•  Carrier


The Net Zero Initiative

The U.S. Army is implementing sustainable solutions across its buildings and infrastructure—both at home and abroad—to better enable the service to carry out its core mission of defending the nation. 


By Kristine Kingery, Elizabeth Keysar, Ph.D., M.SAME, and Caroline Harrover



The U.S. Army’s mission is to defend the nation. Mission success depends upon secure, uninterrupted access to energy, water and other natural resources.

The Army’s Net Zero Pilot Installation Initiative is helping drive institutionaliza­tion of Net Zero as an operational para­digm. Success of the initiative largely has been due to its inherent design and execu­tion, as it has allowed for the formation of dedicated teams to support Net Zero goals. Success also is attributable to supportive leadership, attention to culture change and organizational alignment.

The Army has a sizable “boot print,” with nearly 1-billion-ft² of building space, including over 100,000 homes utilized by soldiers, their families and civilians. Net Zero is a holistic strategy for managing existing energy, water and solid waste programs through a reduction of the overall consumption of resources to an effective rate of zero. It is aimed at exceeding mini­mum targets where fiscally responsible; providing greater energy and water secu­rity; and increasing operating flexibility.


The Army’s Net Zero initiative was established in October 2010 under the leadership of The Honorable Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment (ASA (IE&E)). In April 2011, 17 Net Zero pilot installa­tions were selected—including six in each category of energy, waste and water; two integrated Net Zero energy-water-waste pilot installations; and one statewide Army National Guard energy pilot program. Their goal: achieve Net Zero by 2020. 

These installations vary in size, both in population and physical acreage. They are geographically diverse and represent all Army Commands. Most importantly, they all volunteered for this responsibility. They wanted to lead the way.


Net Zero pilot map

The U.S. Army’s Net Zero Pilot Installation Initiative comprises 17 installations that are striving to reduce the overall consumption of resources to an effective rate of zero by 2020. There are six installations in each category of energy, waste and water; two integrated Net Zero energy-water-waste pilot installations; and one statewide Army National Guard energy pilot program. U.S. ARMY IMAGE







The Army Net Zero Pilot Installation Initiative was conceived and implemented to advance successful management of each installation’s energy, water and waste. It was an important step toward institutionalizing the concept of Net Zero throughout the Army installation management community. Advancing Net Zero such that it becomes broadly accepted requires certain activi­ties. Innovation diffusion, organizational change management and sustainability implementation literature point to the key elements of success when promoting the acceptance of a new concept in order to achieve the desired changes in management and decision-making. The Army has exam­ined very closely: 1) supportive leadership and culture change; 2) dedicated teams; and 3) organizational alignment.

Leadership buy-in and sustained support are critical elements associated with institu­tionalizing new concepts in organizations. An organization must have leaders that are knowledgeable about the concept and actively champion it into daily operations at all levels so a consistent message is communicated. Cultural change also may be necessary as part of institutionalizing a new operational paradigm. Leadership must develop, convey and demonstrate key messages that communicate the desired change in organizational values.

Teams within the larger organization, dedicated to the change effort, are a critical aspect of institutionalization. These teams often formally allocate both resources and time to achieve desired changes. They typically have performance metrics that correspond to the change effort that may not be aligned with the central mission of the organization. This helps to focus the dedicated team. Success can be readily tracked and subsequently communicated to continue to increase momentum and support. The dedicated team should make every effort to work across the organiza­tion to engage staff beyond their immediate team along with other reporting chains to ensure buy-in and cooperation.

Organizational alignment is another important component of successful insti­tutionalization. Management and reporting systems determined to be incompatible with the change effort need to be adjusted and relationships between the new approach and existing systems need to be defined. The team dedicated to the change effort must engage staff impacted by it to ensure concerns are adequately addressed. Existing plans, policies and procedures that impact the initiative need to be adjusted to accom­modate the new approach. This is often a final step of institutionalization as it indi­cates the new concept (and its operational implications) has been formally adopted into the organization’s official procedures.



The Army’s intent with Net Zero is not to create new requirements—but to enable innovation and encourage installations to move beyond minimum compliance with federal requirements. Command support and leadership engagement fosters the development of a sustainable ethic and promotes mean­ingful successes striving toward Net Zero goals. The concept of Net Zero began with Assistant Secretary Hammack and it has continued to be a centerpiece of her leader­ship. She has dedicated several of her staff to this concept and the associated initiatives. She has visited installations and met directly with leadership to applaud their efforts and push for more. She has presented the Net Zero goals at workshops and confer­ences within the Army and externally. She promotes the Net Zero concept within the Pentagon and among her peers.

The Net Zero Pilot Installation Initiative is a formalized approach for creating dedi­cated teams. The pilot installations self-nominated, requiring installation-level leadership support for their participation.


Solar panels at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif.

Solar panel arrays form a canopy at a construction site at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif. Along with the energy production, the cover provided by the panel arrays is designed to shade the majority of the post’s vehicles. Fort Hunter Liggett is one of six pilot installations selected by the U.S. Army to be Net Zero energy.U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY JOHN PRETTYMAN


The participating installations under­stand their role comes with expectations for reporting, engagement and imple­mentation. The Office of ASA (IE&E) also established its own dedicated team in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy and Sustainability to focus on Net Zero and support the initiative. The support includes additional technical expertise for energy, water and waste baselines as well as the development of roadmaps that identify, analyze and recommend actions the installations can take to reach Net Zero goals. In fact, dedi­cated teams have been established through contact with other agencies including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, Defense Commissary Agency, and Army & Air Force Exchange Service.

