Before the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) was established, the nation's strategic mobility assets - consisting of airlift and aerial refueling aircraft, specialized sealift ships, rail cars and civilian contract carriers of all varieties - were operated independently by the Army, Navy and Air Force. Inevitably, differences in operational characteristics and service policies and procedures complicated movements of military forces and raised operating costs. War planners identified coordination problems throughout the transportation system in simulated wartime operations.
In 1978, the Department of Defense (DOD) staged a worldwide deployment exercise called Nifty Nugget, which revealed a lack of flexibility when multiple transportation modes - air, land, and sea - were required. In addition, various data processing systems could not function together. Unity of command was impossible because no single commander had overall responsibility and authority to coordinate and direct the use of various available transport capabilities.
Analysts computed that if this exercise had been an actual conflict, there would have been 400,000 troop casualties, and thousands of tons of supplies and 200,000 to 500,000 trained combat troops would not have arrived at the conflict scene on time.
As a result of lessons learned from Nifty Nugget, the Joint Deployment Agency was created in 1979 to provide a single manager for deployment. However, it was not until USTRANSCOM was created that a single commander was given responsibility and authority for planning and directing the wartime operation of all defense transportation assets.
April 18, 1987, the president directed the secretary of defense to establish USTRANSCOM to integrate global air, land and sea transportation. USTRANSCOM was formally activated as a unified command on Oct. 1, 1987, with a charter to plan for and direct wartime operations for all defense transportation assets.
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