Key Issues Emerge from the 2020 NDTA-USTRANSCOM Fall Meeting
The 2020 NDTA-USTRANSCOM Fall Meeting may be over, but the meeting’s impact is still being felt. Several key issues have emerged from the meeting and are being discussed among the Defense community.
During his keynote address, USTRANSCOM Commander GEN Stephen Lyons announced a new collaboration between the command, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX), and Exploration Architecture Corporation (XArc) to explore rapid transportation through space. “Think about moving the equivalent of a C-17 payload anywhere on the globe in less than an hour,” said Lyons.
While such capability may seem a far-off idea, GEN Lyons revealed it may be ready for testing as soon as next year. “Think about that speed associated with the movement of transportation of cargo and people. There is a lot of potential here and I’m really excited about the team that’s working with SpaceX on an opportunity, even perhaps, as early as 21, to be conducting a proof of principle.”
This possibility has captured the curiosity of many:
- Defense News: Pentagon wants SpaceX delivering cargo around the globe — and a live test could come next year
- Air Force Magazine: DOD, SpaceX May Soon Prove the Military Can Ship Cargo Through Space
- Space News: U.S. Transportation Command to study use of SpaceX rockets to move cargo around the world
- Defense Daily: U.S. TRANSCOM Mulling Possibility of Rocket Deliveries
- FlightGlobal: Pentagon, SpaceX may demo rocket delivery of cargo in 2021
- New York Post: US military interested in using SpaceX for rapid cargo delivery across globe
THE JOINT WARFIGHTING CONCEPT
DOD has yet to publish the Joint Warfighting Concept (JWC), but attendees of the Fall Meeting were given a preview of what is being developed. The Honorable Jordan Gillis, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment stated that the JWC, which is based on the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS), assumes a “contested logistics” environment.
“It assumes all domains are threatened, that the homeland is no longer a sanctuary, and that there will be a direct targeting of logistics. As part of the Joint Warfighting Concept, there is the Joint Concept for Contested Logistics [JCCL], one of four supporting concepts, that looks to achieve agile and resilient logistics,” said Gillis.
For more, check out Joint Warfighting Concept Assumes ‘Contested Logistics’ from Daily Defense.
As one would expect, the COVID-19 response and recovery was an integral part of the conversation throughout the conference. As much of the country—and world—came grinding to a halt as a result of the pandemic, the transportation and logistics community had to find ways to keep moving.
That included USTRANSCOM and the greater joint deployment distribution enterprise who had to, and did, continue to operate despite COVID-19. While some things were scaled back, exercises were canceled, and a couple of ships were not offloaded, GEN Lyons said that, “at the end of the day, we never had to stop flying planes and sailing ships. [We] needed to appropriately mitigate those mission outcomes with the appropriate force protection.”
When the pandemic began, the command became a pivotal force in determining how to transport infectious patients. Currently, the command stands ready to support Operation Warp Speed when and if needed. To hear more about USTRANSCOM’s pandemic response, read Transcom Acts Quickly During COVID-19 Pandemic from DOD News.
As part of its response, the command initiated a test of how particles spread on commercial aircraft. “[The test] was an initiative initiated by TRANSCOM and supported by the Air Force and the test community to determine whether it’s safe to fly on commercial airliners,” explained Lyons. “And I have to tell you, their results, as were the results when we looked at this from the COVID patient movement challenge, are very, very encouraging.” Read more from Military.com, DoD Test of Viral Spread on Commercial Planes Reveals Good News, General Says.