Logisticians Position State Department for Success in Iraq
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2011 As the logistical drawdown continues full-steam-ahead in Iraq, U.S. Transportation Command is working with the Joint Staff and Defense Logistics Agency to ensure the State Department has what it needs to continue the mission there, Transcom’s deputy commander said yesterday.
Defense and State department leaders are working together to ensure the needed capabilities remain on the ground for a smooth transition to a civilian-led mission, Army Lt. Gen. Kathleen M. Gainey told attendees here at this year’s Defense Logistics Conference.
"We sat down with [State Department leaders] and said, 'What is it you want to be able to do, then we translated that into what type of equipment was needed,'" Gainey said. "So we worked with them to ensure that equipment would be left in theater."
As the last U.S. troops on the ground depart by Dec. 31 in accordance with the 2008 U.S.-Iraq security agreement, she said, designated equipment is being transferred to the U.S. Embassy to support the civilian-led mission.
In addition, she added, the Defense Department is assessing what contracts it has in place in Iraq that the State Department can leverage. Gainey cited contracts for fuel, prime vendor food and mail delivery that can support the embassy-led mission.
With the exodus of military medical capability, she said, contract medical personnel will be required to provide hospital care, and when required, medevac and aeromedical evacuation support.
The changing environment in Iraq highlights the need for flexibility in providing an effective, efficient supply chain, Gainey said. That includes reliance on some of the efficiency measures that Transcom, based at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., and the Defense Logistics Agency, based at Fort Belvoir, Va., are introducing worldwide, she said. But in many cases, she added, it relies on forward-based warehouses and distribution points that may no longer exist.
"We need to constantly revisit assumptions and capabilities and see where we have taken lessons learned and inculcated them into our business progresses and changed the rules," she said. "But the rules need to be flexible .... They may have to change based on the lay of the land, where forces are and the infrastructure. We don't want to be so rigid that we can't fall back, when appropriate."
Gainey reported solid success at Transcom as it implements an initiative started in 2008 to improve end-to-end delivery to warfighters while saving costs where possible. The goal, she explained, is to "provide better capability and meet the requirements of our warfighters, but also try and do it in the most effective manner and with greater efficiencies."
That effort is three-pronged, she said, and involves improving processes and optimizing both surface and air deliveries.
Gainey reported $162 million in cost savings already, and said Transcom is "right on track" to reach its goal of $500 million in savings by the end of 2012.
While keeping a close eye on ways to improve the bottom line, Gainey emphasized that warfighters’ needs always will come first. The idea, she said, is to give warfighters options so they can weigh in to the decision-making process. For example, she posited, is a specific piece of equipment needed immediately, or would it be acceptable for it to arrive within a few days?
"There are different ways to do things: an expensive way and a cheap way," Gainey said. "We cannot sacrifice effectiveness for the warfighter. But we can show them what the options are and ask them, 'If you are willing to do this and wait two more days for this, here's the option I can provide to save money.'"
Improving the transportation and distribution process and making it more efficient requires an enterprise approach, she said.
"We want to deliver better capability," Gainey said. "We want to ensure that we inculcate a cost culture, but not forgetting about effectiveness and giving the warfighters options for them to choose."