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Deployment and Distribution Command and Control

The U.S. Transportation Command and the Defense Logistics Agency have partnered with the services to develop an expeditionary joint distribution capability. Synchronization among four organizations is leading to the achievement of Joint Theater Distribution. 

The Army has embarked on an ambitious program to transform the force while it fights the Global War on Terrorism. According to The ARMY Magazine Hooah Guide to Army Transformation by Dennis Steele, which appeared in the February 2001 issue of ARMY, “Army Transformation represents the sweeping measures [required] to accomplish the Army Vision, changing the ways that the Army thinks, trains and fights.” This transformation includes not only changes in organization, training, tactics, and equipping of forces but also in logistics. Following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the need for a rapidly deployable force that could respond globally, in hours, to a wide range of missions became more than a goal—it became a necessity.

Today, the U.S. military is engaged on multiple fronts and at multiple levels across the full spectrum of the operational continuum. “Joint,” under the textbook definition found in Joint Publication 1–02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, “connotes activities, operations, organizations, etc., in which elements of two or more Military Departments participate.” However, this definition seems overly simplistic in the post-9/11 era.

Take, for example, our military’s response to Hurricane Katrina along the gulf coast in the fall of 2005. The military was called on to interface simultaneously with local, state, and Federal agencies while employing the full range of capabilities of the total force (Active, Guard, Reserve, and agencies). We had to deal with Government and non-Government relief organizations. Different levels of government in many jurisdictions made this a highly dynamic and complex environment for conducting effective civil support operations. If we multiply the complexity of hurricane relief operations by the operational environment of the Global War on Terrorism, it readily becomes apparent that we face the most challenging logistics environment in history.

As the United States has deployed and operated in different theaters in recent years, both the geographic combatant commanders (GCCs) and their respective service components have been confronted with the challenge of effectively synchronizing the deployment of forces and distribution of materiel. The importance of being effective while maintaining economy of force has been underscored for the services, and especially the Army, as they have responded to multiple threats and rotations. Joint Theater Logistics is a way to achieve capabilities that optimize theater logistics to support the GCCs.

The purpose of Joint Theater Logistics is to enhance the ability of the Joint Force Commander to improve warfighting capabilities through better logistics support. “Big Logistics,” or “Big L,” is broad in scope and encompasses numerous activities beyond synchronizing force deployment, sustainment distribution, and retrograde operations. “Big L” includes engineering, maintenance, health and personnel services, and a host of other force support actions. The focus of this article is narrower, concentrating on a subset of functions in Joint Theater Logistics and Joint Theater Command and Control.

Joint Theater Distribution

During Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), we have witnessed the most dominating, rapidly moving, complex, and ultimately successful combined air, sea, and ground operations ever. Moreover, the agility exhibited both strategically and operationally by our military forces has been unmatched in history. What other country could have demonstrated the operations capability needed for success in OEF and OIF while also deploying elements of the Marine Corps to Haiti, responding to disasters at home and abroad, or aiding in the rescue of a Russian submarine half a world away? However, the execution of this agile response capability posed fundamental challenges for logistics support.

The U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), established in 1987, already had a long history of supporting all combatant commands (COCOMs) directly with worldwide force and sustainment movement. An important step in TRANSCOM’s evolution occurred on 16 September 2003, when the Secretary of Defense
designated the TRANSCOM Commander as the Department of Defense (DOD) Distribution Process Owner (DPO). This designation made him responsible for improving the overall efficiency and interoperability of distribution-related activities and for serving as the single entity to direct and supervise execution of the distribution system. Soon afterward, TRANSCOM gave birth to a rapid expeditionary joint distribution capability known today as Joint Theater Distribution (JTD).

JTD is enabled by the synchronization of functions and tasks in four organizations that deploy into theaters under operational control (OPCON) to GCCs. These four organizations are the—

  • Joint Deployment Distribution Operations Center (JDDOC).
  • Director Mobility Forces-Air (DM4–A).
  • Director Mobility Forces-Surface (DM4–S).
  • Joint Task Force-Port Opening (JTF–PO).

