Transcom Provides America’s Greatest Advantage, Commander Says

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2011 — The great­est advan­tage that the Unit­ed States has over any poten­tial ene­my is the abil­i­ty to project and sus­tain forces any­where in the world, the com­man­der of U.S. Trans­porta­tion Com­mand said here today.
“No oth­er nation can do what we do,” Air Force Gen. Dun­can J. McN­abb, said at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies.

A decade of war has meant Transcom is agile and prac­ticed at deliv­er­ing equip­ment, materiel and peo­ple where it needs to be, when it needs to be there, he said. The ser­vice por­tions of the com­mand –- the Air Force’s Air Mobil­i­ty Com­mand, the Navy’s Mil­i­tary Sealift Com­mand and the Army’s Sur­face Deploy­ment and Dis­tri­b­u­tion Com­mand –- work togeth­er close­ly and con­stant­ly, he added.

Expe­ri­ence since Sept. 11, 2001, has changed the way the com­mand does busi­ness, the gen­er­al said. Before, he explained, deliv­er­ing logis­tics was rel­a­tive­ly straight­for­ward –- offi­cials chose a mode of trans­port and sent the car­go on its way.

“What we’ve found, like the rest of the indus­try, is that if you can fig­ure out how to do this inter­modal­ly, you can fig­ure out where I can go com­mer­cial­ly, and then where I need to go mil­i­tar­i­ly, or I can go sur­face or air, depend­ing on the threat,” he said.

This allows plan­ners to ensure they are tak­ing care of warfight­ers while deliv­er­ing peo­ple, sup­plies and equip­ment in the most cost-effi­cient man­ner, he said.

McN­abb cit­ed the mine-resis­tant, ambush-pro­tect­ed all-ter­rain vehi­cles for Afghanistan as an exam­ple. Indus­try offi­cials fig­ured they could pro­duce 500 of the life-sav­ing vehi­cles a month. When the vehi­cles first start­ed rolling off the assem­bly line, they were loaded aboard C-17 air­craft and flown to Afghanistan.

“The ques­tion came: If we can build more, can you trans­port more?” McN­abb said.

In the mid­dle of the Afghanistan troop surge, indus­try offi­cials came to Transcom and said they could pro­duce 1,000 vehi­cles a month. That ran into Transcom’s require­ment to move units into Afghanistan, McN­abb said, “and we start­ed look­ing at dif­fer­ent ways to accom­plish this.”

The com­mand solved the prob­lem by get­ting the vehi­cles to the U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand the­ater of oper­a­tions via ship and load­ing them aboard air­craft only for the final leg of the jour­ney. Because it was a short hop, the air­craft car­ried five M-ATVs instead of three, and they went direct­ly to the units in Afghanistan.

Anoth­er exam­ple is the open­ing of the North­ern Sup­ply Route. High-val­ue and pure­ly mil­i­tary car­go goes to Afghanistan via air. Oth­er sup­plies go via ship to Karachi, Pak­istan, and then over­land into Afghanistan. Transcom forged a series of routes from the Baltic republics, through Rus­sia and the Cen­tral Asian republics, or via the Cau­ca­sus republics through Cen­tral Asia to Afghanistan.

The com­mand took advan­tage of the con­tacts that pri­vate com­pa­nies main­tain to forge these routes, McN­abb said.

“That is the real advan­tage these com­pa­nies bring,” he said. The com­pa­nies have planes and ships, he added, but they also have the net­work of con­tacts in the region that allows them to speed the car­go through.

Now, if routes are blocked, oth­er routes can take up the slack, the gen­er­al said.

Look­ing ahead, Transcom has the mis­sion of sus­tain­ing the ser­vice mem­bers in Afghanistan while re-deploy­ing the final 48,000 Amer­i­cans in Iraq by the end of the year.

The com­mand also must plan for con­tin­gen­cies. Last year, for exam­ple, Transcom had to pro­vide logis­tics for the hun­dreds of thou­sands of Haitians affect­ed by a mas­sive earth­quake and also sup­port­ed the response to the Gulf of Mex­i­co oil dis­as­ter. The com­mand also lift­ed goods to Pak­istan when that nation expe­ri­enced cat­a­stroph­ic flood­ing, and had to do all this while main­tain­ing the logis­tics need­ed to fight two wars.

Chal­lenges remain, McN­abb said, not­ing that Transcom needs the ser­vices to get new air-refu­el­ing tankers. Replac­ing the 50-year-old KC-135s will save mil­lions of dol­lars, he added. The com­mand also is invest­ing in defend­ing its com­put­er sys­tems. About 90 per­cent of Transcom’s busi­ness takes place on unpro­tect­ed net­works, McN­abb said, and 33,326 “com­put­er net­work events” took place against the com­mand last year.

Defense is anoth­er pri­or­i­ty. “After heli­copters, our air­craft are the most shot at,” McN­abb said. Last year, he added, 125 air­craft were shot at, and 15 were hit.

As the com­mand con­tin­u­al­ly works to re-invent itself, McN­abb said, the Transcom team — active duty and reserve com­po­nent ser­vice­mem­bers and civil­ians, along with pri­vate indus­try part­ners — always is look­ing for ways to per­form the mis­sion bet­ter.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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