NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- The secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) shared his vision of a greener Navy and Marine Corps team, one that is more energy independent, but still remaining the greatest maritime force in the world, during a keynote address at the Naval War College's 61st Current Strategy Forum in Newport, R.I., June 9.
"It's a matter of energy independence, it's a matter of our security," said SECNAV Ray Mabus of the need for the Navy and Marine Corps to reduce dependence on foreign fossil fuels.
Attended by more than 1,200 participants, the 2010 conference explored the theme of "The Global System in Transition" by examining U.S. foreign policy in the emerging global order, the strategic leadership opportunities for the United States and the role of the maritime services in supporting the nation's key objectives. The two-day forum is hosted annually by SECNAV.
"It's a matter of making sure that when we need those ships at sea, when we need those aircraft in the air, when we need the Marines on the ground, we have the energy produced right here in the United States to do that," said Mabus.
Mabus, a former governor of Mississippi, U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and surface warfare officer, gave examples of efforts to become less dependent on foreign fossil fuels.
"In April (2010), we flew the Green Hornet, an F-18 Hornet. The Green Hornet, a regular off-the-shelf F-18, supersonic, flew on a mixture of regular gasoline and biofuel, biofuel made from camelina," said Mabus.
Camelina is a small mustard seed that has the potential to be grown in rotation with wheat in every state.
Becoming greener serves tremendous tactical imperatives as well, said Mabus.
"The example that I like to use is getting a gallon of gasoline to a Marine front line unit in Afghanistan," said Mabus. "You have to put that gallon of gasoline on a tanker. You've got to take it across the Pacific. You have to put it into a truck, and truck it over the Hindu Kush and down through Afghanistan. Now, as you do this, you've got to guard it."
Mabus explained that convoy duty for that gasoline takes, "Marines away from what Marines should be doing; fighting, engaging, helping to rebuild that country."
Mabus also talked about the Navy's first hybrid ship, the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), which sailed from Pascagoula, Miss., to its homeport in San Diego, saving almost $2 million in fuel costs by using an electric drive for speeds of 10 knots or less.
"Over the lifetime of that ship, if fuel prices remain absolutely the same, we will save about a quarter of a billion dollars in fuel. We're prototyping that engine to be retrofitted onto our guided-missile destroyers so that we can begin to move that further out into the fleet," said Mabus.
SECNAV said that great change is almost always met with great resistance.
"We changed from sail to coal in the 1850s. We changed from coal to oil in the early part of the 20th century. We went to nuclear for our subs and our aircraft carriers in the 1950s," said Mabus.
"Every single time that we made one of those changes, there were people that said you are abandoning one source of proven energy for one that you do not know whether it will work, and by the way, it's too expensive," said Mabus.
Mabus is confident that results will show that progress in adopting alternative energy sources will prove yet again to be vital for the Navy's future.
"The Navy and Marine Corps fulfill every mission given to them, including helping us become energy independent," said Mabus.
Mabus also spoke directly to Naval War College students, challenging them to fulfill their leadership duties as they continue their careers.
"The legacy of the Navy and Marine Corps is a legacy of leadership," said Mabus. "It is up to you students of the War College to maintain that legacy. You follow in some amazing footsteps. It's your turn to write the next chapter for our military services and our country. Write them well."
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