Air Force leaders, like many public-sector managers, must strive to introduce innovative alternative energy systems while encouraging cost-effectiveness and systematic learning. Education and hands-on experience are key ingredients to evaluating and implementing public-sector alternative energy programs. As educators of future U.S. Air Force (USAF) leaders and public managers, we are challenged to introduce students to new ways of thinking about balancing governmental initiatives and constituent demands for cost-effective management programs. This is certainly the case with the new governmental emphasis on alternative solutions to energy and transportation challenges.
This article offers insights into the importance of new energy solutions for USAF leaders and managers and details on the USAF synthetic fuels programs. It closes with a case study of how we are using a biodiesel energy project in one of our courses to help cadets prepare for management challenges they may face on active duty when making decisions about the use of alternative energy solutions.
Fueling the Fight
Recognizing and addressing energy's impact on the basic transportation needs of our citizens have been the focus of recent administrations, but nowhere are the potential negative impacts as keenly felt, or as closely monitored, as they are in the daily operations of the USAF Efficient transportation of material, people, and other resources is a key factor in any military campaign. The adage that "an army moves on its stomach" is as true today as it was when Napoleon Bonaparte allegedly said it more than two hundred years ago. Leveraging alternative fuels is an exceptional opportunity for the USAF to address one of the most significant issues it faces as it strives to improve its transportation and logistics. Effectively managing the availability and cost of fuel, or aptly put, "fueling the fight," could dictate ultimate success or failure on the battle field.
The USAF has become particularly sensitive to energy issues related to transportation as the landscape of global conflict has been transformed over the last few years from a two-superpower standoff to the multi-theater unconventional environment, which involves overseas contingency operations (OCO) such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. The USAF, while serving as a frontline combatant and a key link in the logistics chain of an increasingly agile and multifront warfighting machine, has become the nation's single largest user of petroleum products. It consumes about 7 million gallons of aviation fuel each day (2.5 billion gallons per year) at a …