Q&A with Katherine Hammack

Illustration by Melissa McGill

The Honorable Katherine Hammack was appointed the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment (ASA IE&E) by President Obama on June 28, 2010. She is the primary advisor to the Secretary of the Army and Chief of Staff of the Army on all Army matters related to installation policy, oversight, and coordination of energy security and management.

Q.What are some of your responsibilities in your role with the U.S. Army?
As the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, I am responsible for policy and oversight of sustainability and environmental initiatives; resource management, including design, military construction, operations, and maintenance; base realignment and closure (BRAC); privatization of Army family housing, lodging, real estate, and utilities; and the Army’s installations safety and occupational health programs.

Q.What has been your greatest achievement in your 5 years in this position?
I am proud to lead a team to establish the Army’s Net Zero program, publish a comprehensive Energy Security and Sustainability Strategy and create the Office of Energy Initiatives (OEI).

The Net Zero Strategy is the cornerstone of the Army strategy for sustainability and energy security. This strategy is based on the principles of integrated design, which will ensure the Army of tomorrow has the same access to energy, water, land, and natural resources as the Army of today. The Net Zero approach consists of five interrelated steps: reduction, re-purpose, recycling and composting, energy recovery, and disposal. The approach has been adapted to each of the three Net Zero focus areas of energy, water, and waste. Net Zero Energy Installations reduce overall energy use, maximize efficiency, implement energy recovery and cogeneration opportunities, and then offset the remaining demand with the production of renewable energy from onsite sources.

Building on what the Army has learned from Net Zero, in May 2015 we published a comprehensive Energy Security and Sustainability (ES2) Strategy that provides strategic direction for efficient and effective use of our critical resources. The ES2 Vision is a clear guide to our future— “A ready and resilient Army strengthened by secure access to the energy, water, and land resources in order to preserve future choice in a rapidly changing world.”

Q.What are some of your greatest obstacles?
One of the biggest obstacles we face is the fact that funding levels are not keeping pace with the reality of the strategic environment and increasing world threats. The 2016 budget approved by Congress is much less than our budget in 2013. As a result, the Army has had to accept significant risk by reducing manpower and minimizing, delaying, or deferring modernization programs and infrastructure sustainment. The 2017 funding levels may be reduced again, which would result in a dramatic decrease in our infrastructure modernization and construction, as well as a deferral of key modernization programs.

Q.What are some of the technology and sustainable practices the U. S. Army has been able to employ in the past few years?
Starting with the simple, the Army has worked diligently to implement the latest lighting technologies. From using LED lighting in warehouse, manufacturing and exterior applications we not only significantly reduce our energy costs, but since they have a much longer life, we also reduce our maintenance labor costs.

We require all new construction to be Leadeship in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. This has resulted in almost 800 buildings being certified, with associated energy, water, and waste reductions.

Our potable water consumption has been reduced by 9,877 million gallons in the last 5 years. This has been achieved through technologies such as ultrasonic leak detection, recycling water in vehicle wash stations, rain water harvesting, water-saving fixture and equipment upgrades.

The Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security (SPIDERS) Program was initiated to test and demonstrate microgrid and control system capabilities that could provide resiliency to critical assets from electrical commercial power loss.

As the owner of the largest fleet of vehicles in the world, the Army is in a powerful position to promote new technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save energy. We are making great progress converting our fleet of non-tactical vehicles to become more fuel efficient. We are transitioning to electric vehicles, hybrids, and natural gas powered vehicles. We are also testing hydrogen, fuel cell and autonomous (driverless) vehicles.

Q.Can you share some stats on energy and water savings through these practices?
Since 2010 we have reduced our potable water use intensity consumption by 18.6 percent, which exceeded our expectations, and is timely considering the drought conditions faced in much of the United States. We have decreased our total energy consumption by 8.2 percent, during a period when we had more soldiers in home station as we wound down operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Petroleum consumption in our non-tactical fleet has been reduced by 38.9 percent since 2010 as we focused our efforts on more efficient vehicles. All of these savings have contributed to a more resilient Army.

Q.Tell us about the 1GW project and what its goals are.
As the single largest consumer of energy in the U.S., the entire Department of Defense (DoD) has embarked on an ambitious program of expanded renewable energy generation on our installations and in the field. Renewable energy is not just a “policy objective” for the Army, but an “operational imperative.” The deployable and decentralized energy production possibilities offered by renewable sources, and by enabling technologies like microgrids, have tremendous implications for the safety, security and effectiveness of our Soldiers. Renewable energy and efficiency improvements can increase warfighter capability, enhance the energy security of our installations, and cut operational and base energy costs.

The Army made a commitment to the President to deploy 1 GW of renewable energy from projects installed on Army installations. The Army will not spend tax-payers dollars to construct, own, or operate these systems. Instead, we will provide the land and purchase only the energy produced. We are using a variety of long-term power purchase agreements (up to 30 years), to ensure that we have predictable energy costs and assured access to power. Many technologies are being evaluated including solar, wind, biomass and geothermal.