The Army continues to take concrete steps to ensure the Net Zero concept aligns with installation management requirements, organizational structure and operational mission. The Army uses a conceptual frame­work for change implementation called Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership & Education, Personnel, and Facilities (DOTMLPF). This mnemonic ensures that personnel consider certain issues before undertaking a new effort.

The Net Zero Pilot Installation Initiative was designed with DOTMLPF as a guiding framework. Other examples of continued organizational alignment include the aggressive leveraging of exist­ing funding mechanisms, such as Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs). Installations continually seek to link Net Zero to existing planning processes and regulatory programs to bolster accomplish­ment of ongoing efforts.



Though the Army’s efforts to institu­tionalize Net Zero are proving successful, changing culture is an ongoing, evolving process. Much remains to be done.

Pilot installation mission and garrison commanders have supported efforts to modify installation policies or engage in communication and awareness efforts. The Recycle Hero program at Fort Bliss, Texas, and the Green Living videos produced at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., are just two examples of this buy-in. Sustained and continued focus by leadership is critical to institutionalizing the Net Zero concept and changing culture.

Dedicated teams represented by pilot installations have been able to achieve a number of successes, demonstrating how the pilot initiative approach is indeed accel­erating institutionalization of the Net Zero concept. Examples include: 

  • Recent lighting upgrades at an industrial site for the Oregon Army National Guard have resulted in an estimated 39 percent reduction in energy use, using an ESPC funding mechanism.
  • Water use reduction efforts at Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pa., include efficiency improvements, leak detection and repair and reclaimed water use. Upgrades in the Tobyhanna wastewater treatment plant are saving 5,000-gal to 6,000-gal of potable water each month, reusing treated water within the plant.
  • The new waste hauling contract at Joint Base Lewis-McChord pays the trash hauling company more for the material it recycles than it does for the material it takes to the landfill by sharing proceeds from the sale of recyclable materials.

The intent of Net Zero is to prepare installations for future energy, water and waste challenges—to support and enhance installation management while exceeding existing mandates and requirements. This ongoing pursuit makes organizational alignment particularly important. For instance, the Army is developing an energy security definition along with an energy security assessment protocol. Net Zero has been closely aligned with these efforts. The alignment with DOTMLPF was one of the key aspects of the Net Zero institutionaliza­tion, and the Army linked its effort to this framework. In order to address Doctrine, Organization, Material and Facilities aspects (process, policy, requirements and procedural changes), the Army issued the Net Zero Installations Policy, conducted a gap analysis on regulations related to Net Zero, and developed metrics for measur­ing progress towards Net Zero. To address the Training and Personnel aspects (which promote culture change through educa­tion, training and broad communication), the Army has held Net Zero Progress Review Workshops; provided training on the Net Zero Roadmaps and the Net Zero Guide; collected and published Net Zero best practices for a “Net Zero 101” briefing; and continues to work with the Department of Energy to expand support to all installations. Specific actions to ensure leadership is aligned with Net Zero have included the issuance of the draft Garrison Commanders’ Implementation Guide; issuance of guidance to ensure commands develop and use lifecycle cost analysis; require the commands to continue collabo­ration calls within their installations; and initiate quarterly updates on their progress on Net Zero to be reported to ASA (IE&E).


Net Zero is a means to move the Army toward its sustainable aspirations. It is a journey during which success is measured by bringing overall consumption of energy, water and waste down to an effective rate of zero. 


In January 2014, Secretary of the Army John McHugh issued a Net Zero Installations Policy Directive, requiring all Army instal­lations (not including contingency bases or Civil Works facilities) to strive toward Net Zero energy, water and solid waste. Institutionalization of the concept beyond a headquarters initiative will depend on the effective adoption and use of the Net Zero paradigm across the many components that support sustainable design, development, operation and maintenance of Army facili­ties and infrastructure.



Net Zero is a means to move the Army toward its sustainable aspirations. It is a journey during which success is measured by bringing overall consumption of energy, water and waste down to an effective rate of zero. It is a force multiplier that frees up resources, allowing the Army to pursue its primary mission.

Some of the success may drive the next Army standard. The collective challenge is to adopt and embed Net Zero lessons learned into standard activities across all installations to continue to partner with communities, other agencies and industry to achieve sustainable and cost effective solutions for all parties involved.

Columnist Thomas L. Friedman stated in a 2007 New York Times article, “…when the Army goes green, the country could really go green.” Together, the Army is striving to prove those words true.



Kristine Kingery is Director, Army Sustainability Policy, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy & Sustainability; 703-614-5883, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Elizabeth Keysar, Ph.D., M.SAME, is an Army contracted Energy and Sustainability Policy Analyst, and Caroline Harrover is an Army contracted Energy and Sustainability Program Manager, CTC (Concurrent Technologies Corp.).They can be reached at 770-631-0137, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; and 703-310-5676, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., respectively.