Ensuring America's Freedom of Movement: A National Security Imperative to Reduce U.S. Oil Dependence

In 2006, CNA Corporation brought together 11 recently retired three and four-star generals and admirals to form a Military Advisory Board (MAB), with the goal of examining the national security implications of climate change. Over the last five years, the MAB has published three reports on the nexus of energy, climate, and national security. In this report, the MAB focuses on the national security implications associated with shifting the U.S. transportation sector to alternative fuels.

Discussions of energy are discussions of national security. One directly affects the other. The MAB's previous reports have made clear the deep connections between energy, the economy, climate change, and security. In this report, the MAB narrows in on one aspect of U.S. energy posture—our heavy reliance on oil, especially imported oil—and calls for immediate and aggressive actions to move our transportation sector away from oil and toward alternative, domestically produced sources of energy in order to improve our national security posture.

Findings

  • America’s dependence on oil constitutes a significant national security threat.
  • A 30 percent reduction in our use of petroleum would significantly improve our national security.
  • We can achieve a significant portion of a 30 percent reduction through greater efficiency in how we use oil.
  • There are many promising alternatives to oil as a transport fuel—some available today, others on the horizon. If managed properly, all of the most promising alternative fuels examined can lower overall national security risks rather than continuing our overreliance on oil as a singular fuel source.

Recommendations

  • To assure our national security, government must take action to promote the use of a more diverse mix of transportation fuels and to drive wider public acceptance of these alternatives.
  • In the immediate future, our nation’s leaders must develop a comprehensive energy roadmap or strategic plan to enable consistent and strategic energy policies and investments.
  • The U.S. must take swift and aggressive action to reduce our use of oil.
  • The Department of Defense should continue to be a leader in advancing alternative transportation fuels while balancing mission effectiveness and overall efficiency. DOD must be provided the necessary resources so innovation and experimentation with alternative fuels is not traded for military capability and capacity. DOD should be provided with the necessary authority to establish long-term alternative fuel contracts as a way to assure markets and lower the alternative fuel price.