By Arpi Dilanian and Matthew HowardJuly 18, 2019
Projecting and sustaining power is the cornerstone of the joint force's ability to fight and win our nation's wars. As commander of U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM)--and the first Army officer to hold the position--Gen. Stephen Lyons is leading the charge to enable the global reach of the Department of Defense (DOD). A logistician through and through, Lyons was previously the commanding general of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, the commanding general of the Combined Arms Support Command and Sustainment Center of Excellence, and the director for logistics (J-4) on the Joint Staff. Here are his thoughts on USTRANSCOM's role in battlefield sustainment.
How have your experiences prepared you to approach the USTRANSCOM mission from a different perspective?
I am following in the footsteps of some giants who were outstanding USTRANSCOM commanders and joint officers; they just happened to be wearing the Air Force uniform. If you look at USTRANSCOM and its mission, you discover how big of a piece the Army really plays. In a fully mobilized joint deployment and distribution enterprise (JDDE), the design is largely built around our ability to move a decisive force, which is predominantly the Army.
Having been a recipient of this great USTRANSCOM effort -- what I really consider to be a national treasure -- throughout my previous commands, I have a true appreciation of the importance of the mission. My past experiences help in my current role to have the perspective and understand what USTRANSCOM support looks like on the receiving end.
How has battlefield sustainment evolved throughout your career?
What is most important is what hasn't changed--by that I mean the purpose and nature of logistics to project and sustain combat power, provide strategic reach, and enable freedom of action. That purpose is enduring and important to underscore in terms of the logistics enterprise.
What has changed is the character of war, and how we fight as a combined arms team is changing rapidly. When you think about the National Defense Strategy, it describes our problem sets in terms of expanded battle space across all domains, timing, tempo, and transregional challenges. For logistics that means the main drivers--time, distance, consumption, damage, destruction, and those kinds of things--are all increasing.
The last time the Army really operated at a high-intensity, combined arms offensive tempo was probably in Iraq in 2003. It was tough, but our enemy was far from a near-peer competitor. As we adapt to the changing character of war, and you think through how we deliver lethal effects, I think we'll have to anticipate and adapt logistics architecture to support the changing character of war.
How are we improving deployment readiness and our ability to set the globe?
USTRANSCOM is one of 10 combatant commands. In that context, my number one priority is warfighting readiness--being ready not only to provide an immediate force tonight but also to transition to a high-end war plan and provide a decisive force when needed. We spend considerable time assessing the sufficiency and readiness of the mobility force to meet our most demanding war plans. We've got an incredible team, in our Strategic Plans, Policy, and Logistics Directorate and the analytics team in the Joint Distribution Process Analysis Center, that does that.
The global security environment is changing quite rapidly. We must assume that we'll have to project military forces over long and contested lines of communication and into transregional, multi-domain conflict. The key to success is our ability to globally integrate mobility operations with warfighting functions and the geographic combatant commands. It's also the agility and ability to adapt and innovate and to allocate fairly scarce resources to get strategic effects for the Secretary of Defense.
So we spend a fair amount of time not only operating day to day but also thinking about the high-end war plan--what that security environment will look like and what we need to do to ensure mission success.
Setting the globe is key. USTRANSCOM's strength and agility is really underpinned by a global deployment network of nodes and routes that provide pathways in the air, on land, and at sea to be able to project power. The network runs from the continental United States, at power projection platforms, all the way into various theaters of operations where we have critical relationships with our allies and like-minded partners.
Within that network, we operate airlift, sealift, air refueling, and patient movement. I think of this almost in the context of strategic maneuver; positioning forces and capabilities provides us advantages over our potential adversaries physically, psychologically, and temporally. The demand the Chief of Staff of the Army has put on the JDDE to support rotational forces is really helping us to improve readiness by forcing us to operate on a regular basis. We're also working with the services to improve some of the fleets that are aging.
How is USTRANSCOM modernizing to meet emerging threats in a multi-domain environment?
For decades the United States has enjoyed dominance in all five domains. Generally, we can deploy our forces when we want, assemble them where we want, and operate how we want. Looking toward the future, we acknowledge that our access will be contested and the continental United States is no longer a sanctuary.
