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Lt. Gen. Norman R. Seip

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Operation Free: Our Military Should Not Be Dependent on Foreign Oil

Posted: 07/12/2012 8:30 am

The United States military has always served as a force for American innovation in its mission to keep America safe. That's why I am proud that the military is leading the way in developing new technologies to reduce its demand for oil.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has made it a top priority to diversify the Navy's energy portfolio by engaging in biofuels testing programs. Doing so will decrease the Navy's dependence on oil and strengthen our national security.

Next week in the Pacific Ocean, more than 25,000 American sailors and Marines will conduct one of the largest naval war games ever held. Along with grueling training under combat conditions, this will be an important test for critical new military technology: the fuel for the exercise itself. The Navy pilots will fly the world's most advanced combat aircraft up to twice the speed of sound -- powered by an American-made biofuel blend made from algae and recycled cooking oil.

Unfortunately, some members of Congress oppose these efforts. Rather than supporting the judgments of our military leaders who believe our dependence on oil poses a strategic threat to our national security, they want to shut the door on prudent measures that will reduce our dependence on oil and save lives.

These attempts to derail the military's efforts are short-sighted and dangerous. As a former Commander in the Air Force and a veteran of the Iraq War, I have seen firsthand how our energy use impacts America's security.

We send a billion dollars a day overseas for oil. A dangerous amount of that money is funneled through front groups and fake charities to extremists who attack our troops. And because our tremendous demand for oil drives up the price everywhere, even countries we refuse to buy oil from, like Iran, make a profit. They use those profits to strengthen their military and fund nuclear programs.

The Department of Defense has also stated that climate change poses a threat, destabilizing weak and failed states -- the breeding grounds and safe havens for terrorist organizations like al Qaeda.

We can no longer rely on oil as the sole fuel source for the military. That is why I am a proud member of Operation Free, a nationwide coalition of veterans who recognize that oil dependence and climate change pose serious threats to our national security, and are dedicated to securing America through clean sources of energy. We believe that creating a robust, domestic supply chain for alternative fuels will reduce the military's reliance on a source of fuel whose supply chain could be cut off or disrupted.

By taking steps to reduce our dependence on oil, we not only defund America's enemies, but we keep money here at home and defend our economy from volatile price shocks.

Throughout American history, the ongoing innovations of the military have ensured it remains the most powerful fighting force in the history of the world. Advanced biofuels can be the next success story, freeing our 21st-century military from the shackles of a 20th-century source of fuel.

In the last few years, the cost of advanced military biofuels has dropped more than 80 percent. As the military and private consumers purchase greater volumes of these fuels, their price will be driven even lower. In fact, the Navy calculates its investments will make advanced biofuels cost-competitive with petroleum by 2020.

Energy security is national security. So long as we must depend on other nations to fuel our ships, tanks, and jets, we will remain vulnerable.

Security should not be a left or right issue. Congress should be encouraging the military to pursue initiatives that have the potential to positively transform our country's forces, not trying to slow them down. On behalf of the veterans of Operation Free, I call on Congress to support the Department of Defense as it protects the security of the United States by continuing to invest in clean, domestic, renewable sources of energy.

Lt. Gen. Norman R. Seip is former Commander, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern), Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. where he was responsible for the operational readiness of 12th Air Force-gained wings of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, including an additional 18,800 personnel and more than 200 aircraft. He is also a surrogate for the energy security campaign Operation Free, a bi-partisan coalition of veterans from across the country.

 
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