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Old 04-13-2009, 05:47 PM
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Default The Longer Version Part 5

Jul-Sep 1996
The Longer Version Part 5

During the third quarter of 1996, the remarkable transformation of Fort Huachuca accelerated sharply. Already, small-scale agricultural projects had been initiated all over the post. As funding from a variety of sources (but guided to the post principally by the Pentagon’s Department of Contingency Planning) flowed to Huachuca, numerous projects were initiated. Increasing numbers of uniformed personnel joined the Contingency Detachment; by the end of the monsoon season, Walsh had been promoted to captain of an organization with nearly 120 personnel. The detachment members were Regular Army, Arizona National Guard, Army Reservists, students given opportunities for internships, and a handful of civilian experts.

Energy had emerged as one of the chief concerns regarding long-term viability of the post. Local electrical power was generated by burning natural gas. Where that natural gas would come from following a disruption of national transportation was an open question. Several solutions were proposed, some of which were put into operation during the summer of 1996. Perhaps as importantly, the need for alternate sources of energy was put in terms of long-term cost-savings for Fort Huachuca. If government installations could become net exporters of energy to the civilian market, the long-term burden on the taxpayer would be reduced. Interests on both sides of the political spectrum could be satisfied.

Wind turbines of a variety of sizes were procured and installed at Fort Huachuca over the next twelve months. Notable among the new purchases were several 1Mw turbines. Photovoltaic (PV) arrays also were procured and installed. Southern Arizona enjoys superb solar potential. Cost-benefit analyses showed that the PV arrays at Fort Huachuca might pay for themselves in as little as five years.

Shortly after the wind turbines and PV arrays began appearing on post, a sudden spurt of interest in alternate energy caused local municipalities and private interests to invest as well. Governor Symington, acting on the advice of a member of his staff, made a public pronouncement in support of solar energy in Arizona. The Soviets, Symington pointed out, were major oil exporters. Hard currency helped pay for their war in China and the maintenance of their garrisons in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Every watt of electricity generated by solar and other alternative sources in Arizona was a dollar less in price supports for Soviet oil interests. Therefore, it was practically a patriotic duty to buy photovoltaics and other alternate energies. Substantial tax breaks for alternate energy were pushed through the legislature in Phoenix in a late-night session. Arizonans in Congress pushed through rebates for purchases in the interest of supporting national energy independence and as a free market weapon against Soviet oil power. A cleverly-coordinated media campaign (financed by alternate energy manufacturers, several municipalities, and the DCP-cum-Fort Huachuca) kept alternate energy and the new tax breaks in the minds of southern Arizonans for the rest of the year. Purchases went through the roof, and manufacture of PV arrays went into overdrive. PV arrays began appearing on rooftops in Sierra Vista and Tucson at an unprecedented rate. The City of Tucson and Pima County began exploring the prospects of creating a massive wind farm near Mount Lemmon by offering strong incentives to the local power company.

Alternate sources for natural gas began to be explored during this time. This was one area where CPT Walsh was able to farm out almost the entire project to people in the employ of the State of Arizona. One rather distasteful prospect for natural gas came from sewage treatment experts. Properly handled, manure yields methane. Few were interested in the idea right away, but the concept held promise.

In 1996, Arizona had a number of small oil wells. The aggregate production was quite low by conventional standards, but the wells did yield some natural gas. Walsh earmarked these for possible use in the event of an emergency.

The issue of electricity demand had to be examined more seriously, now that funds were being disbursed for energy projects. Among the issues raised in ongoing meetings involving the post commander and the commander of the Contingency Detachment were matters of priority and practice. In short, who was going to get electricity? Would the civilian population be rationed? What industries would receive support? How exactly was the supply of electricity to be managed, regardless of how much was available? The goal of the current program was to provide for Huachuca’s needs (although the issues of reliability and base load would come back to haunt Huachuca in short order). How much power should be generated beyond Huachuca’s current needs? Were the needs of the post going to remain stable or increase? Most of these questions had been put on the back burner in late 1995. Now, however, they began to require some answers.

Additional policy questions began to nag the post leadership during this time. The agricultural experiments were yielding some good results, some awful results, and a fair amount of useful information either way. How far should the xericulture experiments be seen to extend? Would the goal be to reduce the food demands of Huachuca during a crisis of limited impact? Would the goal be for Huachuca to feed itself? How did these questions apply to Tucson? Where exactly were the boundaries? As July turned into August, the questions of intent and limits affected every area of research, experimentation, and preparation. MG Thomason, the commanding general of Fort Huachuca, found himself obliged to look at the bigger picture to find his answers.

As a whole, the American public was moving noticeably in the direction of improving US military preparedness. Although some conservatives were delighted that the Sino-Soviet War was proving so draining on both sides, the decision by the West as a whole to back China had changed the dynamic significantly. China simply could not fail any more. The Chinese had borrowed fantastic sums; were China to default on her debts, the Western financial system might collapse. Outright defeat of China by the USSR or even a regime change would almost certainly result in default. Some began to tie Soviet action around the world to global economics. If, for instance, the US were to find herself embroiled in conflict in Korea, the Middle East, or Europe, the ability of the US to continue providing China with arms and credits would diminish dramatically. As a consequence, China might be forced to negotiate an unfavorable settlement with the Soviets. Ergo, the stupendous sums lent to China since the beginning of the Sino-Soviet War would be lost. The Soviets would gain immeasurably as a result. It was also noted that the Soviet Union retained the bulk of its forces in reserve, even as the fighting raged in the Far East. Therefore, if ever there were a time for the Soviets to start an adventure in the Middle East or Western Europe, this was it. Some pundits, including talk show host Rush Limbaugh, even saw the hand of grand strategy in the Soviet conduct of the war to this point. Although such arguments were at best half-truths, American public opinion began to be swayed that improved military readiness was a virtue.