TRANSCOM and its national partners provide the JDDOC; the services furnish the DM4–A and DM4–S; and the Air Force component of TRANSCOM (the Air Mobility Command) provides the JTF–PO. These new organizations generate joint output for the GCCs and are commonly referred to as “D2C2” (deployment and distribution command and control).

Joint Deployment Distribution Operations Center

The first D2C2 organization is the JDDOC. In response to the challenges of OEF and OIF, TRANSCOM, as the DPO, established a JDDOC to assist the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in organizing and synchronizing its deployment forward and distribution operations. Using the Joint Movement Center concept as a starting point, TRANSCOM, together with the Army Materiel Command, coordinated with CENTCOM and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to develop a CENTCOM Deployment Distribution Operations Center (CDDOC).

Within 90 days of concept proposal, the prototype CDDOC had been manned, trained, and deployed to the CENTCOM theater of operations. Since it deployed on 16 January 2004, the CDDOC has played a major role in assisting the JTF to respond rapidly and manage and improve logistics support. The CDDOC’s accomplishments and innovations have become mainstream practices in DOD while producing cost avoidances and savings for the services totaling over $1 billion.

The CDDOC developed a partnership with the Department of the Army, DLA, the Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC), Combined Joint Task Force-7 in Iraq, and the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) to package materiel on pure pallets for troops at far forward locations, establish container management teams in theater, and divert large items from air lines of communication to ocean shipping in order to free up scarce air assets for operational use.

Based on the CDDOC prototype, the JDDOC is a joint capability-based organization designed to satisfy the requirement to integrate strategic and theater force deployment execution and distribution operations within each GCC’s operational theater. It is flexible and scalable so that each GCC can adapt the organizational structure to meet the needs of his operational theater or mission. The JDDOC directs national partners (combatant commands, services, Defense agencies, and commercial partners) and GCC service component common-user and theater distribution operations above the tactical level in the GCC’s area of operations. Although it is not designed to execute materiel management functions, the JDDOC’s ability to move forces and high-priority materiel across the area of responsibility and to establish forward operational storage locations to support all four service components is unprecedented.

The JDDOC’s ultimate goal is to improve end-to-end distribution and to facilitate the GCC’s ability to identify, monitor, and manage shipments at any point in the global distribution system. The JDDOC has now been created by the DPO in every geographic combatant command, including the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) during Hurricane Katrina. These experiences suggest that the JDDOC best serves the GCC when the GCC has directive authority for logistics.

Director Mobility Forces-Air

The second of the four JTD organizations is the DM4–A. After Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the Air Force realized that it did not have the right mix of skills and capabilities to integrate the air mobility mission (both airlift and aerial refueling) into the combined air operations center of the combined joint forces air component command. Over the next decade, the Air Force developed the air mobility division (AMD) to execute the air mobility command and control mission and to reach back into the Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. This allowed the joint force commander to access commercial capabilities, employ strategic capabilities inside the theater, and provide aircraft for air evacuation missions. The Air Mobility Command was designated as the force provider for the AMD mission; it established an AMD training program and a separate training program for colonels and brigadier generals assigned to lead AMDs. These leaders were called the Director of Mobility Forces-Air (DM4–A)

When the numbered air forces that function as the service components of geographic combatant commands (such as the 9th Air Force for CENTCOM) execute contingencies, they request and receive a DM4–A and a tailored AMD from the Air Mobility Command. The Air Mobility Command ensures that AMDs and DM4–As are trained to current standards of performance and know mobility procedures and the latest platform technology and command and control systems. The DM4–A and AMD augment the combined air operations center and serve until the mission is contracted out, the mission is closed out and they return home, or the Air Force Reserve is mobilized to support long-term operations. Again, one of the strengths of DM4–A is its scalability. The DM4–A is an Air Force organization that contributes to joint output. Recently, TRANSCOM provided a DM4–A and a smaller AMD to NORTHCOM for Hurricane Katrina relief and to the U.S. Southern Command for humanitarian relief in Haiti.

