its aircraft and ships to promote the event … and who provided the funding."

The Army has been trying for years to develop solar-powered tents for troops that will prove cost-efficient for overseas missions, an endeavor scoffed at by critics as fruitless.

But the tent idea has nonetheless been fueled further by the Army's Energy Initiatives Office, a partnership launched in 2011 with the private sector to find green projects that could be incorporated into military life.

The goal is for the Army to have 25 percent of its energy come from renewable sources by 2025 at an estimated cost of about $7.1 billion.

Critics are asking why the Pentagon should pay for untested and unscientific green projects if the money isn't available to maintain troop strength.

Scott Walter, executive vice president of the Capital Research Center, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., described the cost and difficulty of producing algae-based fuel — and the hundreds of gallons of water that are required to formulate just one gallon of the renewable fuel — as "totally ridiculous," at least if the goal is to ensure a strong national defense.

"On the other hand," Walter added, "if all you want to do is flush hundreds of millions of dollars to cronies, it's great on that."

Yet the military's costly green project list continues to grow.

Among the endeavors are hybrid Humvees that burn 70 percent less fuel than their standard counterpart; eco-enhanced mattresses that last up to four times longer than what's currently issued; solar-powered military bases, like the test site at Nevada's Nellis Air Force Base; and Marine bases in Afghanistan that replace standard batteries with solar cells in certain communications systems.

Aside from the cost, the larger issue of turning the military green is whether troop safety and security become endangered in the process.

"I'm very troubled by these [military budget] cuts," Cruz said to Hagel during the recent committee hearing.

"It seems to me there are a great many other areas in the Pentagon budget that ought to be much higher candidates for cuts than reducing the men and woman who are directly on the front lines, who go directly toward our war-fighting capacity," Cruz said.

"It seems to me that the energy needs of our military should be derived by what is the most cost effective and efficient energy to carry out the war mission of our military," Cruz said.


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