If you were an adversary looking at and assessing our capabilities, I would argue you'd probably call out three credible strategic strengths. The first is global command and control. The second is our ability to project power on a global scale. And the third is our deep bench of allies and like-minded partners that have stood with us for 75 years in defense of freedom. USTRANSCOM relies on all three.
USTRANSCOM relies on all three strengths. But we should expect that an adversary will attempt to make our strengths our weaknesses.
We see this clearly in day-to-day competition below the level of armed conflict, so we're doing a lot of work to ensure we maintain our nation's comparative advantage, creating multiple options for our national leadership while creating multiple dilemmas for our adversaries.
We're working with the services on capability development. We're working with geographic combatant commands to integrate warfighting functions, such as intelligence, fires, and protection. And we're working internally to be much more resilient so we can react to the unknown, especially in the area of cyber and our networks that are critical and central to our success.
Can you discuss the development of the Transportation Management System (TMS)?
In terms of the computational processing capability, look at how industry uses data and how fast this technology is moving, and then contrast that with our DOD legacy architecture. There's a pretty big gap there. First off, I want to make sure folks understand that TMS is not a fix-all enterprise system; it's not designed to do everything for everybody. It's part of a broader enterprise approach that includes cloud computing, enterprise data management, and some other initiatives that are ongoing.
It's also worth noting that it's designed to be at the edge where troops do work and to be transactional in nature; it's not a command and control system.
The concept of TMS is this. Imagine all of the global nodes in the deployment network--power projection platforms, aerial ports of embarkation and debarkation, seaports of embarkation and debarkation, and distribution centers. Today those are all disparate, separate, and disconnected. Can we take a commercial off-the-shelf solution and link together all those nodes across the JDDE through a common system that can transcend ordering, shipping, paying, and cargo tracking across the defense transportation system? That is TMS. As we look at the functional assessment for each of these nodes, the prototype we're running is really determining whether there is a commercial system that is close enough to avoid significant customization.
Think about the power of the information you're going to feed into the broader enterprise fusion and decision-making systems and if we can move in that direction.
Each of the information technology systems today grew up on their own; none are integrated. Today, for example, an aerial port has limited visibility of what's inbound to their cargo dock until it shows up. We can obviously do much better than that, and that's why we're exploring the TMS solution.
What are your thoughts on Army Futures Command?
I really applaud the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army for taking the initiative to streamline and expedite the acquisition process. Today we're just too slow. Our adversaries are stealing our intellectual property and outpacing our technological advancement.
This effort to better link dynamic requirements with capability development in a compressed and focused way is a huge step for our Army, particularly for materiel development.
From a USTRANSCOM perspective, it's critical for us to be linked with Army Futures Command. Anything developed for the ground force has to be moved, so we want to make sure deployability is always considered.
From platoon to combatant command, you have commanded at every level. What advice do you have for service members across the joint force?
Do your best. Challenge yourself, and challenge your teammates. Learn something new and get better every day. And stay fit: physically, mentally, and spiritually.
The biggest thing, though, is to remember that success has less to do with rank, position, and money than most people think. I admire our young troops across the joint force who are willing to give of themselves for a higher cause. For the most part, they do so with a happy heart.
At the end of the day, their legacy is not defined by what they accomplish individually; it's defined by how well they set the conditions for their teammates to succeed.
If you work in the private sector, it's pretty common for managers to sacrifice their people to make their numbers.
But, in this great military culture we have, it's a completely reverse paradigm where we expect our leaders to sacrifice themselves for their people. That is a very special place to be, so for as long as you serve, enjoy it and make the most of it.
Arpi Dilanian is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4's Logistics Initiatives Group. She holds a bachelor's degree from American University and a master's degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Matthew Howard is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4's Logistics Initiatives Group. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Georgetown University.
USTRANSCOM: Sustaining America's Competitive Edge
by Gen. Stephen R. Lyons
Today, the United States enjoys a strategic comparative advantage due to our ability to project and sustain combat power globally at a time and place of our choosing. This capability is unmatched by any other nation in the world. We continuously evaluate today's operating environment with a critical eye toward the future security environment to retain our comparative advantage.
