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Transcom Strives to Preserve Capacity to Meet Future Needs

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., Nov. 9, 2012 – There’s no rest for the weary at U.S. Transportation Command. After 11 years of balls-to-the-wall operations -- moving service members and their equipment in more than a million deployments and sustaining them and other forces around the world -- Transcom is already working to drum up new business to cushion the expected post-war slump.

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An Air Force C-5B Galaxy delivers a Southern California Edison utility company vehicle to Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y., to support relief efforts after Superstorm Sandy devastated the region, Nov. 1, 2011. U.S. Transportation Command depends on the viability of organic assets as well as those of its commercial partners to support Defense Department missions, particularly during crises. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael O’Halloran

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That’s the job of the new Enterprise Readiness Center here, which achieved initial operational capability in late September and will be fully operational by Jan. 1.

Its mission, in a nutshell, is to keep Transcom’s organic assets -- military planes, cargo ships and trucks -- as well as those of its commercial partners busy, even as wartime operational demands drop off, Navy Rear Adm. Andy Brown, the command’s director of strategy, policy, programs and logistics, told American Forces Press Service.

There’s nothing altruistic about it, said Air Force Col. Edward Koharik, who runs the new center. Simply stated, Transcom won’t be able to support future military requirements if it allows the capabilities it relies on to erode.

It’s a little-known fact that the U.S. military couldn’t keep up with the massive transportation and logistics demands without its commercial partners.

Many have entered into formal agreements with Transcom, promising to dedicate additional aircraft, ships, cargo space or other transportation or logistical support as needed to meet wartime requirements. In return, they get first priority for contracts.

The problem, explained Koharik, is that as the United States draws down operations in Afghanistan, the volume of material it moves is expected to drop by about two-thirds.

That will reduce Transcom’s transaction business from about $14 billion yearly to pre-9/11 levels between $6 billion and $7 billion, Brown estimated.

That will leave commercial partners with excess capacity, Koharik recognized.

“The bottom line is, we have some challenges facing us as we draw down in Afghanistan,” he said. “We understand that the commercial partners that we have out there have sized their fleets to support our efforts over the last 10 years. They have made business decisions supporting this.”

“And as we see the diminishing business out there for them -- from Transcom, the services and the combatant commands -- we have identified the need for a coordinated effort to work through this drawdown of business,” Koharik added.

Even while it’s still being staffed, the Enterprise Readiness Center is busy engaging with two groups to approach the issue. Air Force Gen. William M. Fraser III, the Transcom commander, reached out to the command’s commercial partners during a recent National Defense Transportation Association conference, urging them to share best practices and become part of the solution.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise Readiness Center staff has put on its marketing hat, tapping into Transcom’s current customer base with hopes of increasing it through better, less expensive services.

Koharik said he’s convinced there are many customers and transportation requirements out there that Transcom can support. With a high operational tempo over the past decade, the command hasn’t had to go looking for work. In many cases, other government agencies and even Defense Department entities went elsewhere to get their shipments moved.

But with capacity coming available, Transcom now has the ability to fill the need, Koharik said. The goal is to do so by attracting organizations not already using the command’s services through lower rates, increased reliability and old-fashioned customer service.

“This is a matter of us becoming the transportation provider of choice. And that is what we are about doing a better job of,” said Garth Sanginiti, chief of the Distribution Process Owner Support Division within the command’s Acquisition Directorate. “We want people to say, ‘You know, Transcom can get me what I want, when I want it, where I want it at a price I can afford.’”

Fraser has made a big emphasis on reducing overhead within the command. That, in turn, will lower the cost Transcom charges its customers.

With the entire command committed to finding more cost-efficient ways to provide services, the Enterprise Readiness Center is considering new pricing structures and determining whether Transcom can offer DOD rates to other government customers, Sanginiti said.

Meanwhile, Transcom is marketing its capabilities to DOD customers “who in the past several years have found ways not to use us,” and to new customers throughout the interagency, he said.

For example, Koharik and his staff are discussing ways the State Department can leverage Transcom’s transportation and logistics infrastructure in Afghanistan as the mission there transitions to a State Department lead.

“Instead of building something new, they could use our commercial partners and the transportation operations we already have in place,” Koharik said.

The Enterprise Readiness Center is also exploring ways to use Transcom’s partners to make more deliveries for the Foreign Military Sales program. The command currently carries only about 13 percent of that business.

The staff also is approaching agencies that currently roll delivery costs into their contracts. If those agencies separated out their transportation requirements, Transcom and its partners could support them.

“There are lots of opportunities like that out there for DOD,” Sanginiti said. “It’s a matter of identifying them and letting people know that we can help and letting them know how.”

The success of these efforts will have far-reaching impact, particularly in the event of a future natural disaster or any other contingency operation, he said.

Without sufficient organic and commercial capability -- and the trained, experienced crews, ground handlers and other personnel that support it -- Sanginiti questioned what will happen when the next major requirement comes down. It could leave the United States hard-pressed to properly respond to the next crisis, he said.

“This is really bigger than the DOD needing us to be able to surge,” Sanginiti said. “It is the nation.” 

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageU.S. Transportation Command relies on the viability of both its organic assets and those of commercial partners to support the Defense Department’s operational requirements, particularly during contingency operations. Here, mine resistant ambush protected vehicles are loaded onto a commercial cargo ship at the Charleston, S.C., seaport during the rush to get the vehicles to deployed forces, April 7, 2008. U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Kevin Young  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMilitary vehicles at Fort Hood, Texas, are loaded onto DOD and commercial flat cars for transport to locations within the United States, Sept. 7, 2012. U.S. Transportation Command depends on the viability of both organic and commercial partners to support Defense Department requirements. DOD photo  
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