An energy-efficient Navy? Tanks, but no tanks.

What is the Republican take on global military strategy? A recent hearing offers a glimpse — a hilarious, horrifying glimpse.

On Feb. 16, the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee held a hearing on the U.S. Navy’s budget request for fiscal year 2013. I confess I did not have the fortitude to watch the entire two-and-a-half-hour affair, but CQ wrote up a summary that covers some of the lowlights.

The GOP’s main objection, expressed by chairman J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), is that the Navy is accepting budget cuts in the wake of Iraq and Afghanistan winding down. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus should be out in public, contradicting his commander in chief and objecting to the cuts, the Republicans believe.

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Secondly, says CQ, Forbes and other Republican lawmakers …

… appeared to mock the Navy’s enthusiasm for efforts to save energy. Forbes said he perused the Navy secretary’s website, where he found Mabus bragging that the Navy would lead the nation in its green efforts. The secretary, Forbes said, might better have focused on making a strong case in defense of the Navy’s fleet and the Marines and sailors facing significant spending reductions.

So, just to get this straight: Forbes wants the Navy to spend less time reducing its dependence on oil, less time becoming lighter and more self-sufficient, and more time advocating for military bloat. Use more oil, grow the military, forever and ever amen.

The U.S. Department of Defense is almost entirely dependent on oil, which represents about 80 percent of its energy consumption. It goes through 360,000 barrels of the stuff a day. This is an enormous expense and a growing strategic and tactical risk, especially in an era of rising and volatile oil prices. Commitment to reducing exposure to oil prices, oil regimes, and oil convoys has now spread across all branches of the military. Last year I wrote a story for Outside about the Marines’ efforts to reduce expeditionary energy use. When I spoke to Colonel Bob Charette, who runs the USMC Expeditionary Energy Office, he was blunt: “We equate resource efficiency with combat efficiency.” The decision to reduce energy use and increase renewable energy deployment has been made at the highest levels of the service, responding to reports from Marines in the field that their fuel “tail” has become a constraint on speed and maneuverability. That equation — resource efficiency is combat efficiency — is working its way into procurement and training policies already.

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As Mabus testified, the strategy for a smaller and more efficient military was “developed under the leadership of the President and the Secretary of Defense, with the full involvement of every service secretary and service chief [and] responds to the dynamic global security environment, while meeting the constraints imposed under the Budget Control Act (BCA) passed by Congress.” There’s no going back. Resource constraints are just life in the 21st century.

But the GOP doesn’t like life in the 21st century. They want the military to grow forever, using more oil, fighting more wars for oil, and to hell with the pansy green stuff.

Sooner or later, this conflict between the GOP and the military is going to break the surface of the news cycle and journalists are going to start asking Republicans why they disagree so profoundly with the brave men and women of the U.S. armed forces about the threats posed by energy and climate change.