Protecting the power, through resilient thought and action

  • Published
  • By Kazi Mamun
  • AEDC Public Affairs
Imagine the power of our nation’s air fleet that dominates the sky from one corner of the world to the other, defying gravity, breaking the sound barrier, ignoring the weather, and often even escaping the radar.

Where does this airpower begin and end?

It all starts with the ideation process where one great idea lights the bulb. Later, the winning idea goes through a series of steps, such as concept development, modeling, simulation, design and prototype development. Next, the prototype is tested and later becomes a real aircraft that moves on to further testing, demonstration and manufacturing. Then a limited edition or mass production of the aircraft goes through the production lines of the manufacturers and suppliers depending on the Department of Defense national defense strategy.

Each step of the way, we need power to fuel the human imagination, recruit, train and sustain the Airmen, engineers, scientists, their families and support services through food, housing, healthcare, wellness and education. We need power to develop the aircraft and other airborne systems from concept to production to actual flight to achieve war missions and peace initiatives. In real flight missions, our pilots need power for navigational, meteorological, satellite, reconnaissance, communication and other guided support.

Whether we’re driving a car, fueling a tank, operating a computer, reading a memo, flushing a toilet or flying a plane, we need power every step of the way leading up to the mission. We should consider energy in everything we do, and as such, no mission can be assured without assuring energy, period. Hence, energy is a strategic imperative.

We can conclude why power is not just the flow of electrons, pressurized water or air molecules, but the lifeblood of our mission from concept to completion. We should make every effort to protect and conserve energy at our homes, offices, tents and flights through cultural, behavioral, technological, innovative and transformative changes.

The energy we save helps contribute to resilient infrastructure, saves on utility and taxpayer bills. By turning computers, monitors and lights off when we leave our offices and homes, keeping windows open or closed, and blinds on or off depending on the season or time of the day, or changing to LED lamps, we can create a significant impact on savings and help protect power.

Government and industries have long recognized the importance of protecting power or conserving energy to avoid environmental pollution and resource depletion. Such recognition turned into legislative and regulatory frameworks that gave birth to a number of energy initiatives. Notable among them are demand response, energy conservation and energy efficiency programs.

With newer challenges more sophisticated energy initiatives such as energy security, net-zero facilities, islanding and microgrid have been developed.

The latest and the greatest initiative, energy resiliency, has tied earlier initiatives to the mission in a holistic way. Our military has set up the Air Force Office of Energy Assurance, the Army Office of Energy Initiative, and the Navy Resilient Energy Program Office to help implement energy resiliency projects for its respective services.

Energy resiliency is directly related to “Protect the Power.” Energy resiliency means the measures taken to turn the energy systems resilient, to be able to withstand the probable impact or recover from the impact in no time to ensure that the mission is assured without any interruption of power. Clearly, energy practitioners would like to know, what are the measures that would make the energy systems resilient? Also, how do you go about implementing them and at what cost? How do you measure the contribution of the logistical energy in the assurance of the mission once you know that the energy systems are resilient? These are complex questions and have no right or wrong answers or any singular scientific solution and the subsequent paragraphs will tell us why.

Because mission and threat are dynamic, protecting power through resiliency measures is a journey. This means we should continuously assess our vulnerabilities, scale resilience and deploy game changing technologies to assure the mission by asking ourselves three questions:
1. What does the system or project need to achieve?
2. How does the system make the Air Force more resilient?
3. How does the system deliver resilient qualities (robust, redundancy, resourcefulness, response, and recovery)?

We shouldn’t think about replacing old equipment with the newer version of the same thing, but ask ourselves what different technologies can be deployed to get the same outcome as the mission changes, or a corresponding outcome or a range of probable outcomes and how they all relate to the overall effectiveness of the mission? Not easy, but doable through asymmetric rather than incremental thinking, by teaming and collaboration and support from the Base commander, Civil Engineering energy leadership, mission owners as well as the relevant minds at different levels of the organizations.

Often the link between mission and energy is unclear. Energy and Resource Efficiency managers know what the energy goals are in terms of energy intensity, energy use, square footage, energy savings measures, utility rates, costs and savings. What we don’t adequately know is the mission itself, its criticality level, its dynamism, susceptibility to conceivable threats or, even how a lamp at the commander’s desk affects the entire mission? These gestalt considerations through resilient thinking are a vital part of making resources resiliently available and that means, as to when power is needed, by how much and for how long in the chain of command that links up to the ultimate mission during contingencies to minimize, if not fully eliminate the potential risks confronted by the mission.

Admittedly, the use of robotics and drones is gradually permeating the Air Force. How will the drone technology and artificial intelligence affect our long-term mission and impact testing resources and capabilities at Arnold? What type of organization will evolve? How will Arnold revamp and rebuild its infrastructure?

These questions need to be clearly understood in terms of Arnold’s near and long term mission. In the longer term, robotics, drones and artificial intelligence will certainly play a major role as they transition from decision support to decision automation impacting the resilient energy systems and the mission these systems will power. These futuristic initiatives certainly will not eliminate, but mutate our current efforts, resources and practices to match the ongoing needs of the changing mission; something to bear in mind to protect power by means of resiliency initiatives.

What is Arnold currently doing to protect the power and improve on resiliency?

Currently, Arnold is implementing $19.7 million in changes to replace incandescent lamps with LEDs, install HVAC control systems, and insulate steam pipes and fittings in 69 buildings, streets, pits and manholes. Although these energy conservation measures appear basic, they impact key operational capabilities across Arnold’s numerous facilities, address fundamental infrastructure issues and contribute to the broader strategic goal of mission assurance through energy assurance.

Next, we look into the first three attributes of resiliency – robustness, redundancies, resourcefulness – through analyses of all critical energy elements, power utilization, delivery, and energy generation sub-systems and systems to enable full assurance of response and recovery in no time, if contingencies happen.

Whether or not we are robust and resourceful enough to avoid a punch with redundancies built into our planning and systems or whether we can take the punch and can still operate our mission in its immediate aftermath through instant recovery and immediate responsiveness determines how we protect power through resiliency initiatives and practices.

The military, as well as its infrastructure power that we protect at home and at Arnold, has the transformative effect of the air power we project across the world to fly, fight and win wars in air, space, or cyber space to achieve peace.