By Maj. Gen. Stephen E. FarmenJanuary 16, 2020
The Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command exists for one purpose--to move, deploy, and sustain the Armed Forces to deliver readiness and lethality at speed. We execute this purpose as a key member of the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise (JDDE), integrating, synchronizing, and providing global deployment and distribution capabilities in support of the nation's objectives. As the Army Service Component Command to, and operationally controlled (OPCON) by, the U.S. Transportation Command and an administratively controlled (ADCON) major subordinate command of Army Material Command, SDDC is the global intermodal surface connector.
SDDC links the JDDE and AMC's Materiel Enterprise at echelon, connecting surface warfighting requirements through distribution network nodes to the point of need to responsively project power and deliver desired effects in support of Combatant Commands and the Total Joint Force.
With nine Total Force transportation brigades geographically located throughout the world, the Surface Warriors of SDDC--including 2,400 active duty Soldiers, Department of the Army Civilians and local national employees, along with 2,700 operationally controlled Reserve Component Soldiers from the Deployment Support Command--are globally postured and warfighter focused.
SDDC's provides mission assurance through effective integration, synchronization and mission command of eight readiness levers: Strategic Seaports; Rail; Vessels; Trucks/Highways; Ammunition Ports; Containers; Total Force Integration; and Analysis and Systems. SDDC's readiness levers connect combat power and lethality to conveyances, link the global distribution network to the warfighter, and provide a lens through which the command evaluates operational effectiveness, comprehensive readiness, capability, capacity, and risk in order to enable dynamic force employment, warfighting readiness, and lethality at scale.
Strategic seaports are the vital nodes and connectors of our nation's transportation network and play a critical role in the Department of Defense's ability to deploy forces and equipment globally. There are 23 designated strategic seaports (17 commercial and six military) in the Strategic Seaport Program. Designation as a strategic seaport is based on anticipated requirements related to plausible major contingencies, emergencies or disasters, and war. SDDC synchronizes and coordinates DOD efforts at strategic seaports and ensures their infrastructure supports the use of heavy equipment, deep water access for large ships, access to rail and highway, security, matériel handling equipment, and cyber infrastructure to allow the flow of equipment and sustainment cargo. In addition to our continental U.S.-based strategic seaports, SDDC serves as the single port manager for more than 100 overseas seaports. Continued investment in the overseas rotations of our Armed Forces, along with a vibrant Strategic Seaport Program, will enable SDDC's transportation brigades to continue to effectively 'pitch' and 'catch' DOD Combat Power across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to deliver readiness and lethality around the globe. By diversifying the use of our ports, we keep them vibrant and open the aperture for sustained readiness.
Warfighting capability relies upon rail, the heavy-lift backbone of power projection. Rail transportation moves 70 percent of the DOD's unit equipment from power projection platforms to seaports of embarkation. The Strategic Rail Corridor Network, or STRACNET, and connector lines serve more than 120 defense installations and sites of military importance throughout the continental United States. SDDC collaborates and synchronizes with six Class I and numerous short-line railroad companies to move DOD equipment and supplies. The Railroads for National Defense Program, managed by SDDC's Transportation Engineering Agency, ensures the readiness capability of the national railroad network to support defense deployment and peacetime needs by integrating defense rail needs and civil sector planning affecting the nation's railroad system. The current commercial rail capacity of almost 48,000 rail cars, along with nearly 1,900 DODX rail cars and DOD's Defense Freight Railway Interchange Fleet consisting of more than 2,000 rail cars, provides enough capacity to meet requirements associated with major contingency deployments.
Vessels connect warfighting requirements to sealift and are a key enabler of U.S. power projection. Our nation's 175-ship strategic sealift fleet, comprised of government-owned and contracted commercial ships, moves approximately 90 percent of unit equipment and nearly all sustainment cargo during deployment operations in support of major contingencies. SDDC coordinates and synchronizes strategic sealift capabilities with deploying units. Joint Force deployment requirements are heavily dependent on having adequate overall sealift capacity as well as timely access to that available capacity to enable quick response to crisis and contingency scenarios. An aging sealift fleet and shrinking commercial capacity threatens our future ability to provide timely delivery of combat-credible military forces to the point of need. A comprehensive recapitalization plan to replace aging ships is important to meet national security requirements and avoid a loss of government-owned sealift capacity.
Our nation's highways are the intermodal connectors that provide the strategic link necessary for the DOD to deploy military forces from power projection platforms to seaports of embarkation. Collectively designated as the Strategic Highway Network, they connect important military installations to each other and with strategic seaports, providing an effective U.S. transportation infrastructure network. SDDC provides shipping rates, routing and carrier performance quality control of authorized and qualified carriers transporting DOD surface cargo. Approximately 700 commercial motor carriers, with a capacity of over one million trucks, are registered with the DOD.
