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American Forces Press Service

Transcom Charts Future as DODs 'Distribution Synchronizer'

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., Nov. 14, 2012 – For years, tiny Morón Air Base in Southern Spain appeared to be headed to the chopping block. The base, established with the Spaniards in the early 1950s, had for decades been relegated to standby status for U.S. deployments in support of exercises or crisis response.

U.S. Air Forces in Europe leaders, looking for ways to cut operations that don’t directly support their contingency plans, were prepared to close its gates. However, officials at U.S. Transportation Command, working with U.S. European Command, helped them realize that although Morón may no longer be vital to activities in the European theater, it’s a key node for operations within both U.S. Central Command and U.S. Africa Command.

The decision to maintain Morón offers a snapshot of Transcom’s work as the Defense Department’s officially designed “distribution synchronizer,” Navy Rear Adm. William “Andy” Brown, the command’s director of strategy, policies, programs and logistics, told American Forces Press Service

That mission, assigned in early 2011, charges Transcom to look horizontally across the combatant commands -- rather than vertically, through individual combatant command stovepipes -- to synchronize planning for global distribution operations, Brown explained.

The idea is to help DOD “knit the distribution seams among the combatant commands to better support their theater campaign and contingency plans,” Air Force Gen. William M. Fraser III, the Transcom commander, told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this year.

This, in turn, will help ensure access to the places vital to Transcom’s transportation and distribution mission, Fraser said, ensuring sufficient distribution lines across multiple theaters for it to project and sustain forces around the globe.

A big consideration, Brown said, is to continue posturing Transcom to react to simultaneous events with the transportation and distribution network in place to support them. “What happens if we had to [respond to] a hurricane over here and another operation over there?” he said, pointing to two opposite ends of the globe. “What happens to the global transportation network, and how do you maintain that resiliency and ability to react quickly to changes?”

Transcom’s global campaign plan for distribution, expected to be completed by late 2013, will provide the framework for addressing these issues, Air Force Col. Carol Johnson, a plans officer in Brown’s directorate, reported.

The campaign plan will help Transcom identify what measures need to be taken now to provide the infrastructure, relationships and other requirements to support the defense strategic guidance, she said. That includes the department’s pivot toward the Asia-Pacific region, the drawdown of combat operations within Centcom, natural disasters and other contingencies.

Recognizing that requirements will always outweigh capability, Johnson said the global campaign plan will help DOD identify redundancies, establish priorities, weigh risks and recommend solutions for reducing them.

Working with an initial concept, Transcom brought together stakeholders from across its distribution community to war-game it in July. “Everybody agreed it was feasible and would work,” Johnson said of the concept. Now, the Transcom staff is waiting for Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James N. Miller to give that concept the green light, most likely in early December, so they can begin drafting the official plan.

If that plan is approved as expected by the end of next year, Transcom officials plan to spend a year fine-tuning the processes.

Then, once each year, the Transcom commander will sit at the table with defense senior leaders and the other combatant commanders to review their theater distribution plans and identify ways to shore up any gaps.

“Our job will be to look across the spectrum and make recommendations to the chairman,” Brown said. “From a national perspective, our No. 1 priority is to get this global campaign plan for distribution right.”

The annual review will help keep Transcom’s global distribution plan in line with the changing strategic environment and COCOM requirements, Johnson said.

“Most people write plans, get them approved, then put them on the shelf until it’s time to pull them off and execute,” she said. “But ours is consistently going to be evolving and updating, because we do this every day. Our plan will be updated based on the strategic environment and the strategic needs of the Defense Department.”

Ultimately, she said, the new plan will help DOD develop a more strategic posture for the future.

“In the past, we have been reactionary in supporting folks when things happen, and we haven’t had that strategic look at distribution,” Johnson said. “But with the global campaign plan for distribution, we can be more strategic in the planning effort of distribution. And that will make us more effective in everything we do.”

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