USTRANSCOM Primed to Leverage Analytics and Engineering in 2020 and Beyond
There’s a giant screen projecting operational information into the heart of US Transportation Command’s Global Operations Center (GOC). Based on this incoming data, decision-makers want to know how best to respond based on a globally integrated understanding of both demand and capacity, and the impact on wartime readiness.
To develop options, redirect mobility efforts based on changing priorities, or find alternatives when operations are disrupted, USTRANSCOM and its component commands depend on analysis that transforms data into useful information.
“When analytics do the complex work, we’re free to think about solutions,” said John DeLapp, head of the futures division in the Joint Distribution and Process Analysis Center (JDPAC) within USTRANSCOM.
The integration of analytics into command processes and decisions is an ongoing, collaborative effort between the multiple functional organizations such as the GOC and JDPAC. These efforts capture and integrate data; create visual representations of key indicators; forecast workload, network, or asset availability; and account for constraints so that energy is focused on the most important work—delivering results across the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise (JDDE).
Driving Enterprise Improvements in 2020 and Beyond
JDPAC has outlined a plan to deliver the critical analytic and engineering products necessary to improve the nation’s ability to project and sustain the joint force.
“Our mission is to address our nation’s toughest mobility challenges,” said Bruce Busler, JDPAC Director.
“Above all else, our leaders and those we support must be able to trust JDPAC to deliver insightful products and recommendations, with unwavering confidence in our credibility,” said Busler. “The data is absolutely necessary, but we’re in the business of delivering analytic products and enabling a broader community of analytic practitioners to transform the data into actionable information on complex issues and address challenging problems.”
“Gen. [Stephen] Lyons, the USTRANSCOM Commander, has us intensely focused on the command’s priorities,” said Busler. “Warfighting readiness and enabling consequential decision-making are at the top of the list. These priorities are critical components for future success and, thus, the target of our analytic efforts.”
JDPAC is building on decades of success using operations research and transportation engineering to support the Department of Defense’s global transportation missions by expanding the application of analytic methods and tools through an Enterprise Data Science capability. JDPAC has increased its number of data scientists, adding to a cadre of mathematicians, computer scientists, and transportation experts to support the advancement of “big data” across the enterprise.
An essential part of USTRANSCOM’s journey in this area is the JDPAC partnership with the command’s Command, Control, Communications, and Cyber Systems directorate and Acquisition directorate to acquire a modern Enterprise Data and Analytics Environment (EDAE). This effort is foundational to manage, ingest, integrate, and leverage data for all the data needs of the command, to include analytics.
“The partnership to field the EDAE is absolutely critical to our future success,” said Dan Derick, Chief Data Scientist within JDPAC.
Derick said the work in JDPAC is maturing to the point where five to seven computer models may be blended together to predict future demand. Using airlift historical data, for example, the models would train the application to discern how airlift demand fluctuates seasonally or is impacted by surge events or changes in allocated aircraft.
This machine learning supports predictive modeling, a future trend for JDPAC that will expand significantly once the EDAE is available in the cloud-computing environment.
Demand and Capacity Use Case
Developing predictive demand forecast capabilities across multiple transportation domains is the goal of JDPAC’s Demand and Capacity Use Case. The effort is aimed at maximizing effectiveness and efficiency in the use of limited assets and constrained networks and nodes, which are a reality in daily, as well as wartime, globally integrated operations.
The resulting analysis is aligned with component capacity assessments and arms decision-makers with information that will justify actions to meet mission needs and support the warfighter.
The demand and capacity forecasts will be synchronized across multiple command activities from rate setting and budgeting, to operational projections to develop optimized transportation solutions, as well as readiness management.
Department of Defense Railcar Analytics Use Case – Railcar Allocation at the Speed of War
An example of a component demand and capacity use case is the Railcar Analytics Use Case, engineered to deliver analytic capability addressing the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s (SDDC) ability to proactively predict and manage the Defense Freight Railway Interchange Fleet and commercial railcars to meet deployment and distribution needs.
“We identified multiple automation points in this use case and we can see the potential optimization for Department and commercial railcar usage,” said DeLapp. The goal is optimized railcar allocation across a multitude of locations at the speed of war, while automating as much of the SDDC transportation manager’s workload as possible.
Mobility Capabilities and Requirements Study 2020
JDPAC has very successfully applied demand and capacity analytics using modeling and simulation for many studies, including major mobility studies in 2010, 2013, and most recently, the Mobility Capabilities and Requirements Study 2018 (MCRS-18), which was completed in early 2019. JDPAC is posturing for an update to the MCRS-18 study with a congressionally-directed study in 2020. For MCRS-20, the study team plans to work closely with the Joint Staff, Services, and combatant commands to assess the JDDE’s ability to support the competition and updated wartime demands in the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS).
US Air Force Col. Brian Ballew, JDPAC Deputy and MCRS-20 Study Director said, “…the thrust of this study will be an assessment of the programmed airlift aircraft, air refueling aircraft, sealift ships, and key mobility enablers to meet the integrated mobility demands in the expected strategic environments as defined in the NDS.”
According to Ballew, the study results should identify any mobility capability gaps and shortfalls, describe the associated risk in conducting operations, and recommend mitigation strategies, where possible; and will also include the near-term mobility implications of emerging warfighting concepts.
“An upgraded element planned for MCRS-20 will be an assessment of the campaign impact of delayed force flow or reduced air refueling, in addition to a quantification of impacts on the mobility enterprise from operating in a contested environment,” said Greg Carl, Senior Operations Research Analyst on the MCRS-20 team. The study will also include a new effort to assess various combinations of mobility fleets in terms of mobility output and risk to NDS missions.
“Aerial refueling capacity and sealift recapitalization analysis are among the most compelling analytic needs of the enterprise and are major focus areas for the study,” said Busler.
The aerial refueling fleet is the backbone of rapid US global operations and the Department’s sealift fleet transports 90 percent of military cargo during wartime. The MCRS-20 will look at the near-future with a time horizon out to about 2030.
Into the Future: 2035-2050
The Future Deployment and Distribution Assessment (FDDA) looks beyond the MCRS-20 timeframe as a research effort to identify promising future deployment and distribution capabilities and operating constructs based on the evolving joint operating environment.
In 2019, the FDDA completed a red team/blue team assessment based on a wide range of adversary and operating environment challenges as the foundation for a second phase in 2020. The study’s next step deconstructs joint and Service concepts to distill implied mobility and logistics capabilities, or activities that either enable or constrain how the joint force expects to operate in 2035 and beyond.
DeLapp said the assessment is expected to identify potential mobility capabilities, operational approaches, and necessary mitigations to shape how we think and posture for the future.
“We’re studying how we adapt and think differently in terms of both technology and operations to ensure the Defense Transportation System is capable and relevant in the future,” said DeLapp.
Together – With Analytics – We Deliver
“Mainstreaming data analytics into USTRANSCOM’s planning and operations efforts will create actionable information for decision-makers,” said Busler. “The time and energy previously directed on lagging, low-value activities can now be applied to proactive, higher-order thought and options where human judgment is most appropriate and useful.”
“Efforts such as MCRS-20 and FDDA help USTRANSCOM and the DOD grapple with the reality and risks in fulfilling the NDS missions as we look to the future,” said Busler.
USTRANSCOM exists as a warfighting combatant command to project and sustain military power. Powered by dedicated men and women, we underwrite the lethality of the joint force, advance American interests, and provide our nation’s leaders with strategic flexibility to select from multiple options and create multiple dilemmas for adversaries.
Together, we deliver.
Photo Caption: C-17 conducts aerial refueling. Photo by Capt. Amit Patel/Released.