Hagel resigns as US Defense Secretary

November 24, 2014 |

Who’s on the short list to succeed the embattled Nebraska Republican, and what does that mean for Advanced Biofuels?

In Washington, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel resigned this morning, describing his tenure as “the greatest privilege of my life”, while President Barack Obama did not indicate a prospective nominee as Hagel’s successor.

Names that have immediately cropped up on the short list are Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed, CNAS CEO and former Defense Under Secretary Michele Flournoy, and former Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter.

How do the candidates view advanced biofuels — what could the community expect from a new Secretary.

The Good News: Support for the Navy’s advanced biofuels program varies within the Pentagon, but it’s generally just that: a Navy program, in terms of deployment. The Air Force undertakes extensive R&D but has not advanced any plans to utilize advanced biofuels yet in operational energy supply.

Consequently, it matters more at this stage how the Navy Secretary, Ray Mabus, looks at alternative fuels — and it’s one of his primary issues.

The Bad News: All change involves a re-education period and adjustment of priorities.

Jack Reed. Senator from Rhode Island

Why he may not be the one. Reed issued this statement today: “Senator Reed loves his job and wants to continue serving the people of Rhode Island in the United States senate. He has made it very clear that he does not wish to be considered for secretary of defense or any other Cabinet position. He just asked the people of Rhode Island to hire him for another six-year term and plans to honor that commitment.”

On the record for biofuels. Senator Reed, in January, was one of 31 Senators who wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on the RFS. The letter in part stated:

Congress passed the RFS to increase the amount of renewable fuel utilized in our nation’s fuel supply. The Administration’s proposal is a significant step backward – undermining the goal of increasing biofuels production as a domestic alternative to foreign oil consumption. If the rule as proposed were adopted, it will Replace domestic biofuel production with fossil fuels, contributing to a greater dependence on foreign sources of oil and reduce our energy security.

Former Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter

Why he may be the one. Foreign policy.com reports: “As much as Hagel relied on Carter’s undisputed expertise navigating the massive defense bureaucracy, Hagel has wanted to make his own mark on the department — and with his own people. It was in fact Carter’s deep institutional knowledge — and the fact that Carter was passed over for the top job — that contributed to the sense that there was little room for both men on the Pentagon’s E-Ring.”

On the record for biofuels. At the time of the 2012 fight over the Navy’s advanced biofuels program, then Deputy Defense Secretary Carter commented, after the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to restrict the program (before a floor vote that re-cleared the way), “Obviously, we asked for the freedom [to implement the program],” he said. “It would have been good if we had the freedom to do that.” Cater added that the military was justified in paying “first adopter” prices for technologies that contributed to military readiness.

Former Deputy Defense Secretary Michele Flournoy

Why she may be the one. Currently she is CEO of the Center for a New American Security, which she co-founded in 2007. She was principal policy advisor to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta from February 2009 to February 2012, and served President Clinton as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Threat Reduction and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy.

On the record for biofuels. A few years back, CNAS released a 36-page study entitled Fueling the Future Force: Preparing the Department of Defense for a Post-Petroleum Era. The authors suggest that DOD should ensure that it can operate all of its systems on non-petroleum fuels by 2040. The report also offers 12 guiding principles that will help DOD as it develops a comprehensive long-term energy strategy.

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