Introducing the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Energy, Installations, and the Environment

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Mr. Edwin “Ed” Oshiba recently assumed the position of Deputy acting as Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Energy, Installations, and the Environment. In this role, Mr. Oshiba is responsible for overseeing the DAF’s Infrastructure Investment Strategy, energy optimization resilience initiatives, a vast environmental portfolio, safety and occupational health, strategic basing, and climate mitigation and resilience efforts.  

Mr. Oshiba took the time to answer our questions and provide insight into his Air Force career experiences and his vision for SAF/IE:

What is your background within the Department of the Air Force and how has it prepared you for your current role?

I’ve been in and around the installations business for the better part of 33 years—roughly a third at base-level and at deployed locations, a third here at Headquarters Air Force, and a third at a mixture of developmental and intermediate HQ assignments. My last assignment was in the Logistics and Sustainment community. That diverse mix of experiences has given me a multi-faceted view of installations, which informs policy recommendations and hopefully will result in better long-term enterprise decisions to support the DAF’s strategic priorities.

From your perspective, what roles do DAF installations play in enabling mission success?

Installations are foundational to Air Force and Space Force mission success. Every DAF mission starts and ends on an installation. Our Airmen and Guardians train and equip for joint operations, generate readiness, test new weapon systems, and provide safe and healthy communities at our Air Force and Space Force installations. Because DAF installations enable Joint Force mission success around the world, their readiness, resilience, and sustainability are matters of strategic importance.

What do you see as the greatest challenges facing the DAF regarding installation resilience and mission assurance?

The DAF operates at the nexus of complex challenges; competitive operating environments, turbulent economic conditions, adversarial cyber threats, and a changing geopolitical landscape all threaten our critical infrastructure, energy, and power supplies, and access to the global commons. Installations require a full range of resilient, cyber-secure, and sustainable energy and water solutions to meet the substantial needs of mission critical functions, and we are actively working to conserve energy and water to reduce demand where possible. Additionally, the growing effects of climate change pose new risks to DAF operations, readiness, installations, and facilities. We have experienced first-hand the impacts climate and severe weather can have on our installations and operations, and these impacts are only likely to worsen.

Why are installation energy and water resilience so important to the DAF?

Secure and reliable access to  energy and water enables the DAF to continue its operational and training missions. Natural hazards, water scarcity, and adversarial threats pose growing risks to water availability and prolonged power outages for installations and their surrounding communities. We are conducting Energy Resilience Readiness Exercises to help installations assess mission readiness during a controlled loss of power. We have also developed an Installation Water Dashboard for installations to streamline water data collection and reporting to help them determine their existing water vulnerabilities.

Your portfolio also covers DAF operational energy initiatives, including policy and guidance. Why is this crucial to our force?

Without fuel, there is no fight. Operational energy, or aviation fuel for the Air Force, is critical to our ability to deliver airpower – anywhere, anytime. Our goal is to enhance combat capability and mitigate operational risk to the warfighter through four key objectives: modernizing new and legacy aircraft with innovative energy solutions; upgrading aircraft sustainment technologies and processes; delivering 21st century software tools for streamlined planning; and addressing energy security and fuel logistics risk through wargaming and modeling and simulation. Our goal is to fly smarter, not less.

What are the DAF’s roles and responsibilities in tackling the climate crisis?

To be clear: The DAF’s mission is to fly, fight and win—any time, and anywhere. We remain focused on modernization and improving our operational posture relative to our pacing adversary. We remain ready to respond and achieve air and space dominance when and where we are needed.  Our mission remains the same, but we recognize that it takes place in a world facing inexorable and accelerating climate change, and we must be able to fight and win in that changing world.

Our role and our responsibility is to understand the challenges in accomplishing our mission presented by changing climates, and adapting our behavior, systems and infrastructure to mitigate the associated operational risks. This includes developing climate adaptation strategies for our existing infrastructure including power grids, fuel distribution systems, and water lines, and develop new resilient infrastructure so that we can continue to project combat power across the globe. It also includes educating our Total Force Airmen and Guardians on the mission impacts of climate change, and utilizing data to make climate-informed decisions. And, yes, it includes reducing future risk through maximizing operational and installation energy efficiency. Operational energy comprises 80% of total Air Force energy use, providing a tremendous opportunity to optimize Department of Defense energy consumption and model how the military can improve its warfighting capabilities, while meeting aggressive climate goals. We are enhancing our aviation fuel efficiency through improved aircraft drag reduction and engine sustainment technologies, process improvements, and advanced propulsion to ensure a ready and lethal force.

Our soon-to-be released comprehensive Climate Action Plan lays out our climate priorities and actionable goals to address the complex threat of climate change while meeting our national security imperatives.  

We recently celebrated Earth Day. What are some things the DAF is doing to help the environment?

As trustee for more than 8.3 million acres covering forests, prairies, deserts, wetlands, and coastal habitats, the DAF understands the important role natural resources play in maintaining our mission capability. If we do not preserve our natural infrastructure, we will not be able to continue our testing and training mission, maintain military readiness, nor fulfill our obligation as dedicated stewards of the natural environment.

The DAF prioritizes efficient clean energy technologies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, where possible, to limit our environmental footprint. Recently, the DAF announced a micro-reactor pilot project at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, and Zero Emissions Vehicle pilot programs at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. These pilot efforts demonstrate how the DAF is leaning forward and thinking big about how we can reduce the environmental impact of our operations..

Additionally, we are restoring and harnessing natural environments. We are exploring natural climate resilience measures such as submerged shoreline stabilization, living shorelines, oyster reefs, and marsh and seagrass enhancements at coastal installations such as Tyndall AFB, Eglin AFB, and MacDill AFB in Florida.

At our approximately 13,000 environmental restoration sites across active and closed installations we remain focused on meeting our cleanup obligations under federal cleanup laws and reducing threats to human health and the environment.  Specifically, we are addressing releases of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances attributable to our operations by prioritizing the health and safety of our Airmen, Guardians, civilian workers, and communities.

How have DAF energy, infrastructure, and environment programs been successful in the past, and how can they continue that momentum?

In recent years, the DAF has established numerous initiatives to bolster installation resilience and mission assurance. In 2019, the Department implemented a new Infrastructure Investment Strategy to cost-effectively modernize and restore infrastructure readiness, improve resilience, and drive innovation in installation management practices. This strategy empowers commanders and senior leaders to base investment decisions on mission risk and optimal lifecycle timing and informs our priority projects for fiscal years 2021-2025. Additionally, the DAF is utilizing Installation Energy Plans to establish a standardized framework that integrates strategic guidance, plans, and policies into a holistic roadmap for each installation to advance mission critical energy and water solutions. We can ensure the success of DAF environmental programs through continued implementation of DAF environmental management system, integrating risk management into mission, and activity planning processes.

Capitalizing on the Administration’s momentum on climate initiatives, we are updating DAF policies, projects, and assessments to ensure we are fully prepared to mitigate and respond to climate impacts on mission assurance so that we continue to fly, fight, and win in air, space, and cyberspace. 

What are three things you would like to accomplish as the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Energy, Installations, and the Environment?

There are really two primary items on my to-do list: (1) Ensuring resilient, optimized installations and energy for effective mission execution; and (2) Developing and retaining energy, installation and environmental experts with the diversity, talent and innovative spirit to solve the challenges of today and tomorrow with an enterprise-wide view. I’m confident we have what we need to deter and, if necessary, defeat any pacing adversary we may face because we have the one advantage our adversaries don’t—our people. We can never forget that, and must make it our overriding priority to cultivate this most valuable resource!