SDDC owns and operates two Military Ocean Terminals that are critical to supporting the DOD's wartime ammunition throughput requirements. Military Ocean Terminal Concord (MOTCO), California, on the west coast and Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point (MOTSU), North Carolina, on the east coast are the largest strategic ammunition seaports in the world in terms of net explosive weight capability and are considered the "crown jewels" for delivering lethality. No other facilities or combination of facilities on either coast can match the ammunition throughput capacity and net explosive weight limits MOTCO and MOTSU provide to meet global wartime ammunition out load and distribution requirements. When needed, Naval Magazine Indian Island, Washington, is available to supplement west coast ammunition requirements. Continued investment in the infrastructure of MOTCO and MOTSU, including security, personnel and the maintenance of cranes and supporting rail lines, is vital to underwriting their unique mission set of supporting Joint Force lethality around the globe.
The Joint Force is deployed and sustained via containers. Global Container Management is one of SDDC's core competencies. SDDC plans, organizes, directs, controls, and executes the functions and responsibilities required to provide for positive and effective use of more than 300,000 DOD and Military Department-owned, -leased, or -controlled containers. This includes functions and responsibilities of life cycle assets and operational management to support the full spectrum of operations. The availability of serviceable containers to support unit deployment and ammunition shipments remains a challenge. Continued funding of the Army's centrally-managed container fleet is critical to maintaining capacity.
TOTAL FORCE INTEGRATION
SDDC's Total Force is made up of trusted professionals from the active and Reserve components, government civilians, local nationals and commercial industry. The integration of SDDC's active force with the Deployment Support Command, its operationally controlled Reserve force of 2,700 Surface Warriors, as well as the U.S. Army Reserve Command and National Guard Bureau, ensures wartime requirements can be met and is critical to SDDC's success. With four Reserve transportation brigades and 12 Reserve transportation battalions, the DSC is the "secret sauce" to our readiness and brings a highly trained and ready Reserve transportation capability to the fight that can be rapidly integrated into operations. It is the essential component that allows SDDC to accomplish its mission. We must continue to leverage the capabilities of our Total Force to ensure mission readiness while ensuring active and Reserve component capabilities remain integrated to meet future requirements in support of the Joint Force.
To accomplish our mission, data and systems must be effectively used to support operational planning and decision making. Simply put, data and analytics matter. The employment of sophisticated analysis, modeling, and simulation software allows detailed assessment of transportation plans to include throughput capability, node and route effectiveness, theater movement asset requirements, and potential bottlenecks or constraints. Comprehensive, end-to-end analysis of transportation feasibility, throughput, force closure profiles, and infrastructure assessments ensure effective support of combatant commander requirements. SDDC's interoperable surface transportation systems enable the movement, deployment and sustainment of forces across the JDDE while ensuring system protection, network security and defense from a cyber attack.
THE 4TH COMPONENT - SDDC'S COMMERCIAL CARRIERS AND INDUSTRY PARTNERS
To effectively move, deploy and sustain the Armed Forces, SDDC must build and maintain strong and lasting relationships, partnerships and friendships (the "three ships") with our "4th Component"--SDDC's commercial carriers and industry partners. Their expertise, capabilities and professionalism are an indispensable element of SDDC's success. Continued support, coordination and synchronization with our commercial carriers and industry partners is vital to SDDC's ability to deliver readiness and lethality in support of our nation's objectives. They are not just partners, they are on the team.
MISSION COMMAND - INTEGRATING, SYNCHRONIZING, AND COORDINATING
Providing global deployment and distribution capabilities to deliver and sustain the Armed Forces in support of our nation's objectives requires strategic execution. SDDC must continue to operate "left of boom," anticipating requirements, making appropriate decisions and then taking action. This necessitates constantly looking for leading indicators, getting inside decision cycles, tracking the metrics that matter, holding ourselves accountable to warfighting readiness and to the desired warfighting effects of the combatant commands. Harmonizing our efforts around the eight readiness levers ensures comprehensive readiness in these lanes and is essential to accomplishing SDDC's purpose--to move, deploy, and sustain the Armed Forces to deliver readiness and lethality at speed.
Maj. Gen. Stephen E. Farmen is the 21st commanding general of U.S. Army Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, the Army service component command to U.S. Transportation Command and a major subordinate command to U.S. Army Material Command. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from University of Richmond and was commissioned into the Transportation Corps. He holds a master's degree in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College. His military education includes Transportation Officer Basic and Advanced Courses and the U.S. Naval Command and Staff College. He completed a Senior Service College Fellowship as the first military fellow to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology:
Center for Transportation and Logistics.
This article was published in the January-March 2020 issue of Army Sustainment.