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Kearsarge Hosts Senate Field Hearing on Energy; First Aboard Ship Since 1960

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS120314-11

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/FMF) Chad V. Pritt, USS Kearsarge Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) hosted a Senate subcommittee field hearing on energy March 12, the first time since 1960 that a Senate hearing was held aboard a Navy vessel.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power, was joined by Sen. Mark Warner from Virginia. Among those who addressed the two Senators were Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Former Secretary of the Navy and retired Sen. John Warner.

Both testified about the Navy's current strategy to reduce energy consumption and decrease its reliance on foreign oil.

Mabus' testimony focused on how changing the way the Department of the Navy gets and uses energy makes better warfighters and increases the military's energy security. "In theater, fuel is a tactical and operational vulnerability," said Mabus. "Fuel and water are the two things we import most into Afghanistan. For every 50 convoys, a Marine is killed or wounded. That is too high a price to pay."

Mabus explained that by using energy more efficiently, and using alternatives like solar blankets, Marines have proven that smarter energy use can increase warfighting capabilities and energy security.

"This is not only about cost of resources," Shaheen said, "but a cost on lives."

Mabus also spoke about how reliance on foreign oil presents strategic vulnerabilities.

"We would never depend on many our foreign oil suppliers to build our ships or our aircraft, or our ground equipment, but we give them a say in whether those ships sail, those aircraft fly, or those vehicles run because we depend on them for fuel," stated Mabus.

Supply shocks are also a strategic vulnerability.

"For every dollar charged for a barrel of oil, the Department of the Navy spends $30 million," Mabus said. "When unrest in some oil producing regions broke out last year, the price of a barrel increased by $30, which increased Navy's fuel bill by over $1 billion. That additional $1 billion in fuel costs that we could not have planned for left us having to take money out of operations, meaning our Sailors and Marines steamed less, flew less and trained less."

Mabus described several initiatives designed to lessen dependence on foreign oil, including encouraging private development of a domestically produced drop-in biofuel that can be used to power the Navy's ships and planes.

When asked why the Navy is focused on energy security, Mabus explained, "We can't afford NOT to. We cannot afford to wait until price shocks or supply shocks leave us no alternative. We cannot afford to wait while other nations race ahead of us on energy reform. If we do not have or cannot afford the energy to power our platforms, the platforms themselves may be of little value. And if we develop a domestic fuel source that is less vulnerable to price shocks, we will be able to afford more of the ships and planes we need."

Mabus set five aggressive goals for the Navy and Marine Corps to increase energy efficiency and use of alternative energy:
* By 2020, at least 50% of total DoN energy will come from alternative energy resources,
* By 2020, DoN will produce at least 50% of shore based energy requirements from alternative resources and 50% of Department installations will be net-zero,
* DON will demonstrate a Green Strike Group in local operations by 2012 and sail the Great Green Fleet by 2016,
* By 2015, DON will reduce petroleum use in non-tactical vehicles by 50%,
* Evaluation of energy factors will be used when awarding contracts for systems and buildings.

Shaheen, who also sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, lauded Mabus' efforts to lead the Navy toward more energy efficient technologies and alternative energy sources, including biofuels.

"When our military improves the way it uses energy, it gives us a strategic advantage and strengthens our national security," Shaheen said. "The less beholden our troops are to fuel supply lines, the less vulnerable they are in the field. The more efficient their battery packs are, the more time they have to complete the mission. The Navy has set the pace for improvements in energy use. Now it's time for the rest of the nation to follow."

Kearsarge, one of eight amphibious assault ships in the Navy, recently installed stern flaps in an effort to cut energy costs, and USS Makin Island (LHD 8) is the first amphibious assault ship to engage a hybrid engine system which allows it to run of self-generated electrical power while steaming at low speeds.

"Just on Kearsarge, their stern flaps saved the Navy about $2 million its first year," Mabus said.

John Warner, speaking as a former secretary of the Navy and a former senator, urged the committee to continue to work with the Department of the Navy on its energy saving endeavors.

"There's an old saying in the Navy," he said. "Give them the tools, leave them alone, and they'll get the job done. You can do it, you will do it eventually, and hopefully soon."

Kearsarge is the third Wasp-class amphibious assault ship and is the fourth ship to be named after Mount Kearsarge in Shaheen's home state of New Hampshire.

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