Cyberattacks, climate change and increasingly devastating storms and wildfires are just some of the growing threats facing the Army as it modernizes its 156 installations around the world.
Resilient, self-reliant installations that can withstand these attacks—from Mother Nature or America’s adversaries—and still provide energy and water are critical to the Army’s ability to project power, deploy and fight.
“The Army’s ability to accomplish its mission is dependent on resilient, uninterrupted access to energy,” said J.E. “Jack” Surash, senior official performing the duties of assistant Army secretary for installations, energy and environment. “Uninterrupted access to energy and water is essential for Army readiness and ensuring the Army can deploy, fight and win.”
This push by the Army is even more urgent in the face of recent threats, including the ransomware cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline in May as well as natural disasters, Surash said in August.
“There’s real examples of increasing threats that impact our installations and our infrastructure, frankly, all around the country,” Surash said.
To help guide its efforts, the Army in December 2020 published the Army Installations Strategy, which outlines how embracing sustainable technology will remain key to mission readiness. The strategy also details how efforts to modernize will “improve the quality of life for soldiers and families, combat climate change and deter would-be attacks by adversaries,” the Army said.
“Army installations exist within a natural environment increasingly characterized by the effects of climate change, extreme weather events, pandemics, and environmental degradation,” the strategy says. “Such conditions will require adaptation of existing infrastructure.”
The strategy also cites a DoD report that anticipates climate change could have a physical impact on Army installations and those who serve.
“Likely impacts that climate change will have on Army installations include damaged infrastructure (sea level rise, flooding, extreme weather, land degradation, wildfire), reduced access to training ranges, and/or loss of testing and training days … heat-related illnesses … increased energy and water demand (heat, drought) and loss of energy and water supply,” the report says.
Essential but Vulnerable
The Army Installations Strategy identifies electrical, water and communications systems on Army installations as “essential to mission success, but … vulnerable to natural and man-made disruptions creating a ‘weak link’ in the Army’s ability to generate strategic readiness.” The report goes on to say the Army will take action to make its key systems more robust.
As it works through these challenges, Army officials realize there is no one-size-fits-all solution, said Christine Ploschke, acting deputy assistant Army secretary for energy and sustainability. On-site power generation is “very dependent to what is available at a site,” Ploschke said.
The Army Installations Strategy aims to transform installations so they are ready for multidomain operations by 2035. Practically, this means hardening installations against any potential adversary action or attack.
Several Army posts are at the forefront of installation modernization, including Fort Hunter Liggett, California, and Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. These posts have been working to harden their energy systems for more than a decade, and they offer a glimpse into the future of modernization on Army installations.
Fort Hunter Liggett
A solar microgrid is just one project taken on by Fort Hunter Liggett, which Surash cited as an example of an Army installation that has implemented many modernization efforts.
“Before too long, Fort Hunter Liggett out of California will be 100% powered by solar. And in fact, it will be net-zero,” Surash said, meaning the installation will produce as much energy as it consumes. “So, if you ... look at the whole year out at Fort Hunter Liggett, once one remaining project is done, they will be net-zero. [In fact,] they will be producing, over the course of a year … more power than they consume.”
Fort Hunter Liggett has been modernizing and preventing utility disruptions for the past decade, said Jarrod Ross, the post’s resource efficiency manager. “One of the reasons that Fort Hunter Liggett gets brought up a lot in discussions is because we’ve already had a very forward-leaning program in order to try to accomplish what that directive set out to do, but we’ve been doing it for 10 years now,” Ross said.
He added, “About 12 years ago or so, personnel that were on-site recognized that being on a remote and isolated installation at the end of the electrical transmission system” made Fort Hunter Liggett a good match for power resilience efforts.
The remote nature of Fort Hunter Liggett, located 150 miles south of San Francisco in Monterey County, gives the Army a tactical advantage as constantly evolving adversary actions now include cyberattacks, said Maj. Christopher Lauff, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company at Fort Hunter Liggett.
“One of the things that we’re really trained for in a modern fight is being contested in a variety of areas, whether that’s being contested in maneuver or contested in communications. Given the remoteness of the area, it really allows us to exercise some analog capabilities that we may not have practiced during the global war on terrorism,” Lauff said. “Fort Hunter Liggett provides the space to operate in the full spectrum of military operations.”
The Schofield Generating Station power plant has also led the way in modernization efforts on Army installations.
“We’ve been working on energy, which affects climate change, ever since I’ve been doing this in 2000. We’ve executed large solar projects throughout the years, [energy] reduction projects, and the power plant became operational in 2018,” said Keith Yamanaka, U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii’s Directorate of Public Works energy division chief. “Simultaneously, we were executing large energy-reduction measures.”
While power generation on the island of Oahu previously was located along the coastline, making it susceptible to tsunamis, storm surges and other events, the Schofield Generating Station, built more centrally on Schofield Barracks, has natural protection.
“One of the main reasons we thought it would be a good idea to put the power plant up here at Schofield is that all the existing generation on the island is near the coastline, so they’re all susceptible to any motion event, tsunamis, storm surge flooding,” Yamanaka said. “Putting it up here at Schofield, which is in the middle of the island, one of the higher elevations, seemed like a big win for resilience for both the Army and the island.”
In a power outage, the Schofield Generating Station can operate independently and provide power to three installations for up to a week, Yamanaka said.
The Army’s close relationship with local partner Hawaiian Electric has made possible the success of the Schofield Generating Station, said Jack Shriver, Hawaiian Electric director of project development. Hawaii Army National Guard units located near the generating station offer an additional layer of readiness, and that has become a model for installations around the country.
“We have a very long-standing and close relationship with the Army, and we couldn’t ask for a better partnership there because we have shared goals,” Shriver said.
In exchange for a 35-year lease for the Schofield Generating Station project, Hawaiian Electric will restore power to the three installations within two hours, according to Hawaiian Electric.
“The terms of the agreement … make this project so unique,” Shriver said. “We become a model for other bases and other utilities across the country. We get calls all the time [from] people that are interested in finding out how we made it happen.”
The Schofield Generating Station is important to the Army’s readiness on the island, said Col. Dan Misigoy, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii.
“The Schofield Generating Station ensures Army readiness by providing reliable access to energy so we can sustain critical missions in the event of a major disruption in electricity,” he said. “In the event of an emergency where power is lost, Schofield Barracks and U.S. Army Hawaii can be back up and running in a matter of hours. This enables us to support the state of Hawaii if requested to provide defense support to civil authorities.”
National Security at Stake
By 2035, many more of the Army’s installations could have similar modernization measures such as those at Fort Hunter Liggett and Schofield Barracks. Ensuring installations are resilient and modernized is a matter of national security, Surash said.
“We need ready and resilient installations to ensure our soldiers are able to properly train and can deploy anywhere in the world,” Surash said. “In collaboration with our sister services, with utility companies, industry and other stakeholders, we’re working to secure the readiness and resilience of forces, functions and facilities in support of national security.”