Evolving the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise to the New National Defense Strategy

Dec 1, 2018 | Defense Transportation Journal

Panel Summary from the NDTA-USTRANSCOM 2018 Fall Meeting


The Honorable Robert McMahon, Asst. Secretary of Defense for Sustainment


  • Lt Gen Warren Berry, USAF, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection, Headquarters US Air Force
  • LtGen Charles Chiarotti, USMC, Deputy Commandant, Installations and Logistics, US Marine Corps
  • RADM John Polowczyk, USN, Vice Director for Logistics Joint Staff, J4
  • RADM Paul Verrastro, USN, Director of Logistics, US European Command
  • LTG Darrell Williams, USA, Director, Defense Logistics Agency

Mr.McMahon began the panel by sharing a history of events that occurred when he served as the Director of Central Command Deployment and Distribution Operations Center (CDDOC). During his tenure in that role, the US increased its manpower in Afghanistan by approximately 30,000, while concurrently drawing down operating forces in Iraq. He saw a coup in Kyrgyzstan, watched the PAKGLOC [Pakistan Ground Lines of Communications] close multiple times, witnessed the creation of the Northern Distribution Network which allowed materiel to flow into Afghanistan in a way it had never done before, saw the new Kyrgyz government cut off all fuel for operations at Manas, and, to top it off, watched the Icelandic volcano erupt and cut off all flow of aviation assets in the northern part of Europe. “I go through that history for you,” he explained, “because what I saw in my time as Central Command’s Director of Deployment Distribution Operations, pales in comparison to what the next INDO-PACOM CDOC Director or EUCOM DDOC Director will face in the threats that we have today.”

McMahon continued that whether that is in a contested environment with nations such as Iran and North Korea, or with near-peer competitors, such as China or Russia, in a contested environment, we have to do things differently than what we have learned for the last two decades if we are to be successful. All the operators in the world can talk about what they’re going to do once they get to the fight, he said. But if together military and industry can’t get them to the fight, then what they think they can do becomes irrelevant. As a team, military and industry must figure out how to act, think and behave differently to meet these contested threats—in both the physical and cyber domains. 

RADM Polowczyk began by discussing global integration, based on direction from the Joint Staff Chairman. Polowczyk mentioned that language used by the Chairman reflected a scarcity of resources. He explained that previously when a contingency arose, you could respond using all your resources because there weren’t the multi-front conflicts that we have today. The world is fundamentally different. He further described a recent readiness review for a global plan that brought global integrated operations to a head, where at the end of a global plan, each COCOM understood they would be operating with less. They could potentially be asked to do less, but they will still need to complete their missions. The NDS includes simultaneity stacked demand. We will not get to choose or deter in a third theater, so operation must be globally integrated and that is what the Chairman intends to do.

Polowczyk continued that the Chairman was also concerned with global integration for force development and force design. There is a new NDS, the NMS [National Military Strategy] is being rewritten, and quickly behind that will be a new Capstone Concept for Joint Operations (CCJO). “The thesis in the Capstone Concept for Joint Operations is that our military quantitative and qualitative advantage is being eroded. The CCJO will address that with a new way of doing business.” The overall concept will be for the Joint Staff to use its assessments to work on the gaps between developing the budget and joint concepts.

RADM Verrastro had participated in a panel during the 2017 Fall Meeting and commented that significant progress had been made since then. He began by sharing EUCOM’s enduring priorities—to ensure readied and postured forces, to strengthen strategic partnerships and build partners, to adapt to a complex and dynamic strategic environment, and to develop resilient service members and families. Two additional broad ideas that EUCOM is focused on are a return to great power competition, driven by strategy, and to ensure a combat credible deterrence posture. Everything done by the EUCOM J4 aligns with this and with the NDS.

Verrastro continued by describing the logistics environment in Europe. There are 51 countries in Europe. From a security operational perspective, it is a very mature theater with many strengths including a strong NATO alliance, and committed partners in the European Union and throughout Europe. Commercial capability and industry in Europe is very robust, with both capabilities and capacity, and an extensive network of seaports, airports, roads, rails, and all modes of transportation. EUCOM also has acquisition cross-servicing agreements with 45 of our countries or large entities there. Verrastro said that his job has focused on strategy to logistically set the theater. The theater is being set to enable, steady state operations and exercises, and to be able to then pivot very quickly to support contingency operations. And, as highlighted in the NDS, this is also about competing, deterring and then, if necessary, winning.

