Van Ovost Confirmed as Next USTRANSCOM Commander
Congratulations to Gen Jacqueline Van Ovost, USAF, who has been confirmed by the US Senate to succeed GEN Stephen R. Lyons, USA, as Commander of US Transportation Command (USTRANCOM).
Since August 2020, Gen Van Ovost has served as the Commander of Air Mobility Command (AMC). Prior to that, she was AMC’s Deputy Commander. She has also commanded an air refueling squadron, flying training wing, and the Presidential Airlift Wing. She served as the Director of Staff for Headquarters Air Force, Vice Director of the Joint Staff, the Director of Mobility Forces for US Central Command, and as the Vice Commander of the US Air Force Expeditionary Center.
Gen Van Ovost graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1988. She is a graduate of the US Air Force Test Pilot School and a command pilot with more than 4,200 hours in more than 30 aircraft, including the C-32A, C-17A, C-141B, KC-135R, and KC-46A.
Gen Van Ovost was nominated by President Joe Biden to command USTRANSCOM in March of this year. Her confirmation this week makes her the fourteenth person and first woman to lead the unified functional combatant command.
The confirmation hearing took place on September 23 before the Senate Armed Services Committee. To get to know Gen Van Ovost and her views on some of the most pressing issues facing USTRANSCOM, here are some highlights from her testimony:
On the Afghanistan Evacuation and Lessons Learned
Our Airmen executed this historic NEO mission with extraordinary skill both in the air and on the ground. Our aircrew, maintainers, logisticians, medical personnel, and others continuously amazed the AMC leadership team with their resourcefulness and skill as they tackled new problems daily. Although this was a relatively short operation, the Airmen and our aircraft operated at a significant level of stress and we are in the process of reconstituting the force, regaining readiness, and planning for the future.
The AMC and USTRANSCOM teams are involved in an extensive effort to collect lessons and move out on actionable items to improve our ability to meet mission requirements. However, there are a number of things that are immediately apparent from my perspective. First, this operation confirmed that our ability to project and sustain the joint force is inextricably linked to our commercial industry partners. Second, we need to improve our data systems to provide the information our military commanders, federal departments, commercial partners, and allies and partners need to make decisions at the speed of relevance. Next, USTRANSCOM and AMC C2 systems need to be more flexible when responding to rapidly changing conditions and scenarios. Finally, we need to pursue a refined common operating picture and better tools to increase situational awareness.
On the Progress of Sealift Recapitalization, Its Ability to Meet the Challenges Posed by Near-Peer Competitors, and Establishing a Tanker Security Program
I am grateful for Congress’ continued support of the U.S. Navy’s plan to recapitalize the fleet. Although vessel acquisitions were delayed in FY21, a vessel acquisition manager is now in place. Accordingly, the U.S. Navy and the Maritime Administration expect to survey candidate vessels in the October 2021 timeframe, and they expect used ship purchases in the calendar year 2022, to begin the recapitalization process. If funding for ship purchases continues beyond 2022, I assess that our recapitalization efforts will remain satisfactory.
The FY20 NDAA directed a Mobility Capability Requirements Study (MCRS) to assess the adequacy of the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise’s capacity relative to the current National Defense Strategy (NDS). The study assessed the demands associated with the NDS and factored in the implications of contested environments and their impact on mobility forces. I have reviewed the findings and recommendations of the recently released MCRS and Fuel Tanker Vessel Study, and if confirmed, I will work with the Joint community to implement appropriate recommendations from these studies.
USTRANSCOM recently completed the Fuel Tanker Vessel Study to address the Department’s ability to meet future combatant commander deployment and sustainment requirements. This comprehensive and thorough study concluded insufficient U.S. flag tanker capacity exists to meet NDS requirements. DOD will have an enduring need for foreign-flag tanker augmentation. The study’s analysis clearly demonstrated the need for a Tanker Security Program in addition to identifying several other solutions. These solutions, working together, are important steps toward a comprehensive strategy to increase U.S. flag tanker capacity, to reduce the risk of reliance on foreign-flag tankers for the most important fuel missions, and to ensure the DOD has sufficient tanker capabilities to meet NDS objectives.
