Enabling Dynamic Force Employment Through Global Port Readiness

Apr 13, 2021 | DTJ Online

DTJ looks back at the discussions from the 2020 Surface Force Projection Conference to see how priorities and the overall environment have changed less than one year later. The conference was presented by the National Defense Transportation Association (NDTA) and Christopher Newport University’s Center for American Studies (CAS), in collaboration with the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC), the US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD), and the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA). SFPC was moderated by VADM William A. Brown, USN (Ret.), President & CEO, NDTA, and BG Heidi Hoyle, USA, Commander, SDDC.

Projecting Power Through Logistics
Congressman Rob Wittman, (R-VA01), Representative for Virginia 1st Congressional District, US House of Representatives, provided remarks for the conference.

The US logistics fleet, better known as the Ready Reserve Fleet (RFF), is aging and in need of replacements. Ships in the RFF are approaching an average of 44-years old. Wittman reported that for 2020 an additional four ships were authorized to be added to the RFF. Adding these ships is critical, however more needs to be done to speed up the effort to build these capabilities.

He also commented on tanker security. “We have to make sure that we have a security program for our tankers,” said Rep. Wittman. “Our tankers go to deliver fuel to our ships and our aircraft, but they are also vulnerable. We know that if you take out the supply of fuel, there is only so long that aircraft can fly off the deck of aircraft carriers, [and] there’s only so far ships can go without fuel, so making sure that we secure our tankers is incredibly important.”

Underscoring the importance of logistics to the military, Wittman commented, “Logistics, while not making the headlines, is the most important part of what our military has to do to ensure success of its operations. We hear many times about tactical capability and even about the larger strategic capability, but if you can’t sustain your operation with supplies and with fuel then no matter how good your combat systems are then you will fail ultimately in your objective—and that is, when called upon, to defeat the enemy.”

A Maritime Perspective of Surface Force Projection Challenges and Maritime Community’s Response
Reflecting on the conference theme, Enabling Dynamic Force Employment Through Global Port Readiness, SFPC keynote RADM Mark H. Buzby, USN (Ret.), Administrator of the US Maritime Administration, said that “to do that, it really takes a strong maritime industry across the board.” He described several key elements that collectively strengthen the maritime industry to support national and economic security requirements: port and infrastructure investments, shipyards and the US industrial base, mariner education and training, domestic offshore energy production, Jones Act shipping, international shipping and global logistics, sealift recapitalization and readiness, and the response to COVID-19.

He reported that MARAD was very pleased with the relationship it has with America’s 16 strategic ports. These ports, which primarily serve as economic gateways, maintain constant readiness for the deployment of US military forces worldwide. Despite challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Buzby was unaware of any port closures and commended the remarkable response of the ports which kept commercial and military cargo moving.

A Discussion of USTRANSCOM’s Support to Surface Force Projection and Associated Challenges and Initiatives
One highlight of the 2020 SFPC was a panel discussion led by VADM Dee L. Mewbourne, USN, Deputy Commander, USTRANSCOM. It featured USTRANSCOM panel members Bruce Busler, Director, Joint Distribution Process Analysis Center; Brig Gen Michelle Hayworth, USAF, Director of Command, Control, Communication, and Cyber Systems (TCJ6); Andy Dawson, Senior Supply Chain Project Manager; and Robert Brisson, Deputy Director of Operations.

“USTRANSCOM is central to our nation’s ability to project military power from the continental United States. It’s a key tenant to the American way of war. Being able to project our forces anywhere in the world at a time and place of our choosing is a force multiplier and represents a strategic competitive advantage for the United States,” said Mewbourne. “We know power projection starts at home with the domestic transportation industry connecting ports to strategic ports via highways and rail. You are a component of our primary strategic advantage—the ability to project power and to influence the globe.”

USTRANSCOM was looking at the capacity and networks of seaports, as well as their role in power projection. A recently submitted a report to Congress, required by the NDAA, provided an assessment of all major commercial ports. USTRANSCOM used input from port operators to help formulate the current conditions and future capacity of the ports. The report also looked at how port revenues are generated, and the DOD and federal support for ports.

The other major element USTRANSCOM looked at was port readiness. As an adjunct to the mobility study, the command provided Port Look 2020, which looked closely at pacing demands on the East, Gulf, and West Coasts of the US. “Oftentimes people don’t realize we flow cargo off of all three coasts (sic) for any major power projection requirement, and then we’ll focus on the dominant coast once the flow is underway. But to do that, we have to look at the pacing demand and then how we workload each of the seaports,” explained Busler. “From that, we look at the combination of coastal outputs, look at the East Coast, Gulf Coast, and West Coast. And, to have resiliency in our port sizing besides the overall capacity—which is typically described as throughput for each of the ports to about 120 percent of the overall requirement—and that way, we ensure that we have enough primary seaports.”

Also on USTRANSCOM’s radar are the actions of US adversaries. In their efforts to reshape the world, China and Russia have conducted activities below the threshold of conflict in both the information environment and cyberspace domain. “I think we’re all well aware of how congested that cyberspace domain is,” said Hayworth. “Our adversaries every day are attempting to take actions that would degrade our nation’s ability to project and sustain combat power at a time and place of our choosing” She added that because USTRANSCOM exists to ensure the nation can project and sustain that combat power, cyber mission assurance remains one of the command’s top priorities.

