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Container Management in the EUCOM and AFRICOM Theaters

The U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) Container Management Program, run by the Transportation Integration Branch (TIB), Distribution Management Center, 21st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC), is a renowned success story. It has had numerous achievements since Operation Desert Storm and the end of the Cold War, and some initiatives that originated within the program have been copied by combatant commands (COCOMs) and Army service component commands (ASCCs) throughout the Department of Defense (DOD).

EUCOM and AFRICOM Container Management

TIB runs container management missions supporting predeployment, deployment, left-behind equipment (LBE), sustainment, redeployment, recapitalization, reset, excess-equipment recovery, and retrograde operations in support of EUCOM and AFRICOM. The container management retrograde mission includes the COCOM and ASCC class V (ammunition) call forward, realignment, and retrograde programs. TIB has combined these class V programs into a seamless operation that is analyzed constantly for process-improvement opportunities.

The keys to the success of EUCOM's and AFRICOM's many container management missions are a robust movement control system and contingency operations container storage facilities, including hubs for on-call general cargo and ammunition-grade containers, common-user land-transport military trucking capabilities, and commercial contracts to handle overflow requirements using all modes of transportation (barge, rail, truck) and materials-handling equipment.

Programs important to mission success are the Diplomatic Clearance Program, the International Convention for Safe Container inspection program, the container maintenance program for bicon, tricon, quadcon, 20-foot, and 40-foot DOD common-user general cargo containers, and DOD common-user containerized ammunition distribution system military-owned demountable containers.
Transloading facilities for class I (subsistence), class II (clothing and individual equipment), class IIIP (packaged petroleum, oils, and lubricants), class IV (construction and barrier materials), and class IX (repair parts) and the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging also play key roles in mission accomplishment.

No Contracted Container Required

On 19 August 2010, EUCOM, AFRICOM, and U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) became the first COCOMs and ASCC within DOD to have zero containers on lease supporting contingency operations.

This initiative is one of many that the 21st TSC Distribution Management Center is using to advance the EUCOM and AFRICOM container and platform distribution management programs and enhance their lead over other COCOMs within DOD. Two more initiatives being used by the container management program are the Equipment Deployment Storage Systems Maintenance Program and usage of general and special service tenders for inland movements of break-bulk cargo.

Equipment Deployment Storage Systems Maintenance Program. By having its own container maintenance facility, the 21st TSC has lowered the cost of purchasing containers and eliminated unnecessary detention costs for EUCOM, AFRICOM, and USAREUR. The financial benefits of this initiative include a USAREUR cost avoidance of $5.023 million annually and $39.675 million across the program objective memorandum (POM) cycle. The total DOD cost avoidance is estimated to be $124.367 million annually and $981.914 million across the POM cycle.

Usage of general and special service tenders for inland movement of break-bulk cargo. The 21st TSC TIB has proposed the use of general and special service agreements for inland movement of break-bulk cargo to counteract excessive Universal Service Contract 6 break-bulk carrier line-haul rates. The initiative was briefed to the Distribution Steering Group, composed of representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, combatant commands, the military services, Defense agencies, and the transportation component command, and was positively received. The U.S. Transportation Command has directed further staffing of the proposal.

The 21st TSC, its Distribution Management Center, and TIB are constantly looking for new ways to reduce and minimize associated theater costs. We are confident that through our joint efforts we can minimize costs and provide quality service to both the European and African theaters. EUCOM and AFRICOM continue to make remarkable progress in the container management arena.

Eric J. Gordon-Jones is a traffic management specialist and chief of cargo operations, container management, and platform distribution systems of AFRICOM and EUCOM at the Transportation Integration Branch, Distribution Management Center, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

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