Transportation Command Transforming to Meet Warfighters' Needs
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 9, 2006 Working under a new mandate, U.S. Transportation Command is transforming how it moves people, weapons and supplies to support the global war on terrorism, the command's senior enlisted advisor said here yesterday.
In September 2003, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld designated TRANSCOM as the DoD "Distribution Process Owner" with additional supply-chain management functions, giving the command greater flexibility to manage how goods move from "the warehouse to the warfighter," Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth J. McQuiston told a group of his senior-enlisted peers.
Senior enlisted leaders from combatant commands and the service senior enlisted advisors and their spouses are meeting in the Pentagon this week at the invitation of Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"We look at distribution as a complete process, from the factory through the entire transportation process to the point of effect," said McQuiston, "to ensure maximum combat effectiveness and efficiency for the warfighter."
Point of effect is the exact location the warfighter needs their equipment and supplies. Previously, TRANSCOM focused on port-to-port movement responsibility, McQuiston explained. The services and combatant commands dealt with getting equipment and supplies to and from the ports.
Within the individual services, McQuiston said, there are more than 300 separate supply-management systems. "A lot of times, these 300-plus systems don't talk to each other," he said.
The command's leaders are working to integrate many of those systems. TRANSCOM Commander Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who took command in September, wants to see that number reduced by half, McQuiston said.
He stressed that TRANSCOM isn't seeking to take control of supply management from the services, just to maintain visibility over where items are within the chain. To better accomplish this, Schwartz and other TRANSCOM leaders recently visited with Wal-Mart executives over two days, studying how the retail giant tracks its goods throughout the distribution system.
"Let's face it," McQuiston said, "Wal-Mart's shelves are never empty."
The difference, he added, is that Wal-Mart stores don't move around, but deployed units do.
TRANSCOM leaders also are working with worldwide shipping companies to better leverage technologies developed for this industry, McQuiston said.
He said the military can learn a lot from these types of companies. "They know where all their stuff is at all times," he said.
Current operational tempos are placing several challenges on the command.
One C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft can carry 36 full pallets of cargo as well as outsized cargo, but the C-5's reliability needs improvement, he said. Sealift forces are facing similar issues. "We have an aging sealift fleet," McQuiston said.
In addition, most cargo aircraft and refuelers and their crews are in the National Guard and Air Force Reserve, which poses an additional challenge for manpower managers.
During McQuiston's presentation, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Gerald R. Murray interjected that 65 percent of C-130 Hercules cargo airplanes and 70 percent of tankers are assigned to the reserve components. He urged his peers to pay attention to the aircraft's tail flash, which denotes the plane's home base.. "They're from everywhere. It's amazing," he said.
The bottom line for TRANSCOM leaders is supporting warfighters to ensure they get to the battle in a timely fashion, get what they need, where they need it when they're there, and then get safely home, McQuiston said. Lastly, it's about getting our wounded and injured warfighters to the medical care they need, wherever it is, in the most expeditious way possible, he added.
"It's all about the warfighter knowing that a promise given to them will be a promise kept by TRANSCOM," he said.