A 2018 global threat report determined the average cyber incident “break out time” was one hour and 58 minutes. This number indicates the amount of time it takes an intruder to jump from the initially compromised system laterally to other machines within the network. “So, this is how much time (sic) our cyber defenders have on average to detect that initial intrusion, to investigate it, and then clear that adversary from the domain before they have the chance to achieve their objectives—one hour and 58 minutes. It’s not very long to do all of those activities,” Hayworth explained. To that end, USTRANSCOM drafted a Cyber Domain Mission Assurance Strategy that outlines many of the actions the command will take to increase its cybersecurity posture.

Dawson provided an update on USTRANSCOM’s Transportation Management System (TMS) program, in which the command executed a prototype to assess commercially available transportation, logistics, and supply chain software. This allowed the command to examine its current processes, current management of deployment and distribution data, as well as some readiness data to see how these items are currently managed and consider how they could be managed in the future with a TMS.

Brisson described the command’s Digital Modernization Strategy, which is built upon four main lines of effort. The first is a shift from a program of record focus to a capabilities-based focus. The second line of effort is to manage information to enable enhanced decision-making across the IT structure. The third line of effort is to build a framework that facilitates innovation. While the fourth and final line of effort is to cultivate talent for a ready digital workforce.

A Discussion About Power Projection and Mobilization

The Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) published The US Army in Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) pamphlet 525-3-1 in December of 2018. It has become a framework and concept for Army training and modernization through 2028. “[This concept] helps us see ourselves a little better, it helps us see our potential adversaries that we may compete against, and then we train to, and prepare, and build to that,” said SFPC keynote MG Kurt J. Ryan, USA, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, FORSCOM.

The pamphlet describes the multi-domain operational environment, including the air, land, maritime, and cyber domains. It also lays out the need to be prepared to fight and win under a persistent and all-domain attack. Potential adversaries described in the pamphlet mirror those defined in the 2018 NDS. The NDS places primary importance on the ability to fight and win against near-peer competitors, with near-peer competitors being the primary adversaries of concern.

The Army, particularly the Army Futures Command, is using this document to identify what will be needed in future weapon systems, capabilities, and formations. The concept provides insights into dynamic force employment and the need for the US to maintain its strategic comparative advantage globally. It also describes adversaries’ goals—their desire to separate the US from its partners and allies; to deny America the ability to project instruments of power militarily, informationally, diplomatically, and economically; and to deny the US the ability to sustain globally deployed forces, in part by contesting critical air, sea, and land Lines of Communication (LOCs).

The pamphlet stresses the importance of building multi-domain operations formations. The Army is currently in the process of doing this, to include building multi-dimensional task forces and other capabilities to provide the Army overmatch and capabilities where they may be lacking. It also introduces the concept of convergence. This is the rapid and continuous integration of capabilities in all domains, the electromagnetic spectrum, and the information environment that optimizes effects to overmatch the enemy through cross-domain synergy and multiple forms of attack all enabled by mission command and disciplined initiative.

The document ends with three core tenets of MDO: calibrate force posture, multi-domain formations, and convergence. Calibrated force posture is the ability to keep forces stationed forward in the Combatant Commands (COCOMs), then be able to rapidly deploy an initial immediate response force, followed by contingency response forces. The immediate response force is quick by air, while the contingency response forces provide mass by sea and air.

Challenges and Opportunities for European Theater Mobility
What separates the United States is its ability to force project anytime, anywhere across the globe said SFPC keynote RADM Peter G. Stamatopoulos, SC, USN, Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) and 49th Chief of Supply Corps. Stamatopoulos previously served as Director of Logistics, US European Command (EUCOM).

“In 21st-century warfare, it takes a complete and whole joint force to be able to meet the challenges that we have here,” said Stamatopoulos. “So although a ground fight in Europe is very very important so is the maritime domain to effectuate that, the air domain, and now of course more complicated domains such as space, cyber, and the likes of EMEW [Electromagnetic/Electronic Warfare] so it’s really challenging us.”

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has published its first military strategy in six decades, a massive accomplishment for the organization. The document closely mirrors the US National Defense Strategy and provides a complete view of Europe. NATO and the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) have also created a concept for the defense and deterrence of the Euro-Atlantic area. “Another huge win for NATO because it really now starts to focus those allies into that 360-degree view of Europe and the adversaries and threats that it is subject to,” said Stamatopoulos.

He added that threats include those that can be seen, those that are largely unseen (i.e., cyber and space), and economical. In terms of threats, NATO is looking at publicly acknowledging that Russia is an adversary. In addition, the member countries recognize the risk of violent extremist organizations that come primarily from Africa and Northern Africa, and within Europe.

“When we look at the European theater, in my view, it’s really about trying to stop an adversary from making an incursion, stop World War Six from starting before it even kicks off,” said Stamatopoulos. “To do that, we’ve got to be able to present a credible deterrence and a credible defense.” That credible deterrence and defense is a function of the ability to rapidly deploy and position forces across the continent, to dissuade adversaries. This theater mobility has five main elements: Infrastructure; command, control, and coordination; access to ports, rail, and barges; US organic capability; and commercial capacity. These elements would prove critical should another major war occur in Europe—such a scenario is the largest force flow projection in DOD.

A Unique Opportunity
The SFPC provides a unique opportunity to find creative and innovative ways to improve deployment readiness, solve challenges and improve America’s ability and capability to respond and operate in a global, multi-domain, and contested environment. To find out more information about the conference, visit www.ndtahq.com/events/ports-conference/.

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