On Space Mobility
With the recent high-profile successes of commercial rocket launches, the possibility of rocket cargo point-to-point intra-planetary transportation is closer to reality than at any other time in the Space Age. USTRANSCOM continues to investigate rocket cargo transportation, from the end user’s perspective, as a potentially disruptive fourth mode of transportation in the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise portfolio. The capabilities of space transportation appear to offer enhanced supply chain responsiveness as well as improved global access. USTRANSCOM is continuing its investigation of space transportation opportunities through cooperative research, with an expanding variety of industry partners. The command’s preference is to encourage the development of a competitive field of space transportation sources, offering a spectrum of capabilities from which to choose for urgent lift supporting future operations. Even in these early stages of inquiry, we have learned that more concept development is needed to make space transportation not just feasible, but practical. Integration with existing supply chain equipment, materiel handling, and packaging concepts, reliable return of reusable space vehicles from their destinations, and requirements for the supporting infrastructure remain fundamental, to-be-answered questions. We are still in the early stages of adding partners, learning feasibility, and planning concept demonstrations. USTRANSCOM is also in close communication with the DOD’s science and technology community, including U.S. Space Force and the Air Force Research Laboratory, to learn from their own deep dives on the status of enabling space transportation technologies. If confirmed, I plan to continue the collaborative work with Government and industry to understand the maturity, uses, limitations, and value of this new transportation opportunity, which is still emerging from industry sources.
In strategic competition, the perpetuation of the Nation’s unparalleled global transportation capabilities in the sea, air, and land domains must succeed. At the same time, the opportunities to enhance our response to global transportation needs through the emerging dimension of space transportation must be explored to determine its reach, speed, and reliability, and feasibility. If confirmed, I will ensure USTRANSCOM remains a proponent of advancing rocket cargo as a potentially disruptive transportation capability.
On Aerial Refueling and Whether Current and Future Tanker Fleet Size is Sufficient for Conflict with Near-Peer Competitors
I am not concerned with the pace of retirements for KC-10 and KC-135 aircraft, and I support the retirement profile outlined by the DOD legislative proposal submitted for congressional review for the FY22 NDAA. USTRANSCOM currently has sufficient capacity to meet steady state and crisis response demands. With exceptional collaboration between the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and USTRANSCOM, four positive developments occurred over the last year that allowed USTRANSCOM to arrive at a workable solution with the USAF. First, Boeing accepted responsibility to fix the KC-46 contract’s “Category 1” deficiencies, enabling the USAF to present a KC-46 Interim Capability Release. Second, the USAF agreed to lower the KC-10 divestiture profile. Third, the USAF funded additional MPA to increase the Reserve and Guard air refueling capacity and contributions. Finally, we are seeing a reduction in air refueling demand in the USCENTCOM AOR.
The recently completed Mobility Capability and Requirements Study 2020 (MCRS-20), directed by the FY20 NDAA, goes into detail on the sufficiency of this force element. While all the specifics cannot be detailed here, the air refueling fleet is sufficient, but will certainly be stressed by the various NDS wartime missions associated with great power competitors.
On Cybersecurity, the CMMC, and Zero Trust
USTRANSCOM has made and continues to make, significant efforts to harden its networks from cyberattacks. Cyber mission assurance is a top priority for USTRANSCOM, and USTRANSCOM is making investments to protect command, control, information technology systems, and infrastructure that are most consequential to mission success. This includes continued investment in cloud services, which has led to a more robust infrastructure, increased security posture, and improved resiliency of mobility systems. USTRANSCOM is also adopting security best practices, increasing emphasis on improving the cybersecurity posture of its most critical systems, and partnering with organizations within the DOD to continue implementing a new information security framework, known as Zero Trust, to harden its networks.
