posted on June 10, 2011 15:46
For those not familiar, the Current Strategy Forum at the Naval War College is an annual event always held in the week before graduation. Invited participants are members of the War College Foundation (the Foundation holds its board meeting the day before the Forum begins) the business community, and a good number of Navy officials. The Forum is known for providing a high caliber of speakers from both the military and academia. One can pretty much count on hearing from the Secretary of the Navy and the CNO. For the past five years AUSN has attended and for two years now we have hosted an event at the Officers Club the evening before the Forum.
This year’s forum was a departure from previous years in that SECNAV Mabus reached out and selected the forum topic himself (something normally left up to the war college). His topic was Energy and U.S. National Security, Vulnerability & Opportunity. We found the Forum to be a little flat when compared to previous years but certainly the SECNAV and the CNO did not disappoint. As many of you may know the CNO is not a dynamic orator but when in Q&A he is candid and articulate which the audience appreciates. Secretary Mabus uses a bit of Southern political charm to please the audience and get a laugh while delivering a serious discussion.
Another audience favorite was LT Gen George Flynn, Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command , who detailed the energy initiatives that the Corps has already fielded in Afghanistan. One of the serious issues for the Corps is using solar energy in the field to recharge batteries. That can and is saving hundreds of pounds of batteries that a company has to carry into the field. Marines like to disarm you by saying that they are just Jarheads but War College students and Generals are anything but. A tremendous amount of discussion was fostered by Dr. Amory B. Lovins, Chairman and Chief Scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit energy think tank, who opened the two day event by outlining how the U.S. could be divorced from the need for fossil fuels by 2050. He offered this thought: “Oil will be uncompetitive at low prices before it becomes unavailable at high prices.” Central to his argument was the idea that with 70% of oil used to create transportation the use of carbon fiber technology to reduce the weight of vehicles would have a tremendous impact.
The most important take away for Navy people might be that as long as the Honorable Ray Mabus is SECNAV the Navy is going to actively pursue reduction in the use of fossil fuel by any and all means. This is not a political statement by the Secretary but seemingly a strong personal belief that this is necessary to preserve the strength and viability of the Navy-Marine Corps team. His thinking may have been influenced by a War College Game that was held in 2009 where the deliberate targeting of oilers had a serious affect. He stated that “fuel is our greatest vulnerability.” We cannot win the fuel issue on the battlefield, he said, but if we don’t win it we will be severely impacted on the battlefield.
The other important take away was more of a question than an answer: Are we as a nation at a tipping point where we will seriously move to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil? If not, what will it take to reach that tipping point? Consensus seemed to be that we are not yet at such a place and absent national leadership (consensus also seemed to be that such leadership was absent) it will be market forces which will ultimately cause such a shift in public policy. There seemed to be a lot of feeling that before market forces can cause the necessary adjustments we may be near a debilitating crisis.
Regardless of the topic or ones’ opinion it is always the case that we are impressed with the institution of the Naval War College, its rich history in terms of the leaders that have passed through its halls and the strategic thinking that it fosters. For more information on this year’s forum visit www.usnwc.edu. For information about how you can support the college visit www.nwcfoundation.org