Seminar - 07242013

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Looking Beyond Policy and Tactics:
The Strategic Implications of Energy

July 24, 2013
Glasgow Hall 102

CAPT Wayne Porter

Chair, Systemic Strategy and Complexity
Naval Postgraduate School 


At the beginning of this century, we Americans find ourselves at an inflexion point in history, facing a complex and uncertain strategic environment characterized by increasing market and cultural interdependence and competition for finite resources energy, minerals, food, and water. This is a point Michael Klare stresses in his new book, “The Race for What’s Left.” But perhaps more significantly, I believe we are at a Darwinian moment for civilization, one that is full of opportunity if we have the wherewithal and determination to seize it by adapting to our changing environment. In essence, we are outliving the usefulness of carbon-based fuels as an engine for the global economy, and we need to seek a more sustainable model of economic growth. It is as if we are breathlessly racing the rest of the world for the last pack of cigarettes, with little regard for the longer term consequences of that addiction.  America’s continued credibility as a global leader hinges on our willingness to accept the challenge of creating a new model of prosperity and security in an interconnected world.

A few months ago I was invited by the environmental group, E3G, in London, to accompany a small delegation from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Center for Naval Analysis on a “road show” in northern Europe to discuss issues of environmental and energy security with interested political, military and academic groups. Our meetings included discussions with German and European Union Parliamentarians and think tank representatives in Berlin, with civilian and military NATO and EU representatives in Brussels, and with high-level, international participants in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office-hosted “Climate Security in the 21st Century” conference at Lancaster House in London. More recently, I moderated the Global Conference on Oceans, Climate and Security in Boston at the University of Massachusetts Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, accepted an award and delivered an inspiring address at this event.

I found these events both encouraging and distressing.

In both the meetings in Europe and the discussions in Boston, I was encouraged by the level of concern expressed in the need to address the phenomena of environmental and meteorological changes that are impacting our planet perhaps not an unexpected perspective from this select group of participants. But I was also struck by the apparent lack of awareness that climatological change and diminishing resources through increasing fuel prices, failing agricultural policies, and water scarcity have already manifested themselves in virtually every aspect of our strategic environment, and that “climate change,” or perhaps more accurately, anthropogenic atmospheric and environmental change, is only an effect of a larger problem, rather than the cause of these manifestations. Finally, I was distressed by the apparent hyper-focus on security concerns and the threat they represent. Little regard was given, for example, to opportunities to address what many consider to be the underlying cause of these conditions and manifestations.

Throughout the course of our history, Americans have excelled across the spectrum of human endeavor through fair competition, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. But we should not lose sight that the key ingredients of this legacy were hard work and self-confidence. In a world whose population may reach nine billion by 2050, we must demonstrate our exceptionalism by forging a path to sustainable economic growth and security. It’s time we retool the education and job training needed to create a new model of growth, one based on clean and renewable (and reusable) resources: energy in addition to food, water and minerals. Darwin stressed the importance of adaptation and strength gained through competition. As a species we need to evolve along with our environment. For those with vision, this represents an opportunity rather than a threat.  For instance, why not explore the development of industrial clusters in the United States to serve as centers for international investment and cooperation in leading edge technologies and manufacturing associated with clean, renewable energy, sustainable agricultural and aquaculture development, scrap metal recycling, and water treatment and management? I am currently involved with a project in Salinas, California that is attempting to do just that.

With strong and visionary leadership, Americans can prove the efficacy of the values and free market ideology upon which our nation was founded. I am proud of the supporting role the Department of Defense is playing in the pursuit of cleaner, sustainable sources of energy and energy efficiency. But this transformation cannot, and should not be, a military-led effort. The reinvigoration of our economy and manufacturing base as well as the awareness that fair competition can result in multiple winners, rather than a single winner and multiple losers must confidently begin within our free market system. We need to engage American citizens in an honest dialogue that focuses on the challenges and opportunities of today’s strategic environment and encourage them to generate a new, sustainable legacy of greatness. 

* The views expressed are those of the author and do not represent the official views or policy of the Department of Defense or the Naval Postgraduate School.


CAPT Porter was born in Fullerton, California and graduated from the University of Southern California. CAPT Porter holds two Masters of Science degrees (Computer Science, Joint C4I Systems Technology) from the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. 

CAPT Porter’s tours and assignments have included Fleet Ocean Surveillance Intelligence Center, Europe (FOSICEUR) in London; British nuclear submarine HMS TORBAY (SSN-16); USS BLUE RIDGE (LCC-19), Yokosuka, Japan; Reserve Intelligence Program Office TEN (Minneapolis, MN); Naval Postgraduate School; Joint Analysis Center, Molesworth, England; Regional Headquarters South (RHQ SOUTH), Naples, Italy; Commander Naval Forces Europe/Commander SIXTH FLEET (COMNAVEUR/C6F), Naples, Italy; Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO); Commander Naval Forces Central Command/Commander FIFTH FLEET (COMNAVCENT/C5F), Manama, Bahrain; Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (OCJCS); and, Chair for Systemic Strategy and Complexity at Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey California. 

Three of CAPT Porter’s last four tours were on the staff of ADM Mike Mullen. During ADM Mullen’s time as Commander, NATO Forces South, CAPT Porter served as his Director, Operational Net Assessment. When ADM Mullen transitioned to Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) in 2005, he assigned CAPT Porter to the CNO’s personal staff as Director, Strategic Actions Group (N00Z). CAPT Porter’s next assignment (2007–2008) was as Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence - N2, for Commander Naval Forces Central Command/ Commander, FIFTH FLEET in Manama, Bahrain, additionally serving as the Deputy Director, Maritime Operations Center. CAPT Porter was most recently assigned (2008 - 2011) to the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, serving as a Special Assistant to the Chairman for Strategy. He has now been assigned by the Secretary of Defense to establish a Chair for Systemic Strategy and Complexity at Naval Postgraduate School, where he plans to pursue his PhD.

CAPT Porter’s civilian and military awards include the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the Defense Superior Service Medal, three Legions of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Meritorious Service Medal, and the NATO Meritorious Service Medal. He co-authored, with Colonel Mark Mykleby, “A National Strategic Narrative,” published by the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and subsequently cited in numerous journals, televised editorials and radio interviews. Porter has had articles published in the Harvard Business Review, Journal of American Foreign Policy Interests, The HotSpring Quarterly, Washington Times, Columbia University Journal of Conflict Management, Monterey County Farm Journal, Naval Institute Proceedings, and the 8th Euromicro Workshop on Parallel and Distributed Processing. In 2001 CAPT Porter was awarded the Vice Admiral Rufus B. Taylor Award for Professional Excellence in Intelligence for his work in southern Serbia. 

CAPT Porter is married to the former Kathleen Conroy of Willingboro, New Jersey. He and “Kate” have three children: Shannon, Keegan, and Ryan. Keegan is a former Captain in the United States Marine Corps.


Dr. Daniel A. Nussbaum
Naval Postgraduate School 
Principal, Energy Academic Group
Monterey CA 93943
Phone: 831-656-2387
Mobile: 831-324-3228

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