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Chasing the Climate Change Momentum: Linking DOD's Operational Energy Program -- Recommendations for the Department of Defense Open Access

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Fuel is the lifeblood of U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) operations and capability, without which, ships, planes, aircraft and weapons systems would cease to function. As a voracious oil consumer, protecting defense energy security, specifically operational energy, defined as the energy required for training, moving and sustaining military forces and weapons specifically for military operations, is critical. In 2009, Congress intervened with mandates directed at the Defense Department to create an executive level office of Operational Energy Policy and Programs. This program and the resulting two department strategies, in 2011 and 2016, ignited an energy conscious mindset across the Service branches and led to many energy innovations. During this time, the Department of Defense also recognized the implications and growing national security threat from climate change. In both the 2010 and 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, climate change and energy security were inextricably linked. But while climate change preparations, via adaptation and mitigation of infrastructure, have been persistent within the DOD (partly due to Congressional insistence), the momentum behind operational energy has stalled. The focus on operational energy has cooled as a result of a changed global energy landscape, a less supportive administration prioritizing fossil fuel interests over green renewables, and lagging institutional commitment. This paper recommends the DOD fashion a more visible and concrete connection between energy security, climate change and national security. While politics and current administration rhetoric make this challenging, the DOD has successfully proved it can insulate itself from the noise in order to protect national security.

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