Retired officers warn US ‘falling behind’ on advanced energy

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A group of 15 retired generals and admirals is warning that the United States must be a leader on energy innovations, saying failure in the field could cause “considerable risk” to national security.

“As new energy options emerge to meet global demand, nations that lead stand to gain; should the U.S. sit on the sidelines, it does so at considerable risk to our national security,” CNA’s Military Advisory Board wrote in a report released Tuesday.

The report has been in the works since 2015, but its release comes after President Trump decided last week to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, which others have warned hinders U.S. leadership and national security.

In an interview with The Hill, three of the report’s authors resisted comparisons of their findings and recommendations to arguments against withdrawing from the Paris agreement.

“We started this report before Paris occurred,” retired Capt. Captain Leo Goff said. “It looks at trends over the last 15 years, and our projections are for a decade or two to three. We think this transcends Paris and administrations and is really for a longer view.”

In the report, which the board will brief administration defense and security officials on Tuesday, the retired officers said rising energy demands will change the geopolitical landscape.

So far, the report argues, the United States has not stepped up to be a leader on what the report terms “advanced energy,” which it defines as nuclear, hydro, renewable or alternative power.

“The reality is that the U.S. is falling behind,” the report says.

The United States has fallen behind China and the European Union, said retired Vice Adm. Lee Gunn, adding, “We don’t think that’s where we should continue to be.”

Leading would help the United States maintain its competitive advantage against countries such as China and Iran, the report adds.

Further, using advanced energy in the U.S. military could help with effectiveness, reliability and cost, the report argues.

“The military’s philosophy on employing advanced energy technologies is simple: Use them when they improve the effectiveness or resiliency of military operations,” the retired officers wrote. “Advanced energy systems can accomplish this for our warfighters in forward operations and installations by lowering vulnerable logistical requirements, extending missions by reducing the need for fuel resupply, and lowering the number of combat forces needed to protect fuel supplies.”

The report recommends the United States take a leadership role in the transition to advanced energy, that the government create a comprehensive energy plan and that the national defense strategy includes the national security challenges of a changing energy landscape, among other recommendations.

It also recommends the Pentagon “identify, embrace and deploy” such technologies where they improve military effectiveness.

The authors expressed confidence it will be received well “on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue.” 

“If it’s anything like previous reports, I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised,” said retired Lt. Gen. Richard Zilmer. “We’ve been very happy in the past with where our reports ended up, and with this report, we think it’ll do the same as its predecessors.”

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