Experiences from OEF and OIF have underscored the importance of the relationship between the JDDOC and the DM4–A and AMD. Each organization leverages its collective expertise and its visibility of capabilities and requirements to execute the air mobility mission in the theater. The JDDOC has visibility of joint requirements at the theater level and is constantly receiving requirements from tactical-level forces of all services. It synchronizes the requirements and validates modal missions to the DM4–A for execution.

An early discovery about JDDOC operations was that the JDDOC, with its link to TRANSCOM, could begin to determine modes of transportation, recommend forward stocking, and implement theater channels and overland lines of communication using commercial capabilities. This has contributed substantially to reducing the U.S. military footprint, which, in turn, has helped achieve diplomatic and force protection goals in the Global War on Terrorism.

Director Mobility Forces-Surface

As the JDDOC and DM4–A were developing, two phenomena became evident. First, the Army had no equivalent to the DM4–A; in other words, no Army-trained entity could execute the same process for ground operations as the DM4–A did for air operations. This would include the use of commercial liner and surface shipping inside theaters. Second, DOD had no process for deploying on a moment’s notice and operating aerial and sea ports of debarkation (APODs and SPODs) to joint standards with immediate connections to the theater JDDOC and DM4–A. In essence, our experience operating around the globe served as the basis for developing two additional deployable capabilities that, when combined with the JDDOC and the DM4–A, would be the building blocks of a joint theater deployment and distribution capability. These additional capabilities are the DM4–S and the JTF–PO.

Before transformation, the Army had a significant transportation structure in its theater support commands (TSCs) that performed both mode (means of transportation, such as air or ground) and terminal operations. The transportation structure included such organizations as the theater movement control agency (TMCA) and the transportation command element (TCE). The modular Army combat service support structure developed by the Army Combined Arms Support Command benefited the tactical Army, but it eliminated much of the movement and distribution command and control capabilities that TRANSCOM had come to depend on for end-to-end execution.

Once the CDDOC deployed to CENTCOM, TRANSCOM saw the benefit of establishing a capability in the ground force that executed movement and distribution much like the air component’s DM4–A and AMD did. Although the CFLCC had created a Movement and Distribution Cell (C3 for force movements and C4 for materiel movements) and had the TSC for materiel movements, these organizations were untrained in joint operations and lacked knowledge of the capabilities of TRANSCOM, the Air Mobility Command, or the commercial sealift industry. The Army had developed distribution management centers (DMCs), but it had no capability for bringing the full capabilities of national partners into the battlespace.

In August 2006, CENTCOM established the first DM4–S and surface mobility division (SMD) in the CFLCC in Kuwait. The DM4–S is a brigadier general, and the SMD includes Active Army, Army Reserve, and SDDC personnel. They were established within 12 months of concept approval.

The bottom line is that the DM4–S serves as the ground force’s force projection “plug” to the capabilities of national partners. Moreover, the current DMC needs to be linked with the SMD in order to connect with DLA to execute the movement of materiel.

TRANSCOM suggests that the DM4–S (with a combatant command C4 theater movement cell) replace the old TMCA/TCE structure and that it be incorporated into the TSC as one of its ground capability plugs and have a training relationship with TRANSCOM’s Army component, SDDC. In contingencies, the DM4–S should be a brigadier general or colonel, depending on the complexity of the operation. These service component-specific leaders should be routinely identified and trained by SDDC to the same joint standards as a DM4–A and AMD. TRANSCOM would ensure that these capabilities were exercised in the joint exercise program.

Joint Task Force-Port Opening

Last but not least, TRANSCOM as the DPO has rapidly developed an expeditionary port-opening capability in the JTF–PO. Conceived just a year ago, JTF–PO is the fourth of the D2C2 capabilities that generate joint output for the GCC.

After-action reports from recent deployments supporting contingency operations (both combat and non-combat) demonstrated that DOD lacked a joint standing capability to open and operate airports and seaports expeditiously. Historically, TRANSCOM has opened ports 75 percent of the time for noncombat operations such as hurricane relief, humanitarian assistance, and noncombatant evacuations. These operations have been conducted at the direction of the Secretary of Defense by GCCs outside of the request for forces (RFF) and deployment order (DEPORD) process. TRANSCOM can dispatch an APOD capability, but it lacks the Army movement control and onward movement capability needed to provide for full joint port operations.

