TRANSCOM Revamping Strategic Distribution System
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2004 In September 2003, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld appointed U.S. Transportation Command as the distribution process owner, or DPO, of the military's strategic distribution system. This action gave Rumsfeld one contact, TRANSCOM Commander Air Force Gen. John W. Handy, who is responsible for the carrying out the responsibilities that come with the designation.
Handy said today at the Defense Logistics 2004 conference here that the DPO designation gave TRANSCOM the authority to implement the "dramatic improvement" the distribution process needs.
"If you look at the traditional authorities of TRANSCOM, you find that, in rule and regulation and even in law, our responsibilities were port-to-port," Handy said, "from some aerial port or seaport to some aerial port or seaport somewhere else in the world. And that's all our authorities really were."
Handy said that despite knowledge that the two ends of TRANSCOM's supply chain could be extended, limited authority prevented that from happening. The DPO authority, he said, provided the means necessary to sew up the "dramatic seams" and extend the chain from factory to foxhole.
This expanded role presented the new challenge of growing the supply chains, the general said. There were also questions of sufficient bandwidth, the capabilities of putting TRANSCOM-like tools in a theater of operation and whether establishing a node at the far end of the supply chain to bridge that gap between traditional authorities was possible.
A U.S. Central Command Deployment and Distribution Operations Center team found the answers, and the critical step in the process of building this supply chain -- creating a node in CENTCOM -- was presented to Gen. John Abizaid for approval. As the CENTCOM combatant commander, only he had the authority to establish how the command's logistics were organized.
With Abizaid's blessing, the node was established. Because that was still insufficient still only linking port to port, essentially the node's information technology capabilities were expanded into the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters of operation.
"The business of TRANSCOM is indeed information," Handy said. "We have other systems that help us but the thing that really moves TRANSCOM is our information access. Without it, we're just pushing things around the world and nobody knows about it."
Handy said a solid $300 million in savings has been realized because of the improvements to the TRANSCOM operations. And the savings surface has just been scratched, he added.
Further efficiency is being realized with a program called Single Ticket, he said. Getting troops to theaters is something TRANSCOM can do very quickly, the general explained. Previously, TRANSCOM would drop the personnel at the theater and its mission was accomplished. It was then up to the theater to move the personnel to their final destinations, sometimes creating the need to house them for days.
"The Single Ticket program was just a simple notion. It says for every single person we're deploying, we'll give them a single ticket all the way to (the) end-destination in Afghanistan or Iraq," Handy said.
With DDOC in control, he said, officials know when troops are expected in theater and can then work on transportation to get them to their end destination. This program has reduced the time spent waiting for onward movement from days to less than 24 hours.
A similar program that allows goods to be requested as needed keeps commodities moving smoothly. "The neat thing about that is, we in our aerial ports are not standing around trying to determine what is the highest priority stuff to go on the next 747 or C-17," Handy said. "We're able to take the priorities from the theater and put them on the next aircraft out of town."
Previously, hold times and tonnage build-up had the system in a constant pattern of feast or famine, Handy said. This caused the loss of advance contracts with airline partners, which left open the chance of price problems. It also allowed for the risk of confusing warfighter customers and commercial airlines, said he added.
By shifting the aerial port function to a Defense Logistics Agency depot, many of these problems can be avoided, he said. Pallets are built and goods entered into a computer system at the point of origin, where the theater customer can see what's available and request it directly from the source.
In addition to improving the distribution system, Handy said, TRANSCOM has been given distribution domain. This new responsibility tasks TRANSCOM with determining which of DoD's 500 distribution systems will sustain the flow of needed information, the general said.