Located in the Netherlands, in the thriving metropolis of Eindhoven, amongst industrial complexes and sparse thickets, lies the headquarters for the Movement Coordination Centre Europe (MCCE). Here, in a room awash with differing camo patterns, along with a smattering of plain-clothed civilians, is where the bulk of the MCCE activities take place. The individuals who work in this room are empowered to match transportation lift capabilities against movement requirements. To a U.S. Army transporter, booking transportation is business as usual, but this is anything but usual. The MCCE consists of 28 member nations (including the U.S. military) and has 32 national posts manned at the small headquarters. Two embedded U.S. military representatives spearhead the U.S. MCCE efforts in the European theater. This unique and international transportation-focused organization coordinates and facilitates movement requirements between partner nations by matching lift capability.
In the late 1990s, the United Nations and NATO identified a deficiency of strategic lift capacity and coordination of strategic lift assets. To address this issue, nations worked in concert to resolve the shortfalls and established the European Airlift Center (EAC) and the Sealift Coordination Center (SCC). In July 2007, these entities merged to form what is now known as the MCCE. The U.S. joined the MCCE on June 27, 2008.
The MCCE vision is to “be a world-class center of expertise in the international multimodal defense movement arena, coordinating members’ strategic movement requirements and offers in the most effective and efficient manner.” The MCCE, manned 24/7, aims to foster international cooperation and coordination, to facilitate member-nation strategic movement goals by utilizing air, land, and sea transport assets owned or contracted by national militaries of the members or supported agencies.
In 2017, United States European Command (USEUCOM) appointed U.S. Army Europe and Africa (USAREUR-AF) as the lead for accession to the Surface Exchange of Services (SEOS) program. Through interagency cooperation between USAREUR-AF, the MCCE, and USEUCOM, USEUCOM’s legal branch submitted a legislative proposal for SEOS participation to the U.S. Congress. This proposal was incorporated into the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which now authorizes the U.S. military to pursue formal and complete participation in the MCCE’s SEOS, covered in section 1202: participation in European program on multilateral exchange of surface transportation services. Following this passage, the Department of Defense, with the concurrence of the Department of State, may formally authorize the Department of Defense involvement in the program.
SEOS provides a framework to facilitate mutual support in surface transport for military activities through the exchange of services instead of financial payments. It supports services to be rendered based on the providing nation’s capacity, including road transport, railway transport, inland waterways, and sealift. The U.S., an initial founding member of the MCCE, has pre-approved membership to the SEOS program and has been a participating member of the air transport and air-to-air refueling exchange of services (ATARES) since January 2017.
ATARES includes air transport, air-to-air refueling, and other air-related activities. The U.S. has benefited in being able to offer and receive services with member nations, building alliances, and pooling resources.
Currently, the U.S. military employs the MCCE inland surface transportation cell services through cash payments by acquisition and cross servicing agreements (ACSAs). From 2018 to 2020, the U.S. submitted 321 movement requests and, through ACSAs, spent approximately €34.5 million or, roughly, $41.8 million for surface services coordinated by the MCCE. However, some MCCE member nations will not accept ACSAs or cash payments, meaning the U.S. is unable to access the capabilities of the MCCE fully. Fully participating in SEOS will provide a wider range of services not currently available to the U.S. military. As we enter the official membership into the SEOS program, we will lessen the monetary transactional processes of ACSAs and selected transport missions will be sustained through the exchange of the surface equivalent units (SEUs) by keeping record of debits and credits, much like a barter system.
In the simplest terms, the MCCE’s operating concept works as follows: Nation A has a requirement to transport 90 widgets from point X to point Z by a desired delivery date. The requirement is submitted to the MCCE, and the operational cells will issue the request to all of the member nations. In return,
the member nations will submit offers based on their strategic availability and assets to support the request. Nation A selects nation M, based on nation M being able to fulfill nation A’s requirement. Both nations reach an agreement of the specified SEU to exchange debits and credits for services rendered. These debits and credits are accrued or reduced based on the mission, distance, cargo and mode of the movement. Nation M then completes the mission, gaining the agreed upon credit while nation A incurs the debit upon acceptance and completion of mission.
Scenarios for movements can get complex, and requests are never exact. The movements can be multi-modal with various types and quantities of cargo and varying routes. These complexities are where the MCCE staff officers excel at calculating and negotiating the SEU credits and debts incurred by the participating members.
If the U.S. military has sufficient assets in the European theater, why go through the hassle of negotiating credits? Well, having sufficient assets does not necessarily translate to the correct assets, or the correctly positioned assets, or more significantly, the permanence of its current asset portfolio. One of the greater benefits of utilizing the MCCE is leveraging transportation through testing and improving interoperability with allies. Now, the greatest benefit of this pro-gram will be an expansion of interoperability by diminishing the lack of limitations of other member nations to exchange cash by using this barter system. The system of accruing credits allows the member nations to see a direct return of transportation funds for services rendered instead of a loss of funds to their Ministry of Defense. SEOS is not restricted to the European theater. It is an international program and can be implemented throughout multiple theaters, including the continental United States. Additional benefits also include cost savings, reduced footprint, optimizing localized assets, and, most importantly, the continuance of coalition and alliance building.
SEOS and ATARES allow the U.S. Army to use prepositioned, contracted, and partner-nation assets; we are no longer required to drive to a location with an empty load, less-than-truckload, or vise-versa, which additionally reduces our environmental impact and costs. By assisting one nation without expecting a due cost, we foster alliances while still effectively executing our missions. The SEU system allows us to provide services while consuming services in which we are deficient.
The U.S. military has a very visible presence in the European theater, and the MCCE will help to foster international cooperation and good- will. The U.S. military’s membership and participation in SEOS provides distribution capabilities of 27 member nations. Full participation will help to build and strengthen international partnerships. By expanding our theater distribution capabilities, the U.S. military will increase agility, build alliances, and optimize theater positioning.
For more information on the MCCE visit: https://www.mcce-mil.org/.
Aubrey Irvin is a certified master logistician who works with U.S. Army Europe and Africa (USAREUR-AF) G-4 in the mobility operations division, distribution branch. She has a Bachelor of the Arts in Government and International Politics from George Mason University and a Masters of Science in Logistics Management from the Florida Institute of Technology.
Rhonda Pitt is assigned to the 21st Theater Sustainment Command as a transportation specialist with liaison duties at the Movement Coordination Centre Europe (MCCE) serving as a staff officer to the Inland Surface Transport cell. She has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Sullivan University.
This article was published in the July-Sept 2021 issue of Army Sustainment.