This lack of “jointness” has impacted both combat and noncombat operations. When the United States landed six aircraft carrying Navy and Air Force equipment in Russia to help rescue trapped submariners, it did so operating in the blind. This experience showed that the United States needed a movement control capability with state-of-the-art communications equipment to coordinate the onward movement and call forward process at an APOD. As TRANSCOM participated in various operations and exercises over the past 2 years, this lesson continued to surface. The Air Force lacked the capability to perform arrival/departure airfield control group (A/DACG), onward movement, clearance, in-transit visibility (ITV), and command and control missions using APOD ramps.

TRANSCOM subsequently developed a concept for a joint standing task force in TRANSCOM that would deploy under the TRANSCOM commander’s authority—the JTF–PO. This task force would be placed under the OPCON of a GCC. It would be trained, organized, and equipped to operate a significant APOD 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for up to 45 to 60 days. The advantage of this Air Force and Army team is that the Army gets into the fight at the same time as the Air Force, not afterward. The JTF–PO solves the challenge of having the right mix of command and control, materials-handling equipment, and communications needed to link to the JDDOC and the DM4s immediately on arrival. The JTF–PO also would deploy with TRANSCOM global communications and national contracting capabilities so that, during noncombat operations, it could open, operate, and turn over APODs to TRANSCOM commercial contractors.

TRANSCOM deployed a prototype JTF–PO to CENTCOM’s Bright Star 05 exercise and to NORTHCOM’s Ardent Sentry exercise, both of which produced immediate favorable results. The Secretary of Defense recently approved a JTF–PO APOD standing executive order that directs 62 Army personnel assigned to a movement control battalion in TRANSCOM’s Army component, SDDC, to act as an interim provider of this port-opening capability for 1 year. This JTF–PO team, which includes an Air Force contingency response group, is based at Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey. The JTF–PO force participated in a fly-away certification exercise with the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in August 2006. The fly-away certification event is the key mission rehearsal exercise that will certify the JTF–PO’s mission readiness. The TRANSCOM commander declared that JTF–PO had achieved initial operational capability at the conclusion of the Joint Exercise for CONUS [continental United States] Humanitarian and Disaster Relief and is scheduled to evaluate it for additional missions outside CONUS.

The face of the battlefield has changed. Based on recent events and exercises at the operational and strategic levels in the Global War on Terrorism, the U.S. military has realized that additional joint command and control capability is required to execute the joint deployment and distribution mission effectively in theaters around the globe. TRANSCOM’s responsibility as the DPO is to manage the deployment and distribution pipeline in support of the warfighter. It takes Army forces and expertise to do this. They must be integrated into this process.

This is only the beginning. TRANSCOM and DLA have established an active and close partnership that has fostered several transformation initiatives designed to further improve expeditionary D2C2 capabilities. The two organizations have developed two logistics information systems—the Integrated Data Environment and the Global Transportation Network—to support rapid D2C2 deployments. DLA also has developed a deployable theater distribution center capability and will link this capability to the authority of the DPO (TRANSCOM). Theater Army organizations must be structured to provide and receive these joint capabilities. Future Army expeditionary and theater-opening concepts must take advantage of and incorporate these joint capabilities that could well precede Army forces awaiting the outcome of the RFF and DEPORD process.

Lieutenant General Robert T. Dail is the Director of the Defense Logistics Agency. He previously served as the Deputy Commander of the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, and as the Director, J–3/J–4, at TRANSCOM. He has a B.S. degree in business administration from the University of Richmond, an M.B.A. degree from Boston University, an M.M.A.S. degree from the Army Command and General Staff College, and an M.S. degree in national resource management from the National Defense University. He is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Army Command and General Staff College, the School of Advanced Military Studies, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Lieutenant Colonel David E. Jones is the Deputy Executive Officer for the Commander, TRANSCOM. He has a B.S. degree in business management from Clarion University of Pennsylvania and an M.S. degree in transportation management from the Florida Institute of Technology. He is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course, and the Army Command and General Staff College.