The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Energy and Military Compatibility in the Eastern Gulf

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted May 16, 2018

For some time we’ve stressed that offshore oil and natural gas production is compatible with a variety of other ocean uses such as fishing and tourism – and most significantly, with the U.S. military’s need for open-water areas to conduct training exercises, advanced weapons testing and the like. Industry has a long track record of developing offshore energy in a way that successfully coexists with the military’s needs in the Gulf of Mexico and other areas.

The same could be true in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico when a moratorium on offshore development there, in place since 2006, expires in 2022 – creating access to key new areas for safe exploration and development of strategically important oil and natural gas.

A new analysis by the Defense Department agrees. The report underscores what is known: Access to the Eastern Gulf is vital for the military because it’s near a number of coastal Air Force and Navy installations. The report calls for “sufficient limiting stipulations and/or oil and gas activities mutually agreed” by the Defense and Interior departments.

We agree – and again point to such arrangements that already govern other areas where U.S. military and energy interests are in proximity. Both are critically important to our nation’s security. Erik Milito, API upstream and industry operations director:

“Offshore oil and natural gas exploration and development already successfully co-exists with U.S. military operations in the Gulf of Mexico. … This new report on the Eastern Gulf of Mexico confirms that continued collaboration between the Department of Defense and Interior will enable the successful coexistence of continued military training and expanded American oil production.”

Below is a map from the new DoD analysis. To the east of the diagonal black line in the middle of the map is the Eastern Gulf planning area, which currently has little oil and natural gas activity – especially compared to energy development going on in the central Gulf, to the west of the diagonal line:


Through the use of ever-improving technology, the latest industry operational and safety standards and continued Defense-Interior collaboration, offshore development that’s compatible with the military’s needs in the Eastern Gulf – starting with safe seismic research to determine the location and volumes of oil and natural gas – should be allowed to go forward. Milito:

“Combined with cutting-edge technologies and best practices, offshore exploration and development can occur in a wider range of offshore areas than is currently permitted, while still supporting the needs of the U.S. military. Allowing for expanded access of oil and natural gas operations in the Outer Continental Shelf will benefit the U.S. economy, advance our long-term energy future, and bolster our national security as our reliance on foreign nations lessens.”

Indeed, let’s underscore this critical point: Both military training and testing and offshore energy development are strategically important to our nation’s present and future well-being. Consider as well:

  • Most military activities are concentrated closer to shore and are not in the areas far off the coast, where there are known geological plays with high-potential oil and natural gas resources.
  • Military stipulations are included in 36 percent of current oil and natural gas leases in the Gulf that are in military testing areas.
  • Since 1983 the Defense and Interior departments have had a memorandum of agreement to ensure that offshore energy development is done safely and doesn’t interfere with U.S. military operations.

The U.S. offshore has vast oil and natural gas potential that should be harnessed for our country’s long-term needs and security. We support the administration’s work to establish a new offshore leasing program – one that creates new options for future development. Beyond energy, safely developing our offshore oil and natural gas will help boost needed economic growth for entire coastal states. Our companies support increased offshore access, recognizing the need to plan and research energy development now for production years down the road.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.