USTRANSCOM has awarded a proof-of-principle contract to have a third party assess our commercial partners’ compliance with Cyber Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) Level 3 requirements. USTRANSCOM is now coordinating with two commercial partners to identify dates for the third party to conduct the assessment, which will provide indications of compliance with NIST security controls and identify gaps. Yes, if confirmed, I commit to incorporating CMMC language into USTRANSCOM contracts in line with DOD timelines and ensuring all contractors meet the CMMC requirements.
I’m familiar with Zero Trust concepts and know that USTRANSCOM, in partnership with USCYBERCOM, is implementing a Zero Trust security model on its classified network that will enhance network traffic visibility and better position the command to secure sensitive data, systems, and services. USTRANSCOM will achieve the baseline Zero Trust maturity level, as outlined in the Department’s Zero Trust Reference Architecture, by the end of this calendar year. If confirmed, I will make advancing the Zero Trust security model beyond the baseline maturity level a priority.
On the Global Household Goods Contract
I anticipate award of the Global Household Goods Contract (GHC) to occur in late October 2021. USTRANSCOM anticipates additional protests will follow the re-award, which will delay the start of the nine-month contract transition period approximately March 2022, presuming USTRANSCOM prevails in the protest. Following the transition, we will begin a seven-month phase-in of moves and will avoid significant changes during the 2023 peak PCS season. We expect GHC will be at full performance by December 2023.
After GAO’s recommendations sustaining some of the protest allegations, and in accordance with GAO’s recommendations, the USTRANSCOM Acquisition Directorate initiated corrective actions and invited the offerors in the competitive range to submit new proposals. The source selection team, which includes members from USTRANSCOM, each of the Military Departments, and the Coast Guard, evaluated those proposals from December 2020 through September 2021.
After conducting these proposal evaluations from a “clean slate,” the evaluation team completed multiple iterations of “discussions” (negotiations) with the offerors and the Source Selection Advisory Council (SSAC), inclusive of USTRANSCOM senior leaders, each of the Military Departments, and the Coast Guard, who unanimously made an award recommendation to the Source Selection Authority. The SSAC’s recommendation and associated documentation currently is undergoing multiple levels of review, including third-party reviews by Defense Pricing and Contracting professionals and the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Acquisition, Fiscal Law, and Litigation Directorate.
On Global Logistics
The NDS delineates a shift to great power competition and potential conflict that will challenge the ability to deploy and sustain the Joint Force in every segment of mobility operations, especially in divergent geographic locations. In the homeland, adversary actions in the cyber domain, particularly against USTRANSCOM’s command and control centers for air refueling, airlift, and sealift, is a priority concern in terms of consequence to support wartime missions.
Another concern is maintaining and improving our global transportation nodes. Our mobility posture provides access, basing, and overflight, which are critical in wartime, but also essential in any global response as recently demonstrated in the Afghan NEO. Our allies and partners provide the nodes and networks necessary to connect the globe and provide options that we must protect against the malign actions of our adversaries.
I am also concerned by the long, contested lines of communications against both China and Russia and the tyranny of distance in the Indo-Pacific region. This requires the integration of logistics planning across all warfighting functions to support the joint warfight. The growth in demand from increasingly dispersed operations, increasingly complex and lethal kinetic platforms and extended adversary anti-access and area denial capabilities place immediate stressors on the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise to support forward forces immediately, as we rapidly build capacity to deploy a decisive force.
Finally, the core mobility assets of strategic and intra-theater sea and airlift, as well as air refueling capabilities, in sufficient numbers and readiness, remain critical in supporting national objectives for humanitarian operations and wartime output. Both the Mobility Capability and Requirements Study 2020 (MCRS)-20 and POL Tanker Study submitted to Congress in June 2021, provide greater detail in these areas.