Greener bases depend on future BRAC rounds

Thursday - 5/24/2012, 12:48pm EDT

Dr. Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary for installations and environment, DoD

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With more than 300,000 buildings and 2 billion square feet of building space, the Defense Department is looking for ways to consolidate space and energy use by shifting to greener, more walkable military bases.

But the creation of these sustainable installations will be largely dependent on future base realignment and closures or BRAC, said Dr. Dorothy Robyn, the department's deputy undersecretary for installations and environment.

"We are much more limited in what we can do without a BRAC," she said.

The Pentagon has requested two additional rounds of BRAC in 2013 and 2015. In March, Robyn testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee.

Dr. Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary for installations and environment (DoD photo)

"Absent a process for closing and realigning bases, the Department will be locked in a status quo configuration that does not match its evolving force structure, doctrine and technology," according to Robyn's testimony.

Last week the House passed a $640 billion Defense authorization bill for fiscal 2013 that did not include base closures. The Senate has yet to pass its version of the bill.

Greener is more secure

Even without BRAC, DoD will continue to push efforts to use more renewable energy and to be less reliant on commercial energy, Robyn said.

Currently, most of the department's energy comes from the commercial power grid. Renewable energy — along with micro-grids on the bases — would cut down on DoD's dependence on the grid, she said.

"We are carrying out critical missions on our installations," Robyn said. "If the grid gets disrupted ... we want to be able to continue those critical missions for weeks or potentially longer."

DoD is also building more energy-efficient buildings. For example, new construction incorporates the use of natural sunlight with narrower wings.

The department is taking a "back to the future" approach by returning to the military bases of the early 1900s — buildings are closer together, so people can walk or bike from building to building. Currently, most installations require an automobile to get from one point to another, Robyn said.

These changes are rooted in overall "master planning" to incorporate green design and energy use into DoD's bases, Robyn said.

"With this philosophy, bases can begin to think long-term in this different way," she said. "This will certainly not happen overnight. We're talking about a change that will take decades to have a major impact, if and when we get another base realignment and closure round, which we're hoping to do."