EUCOM also benefitted from Congress passing the European Deterrence Initiative which allocated $8 billion to Europe on deterrence activities, with another $6.5 billion allocated in FY2019. This allowed EUCOM to focus on five primary areas: Improving the US presence in Europe; training in large NATO coalition and US exercises; enhancing the pre-positioning equipment being staged in Europe; improving infrastructure; and continuing efforts to build partnership capacity.

LTG Williams began by referencing comments made by USTRANSCOM Commander GEN Lyons that the nation’s strategic advantage rests in its ability to deploy troops and equipment anywhere around the world, stating that the other piece of that is sustainment. Together DLA and USTRANSCOM create power for our nation through their ability to deploy and sustain forces. DLA secures fuel, food and supplies, while USTRANSCOM actually moves it to the Warfighter. It is an increasingly strong relationship.

Commitment and support to the Warfighter is a priority of the Secretary of Defense, among each of the Services, and is the focus of the Defense Logistics Agency. Its support to the Warfighter is through the Services and extends to all of the COCOMs, and DLA has strong relationships with all of these. The power that DLA brings to the table with 12,000 different suppliers would not be possible without its industry partners. Part of DLA’s effort to provide support is trying to make procurement more effective and efficient, as well as trying to improve its distribution network both within the CONUS and in the OCONUS space through initiatives such as the Trans-Arabian Network.

In conclusion, LTG Williams identified his two greatest concerns. The first was the general topic area of cyber. The second was the extent to which DLA has evolved into a global network and the need for expeditionary capability.

LtGen Chiarotti is consistently asked what the difference is between now and other periods in the Marine Corps history. To which he says, nothing, beside the fact that we are just coming out of years of conflict, we have spent years being laser focused on an enemy that is nontraditional and perhaps at times blends into the background. We find ourselves so focused on that enemy and that threat for so long that many of our conventional approaches that we have used successfully in the past have atrophied, so we must bring back those resources and that corporate knowledge.

The focus of the Marine Corps has not changed, said Chiarotti. We still provide the nation the ability to deter and to defeat the enemy when we face them. The Commandant’s number one priority is the readiness of the force, so that’s what the Marine Corps does day in and day out. It takes partners from all Services, as well as a team of logistics experts across both the logistics enterprise and the infrastructure enterprise to support that. Based on the NDS and current threat environment, we will not have ease of distribution sustainment like we once would have, as the environment is so different than what we have faced in the past.

We will have air superiority, but can no longer count on having maritime superiority. Therefore, the challenge will be how to deploy the force in an area of operation that is, quite frankly, all maritime. This really challenges the conventional distribution and deployment model and innovative ideas for future concept of operations will be needed. Further, Chiarotti explained, there is acknowledgment that we will fight from our bases. This means the Marine Corps must look at how to harden the bases and make them deployment, employment platforms.

Lt Gen Berry stated that the NDS was a fundamental change. Such fundamental changes are significant to a Service and to a Service culture. For the most part, the Air Force has been forward deployed to the CENTCOM AOR—this is where most Airmen have spent a majority of their deployed lives and most of their deployed time. Current Airmen are used to deployments, which have become part of their normal battle rhythm. The NDS stands to change that. Likewise, most people who serve in the Air Force today don’t remember what it was like to be in an Air Force that was preparing for peer and near-peer competition—the training, preparations and setting the theater it entailed. Most of the Air Force will not remember this and that is what makes the NDS such a fundamental change.

This does not mean the Air Force is unprepared to fight, but it does mean that efforts need to be made in order to prepare for the NDS. To that end, said Berry, the Secretary has established five priorities of which he would highlight the two most relevant to the audience’s work with the Air Force. The first is to restore readiness. But, he stated, that readiness is to be restored at an accelerated pace in response to the demand signal seen in the NDS. The second priority is to modernize cost-effectively. That means finding ways to provide logistics and sustainment for less money so we will be able to modernize our Air Force in order to be successful in peer and near-peer competition as outlined in the National Defense Strategy. “And so when you think about those two priorities, I would offer to you that the undercurrent to all of that is logistics. Logistics is the great enabler. Sustainment is the great enabler. Transportation is a great enabler in any kind of war fight,” he said. “And as our chief likes to say, ‘in every challenge is an opportunity.’ And rest assured, we have lots of opportunity in the new National Defense Strategy.”

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