Our competitors are watching us. Our ability to respond with military force has been a deterrent to conflict and an assurance to allies that we will defend our mutual values of freedom and liberty. We should expect that capable adversaries will attempt to degrade or deny our ability to project power and may do so without ever firing a shot.
The United States enjoyed freedom of movement for decades; we could deploy our forces when we wanted, assemble them where we wanted, and operate how we wanted. Today, our competitors analyze our power projection capabilities and methods. Adversaries' activities in the cyber domain, infiltration of contract value chains, foreign investment in critical global choke points, attempts to erode geopolitical access, and development of increasingly potent anti-access/area-denial weapons are clear indicators of their intent to degrade or deny the ability of the United States to project the joint force.
The U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) exists as a warfighting combatant command to project and sustain military power. Powered by dedicated men and women, we underwrite the lethality of the joint force, advance American interests, and provide our nation's leaders with strategic flexibility to select from multiple options and create multiple dilemmas for adversaries.
SUPPORT TO THE JOINT FORCE
The joint force is continuously on the move conducting dynamic force deployments around the globe. For example, as a matter of routine operations this year, the Army will project 18 brigade combat teams and 22 additional brigade-sized formations in support of our National Military Strategy.
When crises arise, USTRANSCOM is prepared to pivot on short notice to rapidly respond to globally integrated priorities. In wartime, with the benefit of a fully mobilized deployment enterprise, USTRANSCOM can scale to a capacity large enough to move a city the size of Cincinnati, including all residents and their vehicles.
USTRANSCOM's global responsibilities transcend air, land, and sea. These responsibilities are executed through three component commands--the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, Military Sealift Command, and Air Mobility Command--and one subordinate command, the Joint Enabling Capabilities Command (JECC).
Commercial industry also plays an important role in the Defense Transportation System. Industry partners under contract provide critical transportation capacity for both airlift and sealift, access to global trade networks, and trained merchant mariners to crew Navy vessels.
POWER PROJECTION FRAMEWORK
USTRANSCOM's ability to project and sustain military forces around the world is based on the dynamic synchronization of three distinct and important elements: global deployment networks, transportation and mobility capacity, and global command and control (C2).
Global deployment networks. Power projection starts with continental United States (CONUS)-based installations and seaports and the highways and railways that connect them. Approximately 80 percent of the joint force is based in CONUS. To ensure our national infrastructure is sufficient to support military mobilization, USTRANSCOM manages several programs on behalf of the Department of Defense (DOD), including the Strategic Seaport Program, the Strategic Rail Corridor Network, and the Strategic Highway Network. In addition, we work closely with the Department of Transportation and other government agencies to ensure CONUS infrastructure supports DOD power projection.
Overseas deployment networks consist of nodes and routes that provide multiple paths to span the globe and project forces for combatant commanders. Our allies and partners provide access to key regions, supporting a substantial basing and logistics system that expands our nation's global reach.
In Europe, as our NATO allies grow more uneasy about Russian activity on their periphery, we are gaining access to new nodes across the continent. In Poland and the Baltic States, the Army is rotating forces through training areas that could become intermediate staging bases in a conflict with Russia.
TRANSPORTATION AND MOBILITY CAPACITY
Transportation and mobility capacity provides the capability to move troops, equipment, and critical sustainment within established global deployment networks. Mobility capacity consists of rail, motor transport, sealift, aerial refueling, intertheater airlift, and intratheater airlift. In a crisis, commercial transport capacity is accessible through emergency preparedness programs like the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) and the Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement (VISA). Under CRAF and VISA activation, 267 additional long-range international aircraft, 23 U.S.-flagged roll-on/roll-off vessels, and more than 70 container and multipurpose ships become available for tasking.
Airlift, such as the C-17 Globemaster, the C-5 Galaxy, and the C-130 Hercules, enable rapid power projection and sustainment of forces around the world. In addition to passengers, cargo, and other special missions, airlift enables global patient movement. Aeromedevac medical professionals provide time-sensitive, mission-critical, in-flight care to patients in transit, converting fixed-wing aircraft into intensive care units.
