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Navy Sinks Obama-Era Green Destroyer Program

May 4, 2018

Citing high costs and ineffectiveness, the U.S. Navy is cancelling a plan developed under former President Barack Obama to install hybrid electric drives in 34 destroyers.

The U.S. Navy is cancelling a plan developed under former President Barack Obama to install hybrid electric drives (HED) in 34 destroyers.

“Based on the Department’s priorities, President’s Budget 2019 removes funding for Hybrid Electric Drive program in FY 2019,” Lt. Lauren Chatmas said in a statement announcing the decision. “There are no further procurements or installations planned … in the Future Years Defense Program.”

Chatmas cited the program's disappointing fuel efficiency and the Navy’s budgetary constraints among reasons for the decision.

The USS Truxtun is the sole guided missile destroyer outfitted with a hybrid electric drive.

Zeroing Out Funding

The HED program has been significantly scaled back already.

According to the March 8 issue of Defense News, the Navy estimated the cost of the program at $356.25 million in fiscal year 2017. The Navy requested just $6.3 million for the program in 2018 and zeroed out all funding for 2019 and beyond.

Destroyers are energy-intensive, and the Navy found the ships’ extraordinary demand for power put heavy strains on the HEDs.

Every destroyer has three generators, two of which are always in operation, with a third on standby. The Navy’s HED was designed to switch power to the drive shaft, which turns the ship’s propellers, from the main gas turbine motors to an electrical generator at speeds below 13 knots. At those speeds, HED destroyers could undertake normal night operations, ballistic missile defense, and anti-submarine operations, but could not keep up with faster aircraft carriers.

Intense Electrical Load

When the Truxtun’s HED system was engaged, its electric power capacity maxed out, threatening to short-circuit the ship if demand for power increased by even a small amount.

When the Navy tested the HED system at sea, the service also discovered Truxtun’s hybrid system was less fuel-efficient than expected.

The HED program was part of a larger effort launched during the Obama administration to create a “Great Green Fleet.” Among other programs, the initiative included greater use of biofuels to propel U.S. warships. Like the HED program, the Navy’s biofuels initiative has been plagued with problems, including the fact biofuels have proven to be much more expensive and less efficient than conventional fuels.           

‘Inefficient and Dangerous Program’

Jay Lehr, science director at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News, says the green fleet initiative was a sop to environmentalists that placed servicemen’s and -women’s lives at risk.

“Lives are at stake at sea and at home, making the ‘Green Navy’ initiative among the most outrageously insane programs President Obama imposed in an effort to pander to his green base,” Lehr said. “The near-total cancellation of this inefficient and dangerous program is another way station toward bringing our government back to a position of intelligent management at every level.

“If rich progressives want to waste their money on electric cars, that’s fine, but endangering peoples’ lives with expensive, undependable energy technology in the military is a scandal,” said Lehr.

‘Much Safer Now’

James M. Taylor, president of the Spark of Freedom Foundation, says the Obama administration’s pursuit of green policies undermined U.S. national security.

“The Obama administration imposed an avalanche of renewable fuel mandates on the military, squandering scarce national defense resources on ineffective technologies in pursuit of politically correct green ideology,” Taylor said. “The ‘green’ fuel requirements imposed on the U.S. Navy are typical of how the environmental left demands adherence to extremist environmental ideology at the expense of America’s national security and our service members’ lives.

“Similar to the renewable fuel mandates imposed on the U.S. Navy, the Obama White House forced the Veterans Administration to spend billions of dollars on wasteful solar power projects while America’s disabled former soldiers died waiting for basic healthcare,” said Taylor. “Our country is much safer now that some of these mandates are being rolled back under the current administration. Green ideology should never trump American national security and America’s heroic service members’ lives.”

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D. (bcohen@nationalcenter.org) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.

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Author
Bonner R. Cohen is a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, a position he has held since 2002.
bcohen@nationalcenter.org