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Air Force demonstrates defense-wide leadership through energy resilience readiness exercises

  • Published
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The Department of the Air Force recently conducted its first regional energy resilience readiness exercise across three geographically proximate installations — Schriever, Buckley, and Peterson Space Force Bases in Colorado — to simulate the potential complexities of a widespread electricity outage. Thanks to this accomplishment, the Department of Defense has now conducted 10 ERREs since fiscal year 2020.

ERREs are helping the DAF address challenges brought about by asymmetric threats to enabling systems like energy and water, changes to the global climate, and increasing complexity and interdependency of missions and infrastructure. The exercises help installations ensure mission continuity by testing the impacts of a disruption in commercial electricity to the installation, such as would occur in a natural disaster. Under this controlled environment, complications can be more easily mitigated before an actual unplanned disruption occurs.

“ERREs simulate the impact of an event that cuts electrical power to an installation so that we can better prepare for, fight through, and recover from an energy disruption,” explained Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety and Infrastructure Nancy Balkus. “These exercises not only uncover resilience gaps and hidden infrastructure interdependencies, but also help us prioritize future investment decisions to be better prepared to deliver power when and where needed to protect our nation, our values, and our interests,” she added.

SAF/IEE has worked tirelessly to establish ERREs as a cornerstone of both mission and energy assurance efforts across the enterprise and to solidify the DAF as a resilience leader within the DoD. The DAF holds the distinguished honor of conducting the DoD’s first joint base ERRE at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, the DoD’s first simultaneous multi-installation ERRE at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio and Springfield-Beckley Air National Guard Base, Ohio, and the DoD’s first Control Systems Resilience Readiness Exercise at Wright-Patterson AFB.

The DAF has developed a set of guiding criteria to ensure exercises provide an accurate test of mission capabilities. Outage exercises are base-wide, conducted during periods of peak electrical demand, and disconnect the installation from its primary power source for 12 hours. Prior notification of the exercise, including details such as the date and time, are kept on a “need-to-know” basis to preserve the authenticity of the outage event.

ERREs are already producing valuable information as to where the DAF can improve installation energy assurance. ERREs have revealed key insights and findings around communications plans and protocols, backup generation, and safety system preparedness for power outage.

Using these insights, the DAF began organizing monthly collaboration meetings with the Department of the Army and Navy to discuss ERREs across the services in FY22. These discussions provide a venue for the services to share lessons learned and best practices, develop policy and guidance, and collaborate around program structure.

SAF/IEE continues to build upon the momentum from the past two years to solidify ERREs as part of DAF’s broader readiness posture. In June, Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, successfully completed an approximately 12-hour ERRE across its multiple geographically separate facilities, which included more than 43 mission partners. By the end of the fiscal year, the DAF will also help lead the first ERRE at an Air Force Reserve base. Looking ahead, the DAF will continue to execute five ERREs per year through at least FY27 in accordance with the requirement in 10 USC §2920 and with a focus on mission priority installations. And, by FY 2024, execution of the ERRE program will fully transition from SAF/IEE to Air Force Civil Engineers Directorate.