The U.S. Transportation Command recently celebrated an important milestone as the convergence of two key automated port processing information systems reached initial capability. The migration of the Worldwide Port System with the Global Air Transportation Execution System creates a single port/terminal processing and management system for the Department of Defense.

The convergence of WPS, used by USTRANSCOM's Army component Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, and GATES, operated by its Air Force component Air Mobility Command, will reduce duplication, enhance capabilities and provide cost savings.

"This is what we mean when we talk about TRANSCOM, when we talk about DPO, when we talk about bringing something together to take it to the next level," said USTRANSCOM Commander Gen. Duncan J. McNabb. "It shows the value of what happens when we come together as a team. This is a true success story."

The plan to merge the two systems was approved in April 2006 when Army Lt. Gen. Robert T. Dail, then USTRANSCOM deputy commander, directed the establishment of a Port Management Automation (PMA) activity to develop plans for integrating WPS and GATES into a single port operations and manifesting system. Since then, the joint SDDC, AMC and USTRANSCOM PMA team has been actively capturing surface requirements, developing software code, testing, training and accomplishing fielding activities to make the vision a reality.

The team began executing the development and implementation schedule using a phased approach, with Phase 0 involving the completion of system definition and analysis. Phase I consists of converting WPS regional databases into GATES for command-level functionality and initial capability. Phase II, the conversion of WPS terminal level applications into GATES for user functionality and replacement of SDDC's business process server, will bring the project to final capability.

To support the phased approach, a series of joint application development sessions were conducted to capture WPS operator requirements, gain input from WPS and GATES subject matter experts, and identify required improvements where applicable. Simply put, the team did not merely roll over existing WPS functionality into GATES, but created many new processes and data elements to replace previously manual processes, a stepping stone to fully automating surface port business processes.

"This initiative was not without challenges," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Mike Gould, director of USTRANSCOM's Operations and Plans Directorate. "I applaud the team for highlighting challenges, evaluating solutions, and seeking senior leadership involvement when appropriate; all key elements in delivering timely warfighter capability."

After more than two years of development effort, the team recently declared initial capability. On November 21, 2008, the WPS regional databases located at Fort Eustis, Va., Wheeler Army Air Field, Hawaii, and Rotterdam, Netherlands were successfully migrated into the GATES central site at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. This marked the completion of Phase I activities, allowing all SDDC terminal transactions to be communicated to the GATES central site. Remarkably, the Phase I convergence activities did not interrupt a single interface partner's data flow or diminish system performance for the estimated 13,000 GATES users who execute global surface, aerial port, and defense courier operations.

With initial capability declared, a full court press towards completing Phase II is well underway. Phase II, scheduled to begin fielding November 2009, will replace the WPS terminals at the SDDC surface ports with remote and deployed GATES servers and replace SDDC's business process servers at four unique sites with the GATES architecture in order to achieve final operating capability.

The fully migrated version of GATES will support surface terminal, aerial port, and Defense Courier Division cargo and passenger processing and manifesting operations while increasing warfighter capability across the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise.

"Upon declaring final capability, we'll enjoy a cost savings associated with enhancing and maintaining a single system, vice three, coupled with increased warfighter capability," said Larry Jameson, Gould's deputy director for Programs and Readiness. "This is a distribution portfolio 'must have' in today's resource constrained environment."