Lawmakers urge Army to use consumer batteries on the battlefield

The Senate Appropriations Committee directed the service to report on the feasibility of putting AA and AAA batteries in combat radios and other devices.

The Senate Appropriations Committee thinks the Defense Department should look to the Energizer Bunny for inspiration in powering combat radios. In a report earlier this month, it directed the Army to examine the possibility of using common AA and AAA consumer batteries in communications gear and other electronic gadgets.

At a press briefing on alternative energy sources Wednesday, Katherine Hammock, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, said the Army needs to develop a standard battery, noting that the number of electronic devices carried by troops, such as GPS receivers, computers and night vision goggles, has proliferated. Hammock, commenting on a report released by the Pew Charitable Trusts Clean Energy Program, said every soldier deployed to Afghanistan carries seven types of batteries, with a total weight of 15 pounds.

Pew reported that a typical soldier used the equivalent of seven pounds of batteries every day on patrol, and estimated that a typical infantry battalion burned through $150,000 worth of batteries on a one-year deployment. "Lighter, longer lasting batteries can reduce the weight soldiers must carry and extend their range, agility and endurance in the field," the Pew report said.

The Senate, in its report on the 2012 Defense budget, said the battery issue threatens battlefield effectiveness. "The lack of uniform standards and the inability to switch out power supplies among devices necessitates additional batteries be carried during missions, which may ultimately limit the warfighter's effectiveness and survivability," the Senate report said.

The committee said it "believes that troops would benefit from a standardized, lightweight power source that can be used interchangeably among various commonly used devices," and directed the Army secretary to prepare a report on standardization focused on common consumer batteries. That report, the committee said, should place an "emphasis on the AA and AAA form factor and their potential configuration into multicell battery packs."

The battery report, due 180 days after enactment of the Defense bill, should examine safety; weight; operational capability in high and low temperature extremes; resistance to leakage in extreme operating conditions involving shocks, drops and vibration; and shelf life of AA and AAA multiple battery packs, the committee directed. The Army also is to consider manufacturing capacity in the United States.