On January 6, former Secretary of Defense Gates stated that the military services had identified “savings that totaled approximately $100 billion over five years.” Among the now well-known efficiency savings was a proposal by the Air Force that would allow it to save “$500 million by reducing fuel and energy consumption within the Air Mobility Command (AMC).”
The Air Force accounts for 64% of the armed forces’ fuel costs, and 84% of that is utilized for aviation purposes (see p. 4 for synopsis of Air Force Energy Use), which is mostly managed by AMC, so fuel efficiencies could theoretically lead to large savings.
AMC concluded this February during the AMC Fuel Efficiency Office’s inaugural conference that it had saved $83 million in fuel costs since 2008. It has projected that it could achieve, with currently identified initiatives, “a total yearly reduction of 116.4 million gallons at a cost avoidance of $382.2 million.”
But this Tuesday Undersecretary of the Air Force Erin Conaton noted that rising fuel costs have significantly undercut the AMC’s intended efficiency savings:
We’re just going to have to watch the financial side of the equation…The Cost of fuel keeps going up, so even though we’re saving gallons, we’re not necessarily seeing that impact yet.
As The Will and the Wallet noted when the efficiencies were first announced, many of these savings—even when they are good ideas in and of themselves—may not actually help reduce the defense budget. Unfortunately, fuel costs are proving to be all too good an example of how illusory it is to try and cut the defense budget only with efficiency measures.