In 2010, the U.S. Air Force adopted the motto “Aim High…Fly-Fight-Win,” a fitting phrase that embodies the service’s enduring commitment to excellence in the air defense of our nation.
Kevin Geiss, the Air Force’s deputy assistant secretary for energy, is likewise committed, but to an even more expansive mission. His goal is to see America’s airmen fly, fight and win in an environment that has reliable sources of energy and that places a new emphasis on conservation, alternative fuels and reducing costs.
To reach these goals, Geiss stood up an Air Force energy office, crafted a strategic plan, began preaching a new way of thinking throughout the service and boldly implemented a series of highly successful energy reforms. These changes have saved more than $1 billion by reducing fuel use by millions of gallons, and have resulted in conservation initiatives that have lowered installation utility costs.
“No single individual has had more influence and impact in improving the department’s energy posture than Kevin Geiss,” said Kathleen Ferguson, the Air Force’s acting assistant secretary for installations, environment and logistics. “He has helped make the Air Force more energy secure and energy independent, and better able to deal with the constantly rising price of fuel.”
The Air Force is the largest single consumer of energy in the federal government, spending more than $9 billion on fuel and electricity in fiscal 2012. The energy bill constituted more than 8 percent of the Air Force budget last year.
Under Geiss’ leadership, the Air Force has been recognized as the Pentagon’s top green energy user purchasing 5.5 percent of its total energy usage from renewable sources.
Although energy prices keep rising and costs have increased, the initiatives instituted by Geiss surpassed the Air Force goal of lowering fuel consumption by 10 percent by 2015, achieving a 12 percent reduction in 2012—almost $1.2 billion in avoided costs—compared to 2006. His efforts also led to lowered energy consumption at Air Force facilities in 2012, avoiding $300 million in utility costs compared to 2003.
In addition, the Air Force has achieved 51 megawatts of renewable energy generation at 56 installations and instituted a program to reduce extra fuel carried by transport aircraft, while maintaining safety standards, resulting in annual savings of five million gallons of fuel a year.
Geiss has championed alternative fuels, including the certification of the entire Air Force fleet for unrestricted operations using 50/50 blends of traditional military jet fuel and synthetic jet fuel derived from renewable biomass. He also presided over the first-ever test of an aircraft using next-generation cellulosic ethanol, another biomass fuel.
“Kevin has the big picture in mind,” said Ben Steinberg of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “He has gotten the Air Force to begin thinking about the importance of energy to its operations and how by maximizing energy use, it can better accomplish its mission at lower cost.”
Geiss said he has faced many challenges in meeting and exceeding the Air Force’s energy goals, including trying to do long-term planning with a budget process that is short-term in nature, and dealing with a culture in which airmen assume there will always be plenty of fuel regardless of the cost.
But Geiss said it is imperative that the Air Force saves money and energy while accomplishing its national security mission.
“Energy is part of everything we do at the Air Force,” said Geiss. “There is also a great cost to it, whether it’s delivering fuel in theater or using it for training. But a dollar saved on fuel can be spent on other important needs.”