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Partnerships, Innovation Provide Keys to Mission Success, Transcom Official Says

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2012 – The U.S. Transportation Command collaborates with industry and other agencies to find innovative, cost-effective solutions to logistics challenges, the unit’s deputy commander said yesterday.

Lt. Gen. Kathleen Gainey spoke during the Defense Logistics 2012 conference in Arlington, Va. She expressed concern about the possible impact of sequestration under the Budget Control Act, but said that shrinking resources are inevitable no matter what happens.

“All of our apple carts have been upset and are about to be upset even more,” Gainey said. “We still have to deal with the cuts that all of us are facing and the changes that we’re going to have as a result of our new strategy.”

The new strategy, she said, was a methodical analysis of the most efficient ways to project power to combatant commands, specifically the movement of people, equipment and supplies and their sustainment.

Whether for aeromedical evacuation, ammunition, equipment, dignified transfer of human remains, or even presidential movements, Gainey said the main mission focus is simple. “It’s that warfighter, the [person] wearing the suit in the foxhole that we’re doing this for,” she said.

As command leadership and missions changed over time, Gainey said transportation officials had to reassess how to best perform and streamline processes, while determining core business needs and facing dwindling assets. The officials canvassed industry, their own work force, COMCOMs, services, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense to figure out where to concentrate efforts, and leaders determined that industry plays a vital role reserving readiness capability.

“We do most of our business with commercial partners,” Gainey said. “They are our backbone of capability both for day-to-day operations but also for surge capability.”

Gainey also emphasized the significance of information technology management and cybersecurity.

“We’re trying to figure out how [to] better collect data, making sure all agree on the source data and then portray it in a manner that’s easily accessible by everybody,” Gainey said. “How do we ensure that data is useable by others … [and can] merge into their database?”

The general noted that cyber is the organization’s main threat.  “You have to go through a lot of wickets to get a password and to access our systems,” Gainey said. “But anybody in the war fight wants to makes sure the data is protected and hasn’t been tampered with.”

In addition to addressing cyber threats, Gainey said the command is aligning resources and people with mission requirements by standing up an enterprise readiness center from people within the organization.

“We’ve already started with some structural changes to better organize to be responsive to the warfighter, to the services and look at how to better partner with industry,” she said.

The command has also turned its attention to providing customer-focused professionals.

“People have to use our capability,” Gainey said. “So if you don’t have to be customer-focused, you can sometimes get into a rut where you can tell people that this is the way it is.”

Relationships, communication and offering options can enhance business and should change the paradigm of how Transcom conducts business, she said.  “We’ve got good people; we just need to think differently and be incentivized to change how we look at things,” she said, noting core the organizations core values of collaboration, trust, empowerment and innovation.

Reversing the “silo” effect and creating relationships with people, not electrons, will be part of Transcom’s reformation, Gainey said. “When people also feel empowered, then the trust, the empowerment and collaboration can start to achieve innovation – real change,” she added.

Transcom leaders developed a methodology to assess actual costs and determine logistics options that would bring efficiencies and allow customers to make informed decisions about fuel costs, delivery dates and mode of transport.  Finding flexibility in those areas as well as seeking cost-avoidance solutions, such as identifying loads to do backhaul for cargo jets, helped analysts achieve the best value for limited assets, Gainey explained.

The virtue of correcting data assumption errors was well worth the effort, according to the general.

“We’ve been able to achieve $15 million a month savings by changing the math calculus,” Gainey said. “[U.S. Central Command] obviously is thrilled; so is Army, who is paying that bill.”

As new missions around the world bring different needs and challenges, Gainey said collaboration will enable the command to overcome the obstacles. “Together we deliver, [we’re] dependent on industry support and partnership to think differently,” she said.

 

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