America’s military advantage lies in its ability to project power and sustain forces.
No other country in the world could deploy and sustain an operation in Afghanistan, as the United States did in October 2001. Transportation and logistical personnel – military and civilian – are key to this capability.
But that advantage is eroding, officials said at the National Defense Transportation Association meeting in National Harbor, Maryland, yesterday.
The National Defense Strategy recognizes the importance of this global logistics network, said Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Broadwater, the deputy commander of U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
China and Russia have studied U.S. operations from Desert Shield/Storm to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. They have been developing tactics, techniques and procedures to counter America’s military advantage.
Added to that is the rapidly changing security environment delineated by the strategy. Russia and China are the main threats. But North Korea, Iran and violent extremism must be countered as well. All these pose different logistics problems.
Command and control is one portion of this and nation states, terror organizations and even lone hackers target the communications links that tie the transportation/logistics effort together, officials said. Enemies can target space assets that make this connectivity happen. All these must be countered or systems must be hardened, officials said.
The command itself must stress coordination and integration or national defense assets with private firms. Cyber security must be an integral part of every system or contract Transcom uses, officials said.
Transcom is moving aggressively into the cloud to protect data and management system, Broadwater said.
And military equipment needs to be recapitalized and maintained. Navy Military Sealift Command ships are getting older. The Budget Control Act of 2011, which instituted sequestration, did no favors for maintenance and upkeep of these aging platforms. Officials said the Navy has a plan to rebuild these fleets and it needs to be funded and followed.
The fiscal year 2019 defense budget authorized life extensions for existing ships and funding for 10 new vessels.
Air mobility is crucial to the command and is also being studied. Officials said the addition of the KC-46 Pegasus aircraft fleet and follow-on tankers should serve the United States military well moving ahead.
Transcom is looking forward. Officials are devising ways to stay ahead of near-peer competitors and lesser threats.
“The challenges of tomorrow will require a new approach, because the problems have become more complex, more nuanced,” Broadwater said.