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NDIA Logistics: TRANSCOM highlights 'Intermodal Operations'

30th March 2011 - 16:08 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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In his keynote address to the 27th NDIA Annual Logistics Conference & Exhibition in Miami, Florida, Gen Duncan McNabb, USAF, Commander, US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) highlighted the power of ‘intermodal transportation.’

As opposed to historical models under which TRANSCOM received transportation requirements from regional / unified commands and assigned those to its subordinate ground (Surface Deployment and Distribution Command), sea (Military Sealift Command) air (Air Mobility Command) elements, or commercial industrial assets (900 Civil Reserve Air Fleet aircraft and 312 Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement vessels), true intermodal transportation options maximise TRANSCOM capabilities through the optimum combination of transportation assets.

‘We still do a lot of brute force logistics but I’ll tell you that now we are doing a lot of things a heck of a lot smarter,’ McNabb said.

Acknowledging the power of intermodal operations as one of his two surprises as TRANSCOM Commander – the other being the power of commercial industry and the networks and trusted partnerships they bring – he added, ‘When I think about the ability of intermodal ops – if you can really be able to move stuff between modes – and how valuable that is in time and in driving out dollar costs, that is more profound than I ever realised it was going to be.’

As an example of that value, he offered the movement of MRAP All Terrain Vehicles (M-ATV) into Afghanistan.

‘What we were doing was taking those M-ATVs by air,’ he explained. ‘We wanted to get them into the hands of our warfighters, because they save lives. They would fly out of Charleston. We used C-17s. We used commercial [aircraft]. We used [AN-] 124s. We used all types of different ways to do that to move 500 M-ATVs per month.’

‘For the intermodal op, we had [increased M-ATV deliveries] to 1,000 per month. And I said that I could not move 1,000 M-ATVs in there each month by air. We will have to do a combination of multimodal and air. We got support for that – [Under] Secretary [of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics] Carter was great. Allen [Estevez, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness] was great. The whole team was great. So basically you take them by surface [ship] to Bahrain, where they offload and then convoy at night [28 miles] down to [Sheik] Isa [Air Base]. Our Contingency Response Group and out Joint Task Force – Port Opening to do these two steps as basically one combined op. And then from Isa they would fly them in to Bastion, Kandahar and Bagram,’ he said.

He added, ‘And here’s what you saved: $110 million cost avoidance for 1,000 M-ATVs per month. But it was more than that. It was actually $116 million. Because every C-17 didn’t have to go as far, could be loaded with five M-ATVs on every sortie [versus three M-ATVs on longer sorties], increasing that throughput. Now, every time they came back, on every sortie, instead of putting three in there we put five in there. It was a faster velocity that ended up getting more stuff in more quickly than when you just had planes to do it.’

‘That’s the power of intermodal, he concluded. ‘And I would just say again, it is huge.’

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