Scott AFB, IL -- February 19-25 is National Engineers Week, a time to celebrate how engineers make a difference in the world. The Transportation Engineering Agency, a subcomponent of the U.S. Army’s Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, makes a huge difference when it comes to supporting the command’s mission to provide global surface deployment and distribution capabilities to meet national security objectives in peace and war.
Founded in 1962, TEA analyzes transportation engineering to improve the global deployability of the nation’s armed forces by providing the Department of Defense with transportation and transportability engineering, policy guidance, research, and analytical expertise to support the National Military Strategy.
Within TEA, the office of the Special Assistant for Transportation Engineering provides executive level oversight of the Programs for National Defense and advises the SDDC Commander on transportation engineering policy matters. These three Programs for National Defense are specific engineering sections focused on surface transportation infrastructure to ensure each mode can fit national defense needs, whether it’s by railroad, highway, or port. Each program provides their own unique challenges.
Most highways, for example, are not owned by the DoD but by the respective state’s department of transportation. Douglas Briggs, TEA’s chief of Highways for National Defense program, coordinates with state transportation officials to ensure their infrastructures can meet the DoD’s needs.
“Where engineering becomes a significant factor is that most DoT employees and leadership consist of engineers,” Briggs said. “Having the engineering background allows me to engage with the state DoTs at a level that makes it easier for me to understand challenges that are experienced on the highways and the ability to work with other engineers to develop strategies to overcome those challenges for the military.”
Daniel Zedack, chief of TEA’s Railroads for National Defense program, says rail also works with several officials, however, the unique challenge is the variety of issues that come up every day.
“On any day, we may be analyzing a potential railroad abandonment issue, or researching a problem regarding track condition along a defense-important rail line or reviewing an analysis of the militarily useful and available commercial railcar fleet compared to DoD deployment plans,” Zedack said.
“We are currently working with one of the military services to preserve rail access to a critical military installation while also leading the development and coordination of technical specifications for a heavy-duty, chain tie-down flatcar to carry M1 Abrams tanks. The diversity of work tasks keeps the job interesting and forces us to be constantly learning,” he added.
The ports program blends the skills of different engineers into a cohesive team to discover versatile methods for transportation.
“Often times, engineers tend to be segregated based on disciplines; however, the engineers in PND come from a variety of disciplines – Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, Industrial,” said Philip Krueger, TEA’s chief of Ports for National Defense program.
“The work in PND can vary from traditional engineering functions like project designs or structural analyses to more conceptual things like understanding DoD deployment and seaport operations, developing complex materiel process flows, using sophisticated simulation tools or Geographic Information System (GIS) software, understanding laws and regulations related to funding mechanisms, use of civilian port infrastructure and explosives safety,” Krueger added.
The satisfaction the program leaders receive is knowing they are positively impacting military transportation efforts on a global scale. While most engineers are confined to their singular discipline and company, the engineers at TEA have a much greater reach and influence.
“I enjoy working as part of a team supporting the warfighter and DoD’s ability to project power globally,” said Krueger. “Current and recent world events only reinforce this feeling. It is satisfying to be handed a unique problem or concept of significance and be able to turn that into something actionable by senior DoD leaders. There are some things accomplished by PND engineers that have never been done before and that is pretty cool to be a part of.”