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Commercial Partners Critical to DOD Success

Oct. 10, 2019 | BY Terri Moon Cronk
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Commercial partners are critically essential to the Defense Department’s success, the commander of U.S. Transportation Command said.

"I remind everybody that the only reason that we exist is to project and sustain the joint force," Army Gen. Stephen R. Lyons said at the National Defense Transportation Association-Transcom fall meeting in St. Louis.

"Our great airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are out there every day [with] our commercial partners that are agile and adaptive to be able to respond to dynamic force employment [and that is] really held in amazement by everybody, but particularly by our adversaries," he said.

Army vehicles, equipment unloaded in Alaska.
Alaska Loading
Longshoremen load military vehicles and equipment containers belonging to U.S. Army Alaska during a joint readiness exercise at the Port of Anchorage in Alaska, Aug. 22, 2019. Airmen and soldiers from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson worked with the Army Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s 833rd Transportation Battalion to move about 1,450 vehicles and 440 containers of equipment.
Photo By: Alejandro Pena, Air Force
VIRIN: 190822-F-HY271-0092

As adversaries look at the United States and the U.S. military, they have a lot of things to admire, Lyons said. "We have great leaders, great noncommissioned officers," he added. "We have great technology and weapons systems." 

But what adversaries admire most, the Transcom commander said, is the ability to conduct global command and control on a global scale.

Our adversaries know that we can come if we have the will."
Army Gen. Stephen R. Lyons, commander of U.S. Transportation Command

"This incredible network of allies and partners we have across the globe, and the ability we have to project power to move at the time and place of our choosing … never changes," even as environments become more complex, Lyons said. 

The ability to launch bombers from the continental United States and strike targets in North Africa and return to the United States without ever landing in sovereign territory for refueling is an incredible capability, the general said, but it requires global integration and synchronization of resources that are positioned across three different continents.

This joint deployment enterprise framework is a global posture — a network enabled not only by military capability, but also by commercial networks, the Transcom commander noted. "The incredible relationships with our like-minded partners and allies across the world allows us to expand this logistics network to a global scale," he said.

Mobility platforms complement that framework, Lyons said. 

An airman walks inside an aircraft holding two blocks.
Mobility Guardian
Air Force Senior Airman Eve Broughton readies aircraft chocks at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, Sept. 23, 2019, during Mobility Guardian, a large scale mobility exercise.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Larry Reid Jr.
VIRIN: 190923-F-KA253-0230C
A military jet prepares for an aerial refueling at night.
Night Refueling
An F-16E Strike Eagle closes in on a KC-135 Stratotanker for aerial refueling during Exercise Mobility Guardian above central Washington, Sept. 11, 2019. Mobility Guardian provides airmen with the training to deliver a more rapid global response.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Charles Fultz
VIRIN: 190912-F-PI321-0107

"Our adversaries know that we can come if we have the will," Lyons said, noting that few people are aware of such elements as dynamic force employment and the U.S. ability to move every single day. 

Few realize how much is going on inside the mobility enterprise, he said, such as how many brigades or batteries are moving, or how many fighter squadrons are conducting operations while moving across the ocean. 

"And it's equally challenging for our adversaries to decipher what's going on inside this mobility enterprise and our ability to hide a needle in a needle stack when we need to," he added. 

Soldiers aboard a boat and wearing floatation vests observe as a large tactical truck goes down the boat’s ramp.
River Ops
Soldiers unload equipment from the landing craft U.S. Army Vessel New Orleans during a joint readiness exercise at Singing River, Miss., Sept. 14, 2019. The exercise validated the soldiers’ ability to deploy worldwide on short notice.
Photo By: Army Pfc. Joshua Cowden
VIRIN: 190915-A-NJ297-1085

DOD's commercial industry partners are a key part of these capabilities, which serve as a strategic deterrent and clearly demonstrate the U.S. ability to respond if it needs to the Transcom commander said. 

Meanwhile, DOD pays particularly close attention to the cyber world, based on the vulnerability of potential consequence, Lyons said. 

"There are no silver bullets. We continue to work through cyber hygiene, cyber defense, realigning architectures, moving to the cloud — many initiatives — to buy down cyber risk for the joint fundamental enterprise and U.S. Transcom," he said.

Other areas of interest Lyons emphasized included sealift recapitalization, improving household goods shipment for service members, aerial refueling and digital modernization.

Soldiers unload equipment during exercise.
Cape Rise Readiness
Soldiers prepare to unload vehicles and equipment from the National Defense Reserve Fleet vessel MV Cape Rise during a joint readiness exercise in Pascagoula, Miss, Sept. 14, 2019. The exercise allows the Army to train transportation units, for deploying U.S. combat power around the world.
Photo By: Army Pfc. Joshua Cowden
VIRIN: 190914-A-NJ297-1131Y

Additionally, he said, China's intent to disrupt 75 years of international norms, its efforts to shape predatory behavior — especially economically through state-owned enterprise and others — and its worldwide investments are creating a serious level of competition. 

"This is about setting the conditions so that the United States, its allies and partners, who are democratically minded, remain in a position of advantage and can prevent great-power conflict," Lyons said to contractors in the audience on their role in meeting that challenge.

Adversaries, he told them, clearly "see you as a pathway to be able to deny or degrade our ability to project power."