Thomason decided that he would unabashedly seek to turn Fort Huachuca into a model of preparedness for both conventional military action and long-term sustainability. He had good reason for doing so, regardless of the political climate. However, given the public mood he had good reason to attempt to get all the funding for all the purposes he could.

Thomason argued before Pentagon leadership that Fort Huachuca was an ideal location to model the kinds of changes needed to prepare military bases for all kinds of future developments. He came prepared with three models to demonstrate his argument. Red Star assumed a mid-level nuclear exchange between the US and the USSR. White Star assumed a long-lasting conventional war that saw a major mobilization of American resources. Blue Star assumed either a very brief American involvement in a conventional war or an ongoing non-involvement. In all three cases, Huachuca could serve as a test bed for sustainability.

Power generation obviously was a key issue in all three models. In the case of Red Star, the national power grid would be badly disrupted. Local power sources would be needed to get the nation back on its feet. Power sources based on land the military controlled were ideal. In the case of White Star or Blue Star, a reliable income based on power generated on military bases would put money back in the pockets of the taxpayers. Reliance on imported energy would be reduced, and the military could make a legitimate claim to support left-of-center agendas. Ongoing and increasing military demand for alternate energy would inspire further research and development into alternate energy, which could only help the country in the long run. Therefore, it was in Huachuca’s interest and in the interests of the military establishment for Fort Huachuca to acquire the means to generate power well in excess of its current needs. Bulk purchases also would reduce purchase and installation costs.

Resource conservation also was a key issue in all three models. In the case of Red Star, water quite simply would be the key to survival. The water table at Fort Huachuca was dropping and had been for some years. Using less and reusing what was available were critical. Funding for cisterns, grey water use, and other on-post water reclamation infrastructure ought to be provided immediately, Thomason argued. Additionally, all buildings on post ought to be reequipped with low-flow toilets, low-flow showers, and other water-saving systems. In the cases of White Star or Blue Star, water conservation would save money over the long term and score points with the growing green movement.

The agricultural argument was somewhat harder for Thomason to sell to the Pentagon. He had anticipated this problem, however. Thomason argued that in the event of Red Star, local food production would be a necessity. He was able to show the admittedly mixed results of the current gardening projects. In the event of White Star or Blue Star, increased local production of vegetables would have the effect of lessening demand for transportation fuel. Also, gardening kept the civilian population engaged and occupied. The more the moderates and the hippies were in their gardens, Thomason pointed out, the less they would be demonstrating. Funding agricultural experiments in southeastern Arizona was a way for the Pentagon to bring more people into whatever war effort was required and to soothe fears over the inevitable shortages caused by war.

Huachuca was an ideal location for the expansion of Army training facilities, Thomason claimed. In the event of Red Star or White Star, Army National Guard and Army Reserve units from southern Arizona would benefit from having improved training facilities. Better-trained reservists would perform better in combat. At the same time, replacement troops would be needed in the event of anything but a very brief conventional war. Everyone knew how horribly under-trained some of the replacements thrown into battle in World War II had been. The existing system might not be sufficient to prevent a reoccurrence, even with the training divisions operating at full capacity. Improving the facilities at Huachuca to conduct the equivalent of basic training would help alleviate logjams that might result from the involvement of the US in a major war. At the same time, the facilities could be used by the National Guard or even the Arizona State Guard. Getting back to Red Star, the reconstruction of US forces would require local facilities. Large numbers of local facilities made somewhat less tempting targets for nuclear fires than a handful of highly centralized facilities with massive throughputs.

The Pentagon and the members of Congress in attendance were not immediately or completely sold on Thomason’s arguments. As a few doubters pointed out, energy independence for Fort Huachuca would require a very substantial outlay of funds for electricity which could be purchased on the local market. Although water conservation might make some sense, the whole agricultural program seemed a dubious enterprise at best. Every post in CONUS wanted money to improve training facilities. What made Huachuca so special?

In answer to the last question, an attending senator from Arizona pointed out that the population of the state had increased by more than one million since 1980. Arizona was on the rise, and the military might as well acknowledge the fact. As the population of Arizona rose, so did the potential contribution of Arizona National Guard and Army Reserve units. Most of the population of the state was in Metro Phoenix or Tucson. A nearby post with high-quality facilities would be just what the doctor ordered to keep the part-timers of Arizona in fighting trim.

Soon after he returned to Arizona, Thomason had his answer. The Pentagon would go ahead with pilot programs for Fort Huachuca along the lines laid out by Thomason. He would not receive all of the funding he had requested, except in the case of training facilities. Huachuca was to be brought up to new standards such that even with the 11th Signal Brigade (the other major tenant unit) on post, Huachuca could receive and train a National Guard or Army Reserve brigade conducting its annual Advanced Training (AT). Alternatively, Huachuca should be able to house a brigade of one of the Army Reserve training divisions.

Author's Note: As usual, this work needs a lot of heavy-duty editing. I'm constantly on my students about one-draft wonders, but that's about all you guys seem to get. Given the glacial pace of work on Thunder Empire, I feel like it's better to post something when I have a chance than post the perfect thing in five more calendar years.

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