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NEWS | Nov. 22, 2023

Army Reserve civilian recognized as innovator by Department of Energy

By Sgt. Salvatore Ottaviano 99th Readiness Division

 The word “innovator” is synonymous with modernizer, pacesetter, trendsetter, go-getter and visionary.

“I’m always trying to think of new or different ways to look at a problem - ‘How can I look at it from a different perspective instead of doing the same old method that we’ve always done,’” explained Michael Lohan, chief of Operations for the U.S. Army Reserve’s 99th Readiness Division, when asked if he considers himself an innovator.

Lohan was awarded the 2023 U.S. Department of Energy FEDS Spotlight Honoree as an Innovator during a Sept. 12 event here at the James V. Forrestal Building.

The honor of FEDS innovator is unique in that it goes to someone who is committed to finding new and creative ways of carrying out dynamic projects and programs and inspires change.

“With innovation comes new ways of doing things. Sometimes in our resource-constrained environment, you just don’t have the resources you need, so you have to come up with creative ways to get to the end point,” said Lohan, a civilian employee in the 99th RD’s Directorate of Public Works who, by receiving the honor, became the U.S. Army Reserve’s representee for creatively using energy saving techniques.

As part of National Clean Energy Action Month, the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) honored federal energy champions selected for recognition during its celebration of 50 Years of Federal Energy Management.

“We’re collecting data for energy conservation as well as for the operations side to assess the data,” Lohan said. “We started a pilot with two sites in one of the regions and then kind of used that as the pilot, and now were implementing it in three regions this year and the goal is to do the remaining regions next year.

“We worked with the contract team and, in my position as the Ops chief, paired them up with our engineering team to get more creative solutions to energy projects,” he continued. “So, it wasn’t just kind of stove-piped, it was a hybrid approach of using multiple teams to come up with an answer because of our resources.”

Lohan explained part of that success comes from gaining input from a fusion of different parties.

“Especially when you have diversity in team, you have diversity of thought and people will get the problem from a different perspective and everyone kind of brings each of their own individual piece to the puzzle, and sometimes you need all those individual pieces to kind of see the whole picture,” said Lohan.

Honorees were selected by agency leaders and peers as federal champions who are working hard to implement exceptional resilient, efficient, and secure energy and water management practices and projects, while also helping their agencies achieve mission success.

“The next step in what we’re trying to do is track that data to build a database,” Lohan explained. “We’re working with the Office of the Chief, Army Reserve as a group to say, ‘This is the data we’re collecting, how can we use new technology - whether it be AI or some other thing - to kind of come up with that predictive modeling.’

“Being an engineer by nature, I’ve always loved problem-solving, and always think of things like a Rubik’s cube,” he continued. “I’m always a tinkerer, I like to do some hiking or just walk around the neighborhood, it’s kind of my way to decompress; it also allows free time for the mind to just think and come up with something to solve the puzzle.”

Since 2017, FEMP FEDS Spotlight recognition program has afforded federal agencies the opportunity to recognize federal employees who go above and beyond their typical day-to-day responsibilities to achieve mission success while also cutting energy waste, reducing costs, optimizing performance, and advancing America's progress toward energy independence, resilience, and security.

“The next new challenge is how we implement these EVs (electric vehicles). Again, that’s a lot of multiple teams and a lot of cross-discipline,” said Lohan. “That’s the next big challenge that we’re focusing on - how to wisely invest the money set aside for electric vehicles.

“We have limited resources, and the resources that are available now, we don’t know if they’ll be available in the future,” he continued. “You have your one shot at it, so you gotta use everything the best you can.”