Tanker aircraft are the backbone of rapid global operations and the lifeblood of our joint force's ability to deploy and employ an immediate force. Aerial refueling platforms, such as the KC-135 Stratotanker, KC-10 Extender, and the new KC-46 Pegasus, provide the ability to transfer fuel to other aircraft while airborne. Aerial refueling enables rapid long distance transit that doesn't rely on enroute basing and enhances receiver aircraft sortie production in the combat zone. For example, a B-2 strike package with aerial refueling support can fly transoceanic distances to deliver weapons anywhere in the world without landing in a sovereign nation.
Sealift forces carry 90 percent of military cargo in war plans. One of the biggest ships moving our military equipment and supplies is the large, medium-speed roll-on/roll-off (LMSR) vessel.
The capacity of one LMSR is equivalent to approximately 400 C-17s; two LMSRs can deploy an entire armored brigade combat team. Pre-positioned ships are always forward deployed with unit equipment sets and critical supplies, which affords strategic flexibility and an accelerated response in a crisis. Ready Reserve Fleet vessels are berthed in reduced operating statuses at various locations on U.S. coasts and are available within five days to upload equipment at DOD strategic ports.
Global C2 underpins the effectiveness of the joint deployment and distribution enterprise (JDDE) by facilitating the dynamic allocation of scarce mobility forces to achieve the Secretary of Defense's strategic priorities. The transregional and global nature of mobility requirements drives USTRANSCOM to balance competing demands and priorities. Globally integrated C2 also enables us to amass mobility resources from multiple geographic regions to achieve unity of effort for high priority missions.
At the most challenging level, responsive global C2 is essential to fulfill expectations of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.
The strategy describes five wartime missions that can shift the weight of effort quickly from one to another based on globally integrated operations, requiring us to respond at the speed of war.
We must be adept at rapidly exercising global C2 given the inherent speed and responsiveness of air mobility capabilities to dynamically changing global demands. Globally integrated C2 across all modes optimizes mobility enterprise outputs and ultimately ensures mission success.
EVOLVING FOR THE FUTURE
The enormous success of the joint force over the last 30 years does not guarantee success for the next 30 years. USTRANSCOM must continue to evolve to ensure the U.S. military retains power projection as a comparative advantage.
To help shape future operations, we are leading efforts to move to a cloud-based computing environment and build an enterprise data environment that harnesses improved data analytics and sets conditions for artificial intelligence in order to improve mission outcomes. We are focused on cyber mission assurance through basic blocking and tackling--improved operator discipline, cyber hygiene, and cyber defense.
We also are advancing initiatives such as key terrain investments, infrastructure improvements, and close coordination with other agencies to ensure resiliency. We are modernizing our aging sealift and aerial refueling fleets to maintain our strategic comparative advantage over our adversaries.
We are reevaluating our role as the leader of the JDDE by looking comprehensively at end-to-end logistics to improve warfighting outcomes for the joint force. At echelon, we are encouraging a culture of innovation throughout our workforce to ensure the JDDE remains both effective and efficient well into the future. Throughout all of our initiatives, our number one priority is and will remain warfighting readiness.
USTRANSCOM is globally committed today and remains ready to transition rapidly to a fully mobilized enterprise to meet crisis and wartime requirements.
On an average day, 115 rail cars are moving DOD equipment, 33 ships are underway, 1,500 trucks are delivering cargo, an aircraft is taking off or landing every 2.8 minutes with 455 sorties in motion, 47 tankers are refueling aircraft, and 13 patients are airborne under expert medical care. Our wartime requirements would increase this activity fourfold to fivefold.
In the words of former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, "The surest way to prevent war is to be prepared to win one."
At the direction of the President of the United States and reinforced by longstanding allies and partners, USTRANSCOM ensures DOD global deployment networks and assigned mobility forces are ready to support combatant commanders and our national strategic objectives. I am amazed at our nation's ability to project military power in order to compete, deter, and--if necessary--respond to win decisively.
Our service members and merchant mariners are working around the clock and around the world to ensure mission success. The sun never sets on USTRANSCOM. Together, We Deliver.
Gen. Stephen R. Lyons is the commander of the USTRANSCOM at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. He hold a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the Rochester Institute of Technology, a master's degree in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, and a master's degree in logistics management from the Naval Postgraduate School.
This article was published in the July-September 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.