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A single SDDC headquarters: from concept to actuality.

In August, SDDC will realize a tirst in its history. The command will share a single, consolidated headquarters for the first time. This milestone will happen as a result of the May 2005 DOD recommendations to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission. Before May 2005, two other factors set the stage. Maj. Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, commander, MTMC/SDDC (2002-2004), made a consolidated headquarters a major priority and Gen. John W. Handy, commander, U.S. Transportation Command (2001-2005) strongly influenced the ultimate location of the new SDDC headquarters.

As it turned out, the decision to put HQ SDDC in Southern Illinois was prompted by a factor outside USTRANSCOM: Handy's need to respond to the BRAC rebasing proposals of Air Force and Office of Secretary of Defense planners. Their potential interest in closing Scott, if not countered, would have resulted in an unwelcome mow by U.S. Transportation Command, All Mobility Command and possibly SDDC as well. His determination to save Scott and to shape what seemed an inevitable co.-location of component commands led Handy to persuade DOD to endorse bringing SDDC to Scott, which had been his initial preference anyway. This initiative overruled Dunwoody's plan to place the new headquarters at Fort Eustis, Va.

A single headquarters lot MTMC/SDDC became a specific proposal in 2002-2003. Multiple geographically-separate operational headquarters were the norm for MTMC until November 7, 2001.


Headquarters Military Traffic Management and Terminal Serives (MTMTS) and later MTMC maintained an operational headquarters at Falls Church and Alexandria from the command's activation on February 15, 1965 to November 2001. At the same time, as many will recall, day-to-day operations were conducted from Eastern Area headquarters at Brooklyn, N.Y. and later Bayonne, N.J., as well as Western Area headquarters at Oakland, Calif., from 1967 to 1998.

BRAC 1995 decisions to close both bases compelled a partial change. On September 23, 1998, positions formerly at the Bayonne and Oakland operations centers formally were combined into a single entity with the activation of the Deployment Support Command (DSC) at Fort Eustis, Va.

The base closings and consolidation at Eustis reflected the underlying reality that multiple operational headquarters became hard to sustain with the end of the Cold War. As U.S. military forces were downsized after 1991 and advances in communications made instant contact easier, regional headquarters seemed less necessary than before. Pentagon budget cuts aimed to maximize efficiency in the 1990's by removing redundancies. MTMC was compelled to manage a series of cutbacks which extended into the new century. In this environment, Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Privratsky, MTMC commander (1999-2002) decided to consolidate the entire operations staff at Fort Eustis in a single location in November 2001, a step that eliminated 260 manpower slots at Alexandria as of the end of March 2002.

Privratsky's successor, Dunwoody, regretted the consolidation at Fort Eustis. As she recalled in an early 2005 oral history interview, "one of the most frustrating pieces of my command [time], especially when you have a war going on" was "that the Operations Center was at a different location." As she put it, "You can't divorce yourself from operations when there is a war going on, even with a split-based headquarters." Specific operational requirements such as a daily situation report were made much harder by an initial shortage of advanced, secure communications between Alexandria and Fort Eustis. In addition to having a SIPRNET terminal installed at her desk, Dunwoody overcame the distance through "regular VTC (video teleconferences) IWS (Info Work Space) sessions, constant telephone calls, lots of travel back and forth to make sure that we at the headquarters (Alexandria) had the same operating picture and could influence and weigh the battle from the headquarters as they had done from the Operations Center."

Dunwoody found the situation "very challenging" at best, especially given her personal view that "nothing is ever as good as face-to-face communication." As a remedy, she added, "we immediately tried to put a plan into place to consolidate our headquarters move it out of the Hoffman Building in Alexandria to Fort Eustis so we could eliminate the seam between our headquarters."

MTMC commissioned a study that in June 2003 recommended consolidation at Fort Eustis over Fort Belvoir, Va., Scott AFB, Ilk and MacDill AFB, Fla. Notably, Dunwoody decided that a future headquarters also should include Transportation Engineering Agency (TEA), then in a public office building at Newport News, Va.

Favoring a single headquarters was a viable notion in 2002-2003 because it was now clear that MTMC would have to leave Alexandria. After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, DOD decided to move its commands that were in public buildings onto military installations as a security measure. The original post 9-11 plan called for MTMC to vacate the Hoffman II building in Alexandria for nearby Fort Belvoir, as Army Materiel Command subsequently did in 2004.

Dunwoody opposed the Belvoir option because it would not end her separation from Fort Eustis which, to her mind, had become the command's "center of gravity" in an era of ongoing major operations in Southwest Asia likely to continue for years. Going to Fort Eustis, as she saw it, promised to end MTMC's ties to a "high-lease building," improve security, and enable a consolidated headquarters.


Handy's reaction to the study and Dunwoody's desire to go to Southern Virginia mixed a different point of view with specific support. When informed that the Army was going to relocate HQ MTMC, the USTRANSCOM commander recalled asking, "Why not move them right here to Scott?" He disagreed with the study's conclusion that moving SDDC to Scott would be too costly. Nevertheless, when Dunwoody announced her plan to move to Fort Eustis in a November 2003 town hall briefing, she included the news that Handy had approved the concept six days earlier. With the city of Newport News, Va., willing to fund the construction of a building, Dunwoody hoped to begin construction in late 2004 with completion by late 2005. All SDDC offices would remain in place until the new building was ready. However, delays later generated an option to occupy temporary, modular buildings at Fort Eustis with the new building's completion projected by March 2006. The Department of the Army's approval process stalled when the Army decided to defer their review until BRAC 2005 was complete.

By early 2005, it was clear to senior USTRANSCOM leaders that Office of the Secretary of Defense and United States Air Force planners were contemplating major changes that would have closed Scott and relocated USTRANSCOM and AMC Blue either to Offutt AFB, Neb., or to McGuire AFB, N.J. Under the latter option, SDDC would have shifted to Fort Dix, N.J., adjacent to McGuire. Another possibility would have consolidated SDDC and Military Sealift Command (MSC) at Fort Eustis. This list of alternatives also included bringing SDDC and MSC to Scott. Handy naturally favored the Scott alternative. The USTRANSCOM commander started his own assessment process that generated proposals to bring SDDC and MSC's Program Manager (PM) 5 Sealift program to Scott, while also consolidating several functions to save $1.24 billion and trim manpower by 16 percent over 20 years. While the MSC portion was removed, the remainder of the USTRANSCOM plan was submitted to the BRAC commission and won approval.

While Dunwoody left SDDC in August 2004, nine months before the BRAC 2005 recommendations were announced, her concept of a consolidated headquarters survived, even if it would become a reality later and at a different location than she had planned. As she put it, "We all need to work as one team at one location." As a general principle, she also stressed that DOD mobility Operations amounted to "a team sport" in which successful movements depended on "a lot of hard work, coordination and teamwork." Part of that coordination meant SDDC being "an integral part of the USTRANSCOM team." The consolidated headquarters was only one point of Dunwoody's "transformation" program, which grew out of MTMC's enhanced role within USTRANSCOM's extended responsibilities as the DOD Distribution Process Owner as of September 2003. It included the successful renaming of the command as SDDC undertaken in close cooperation with Handy.

A single headquarters may be a secondary matter but, put another way, General Dunwoody's vision for SDDC meant ending 40 years of separate command headquarters. Almost seven years after it was proposed, that vision will be realized in August 2010.
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Title Annotation:Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command's consolidated headquarters in Southern Illinois
Author:Beck, Kent
Geographic Code:1U3IL
Date:Mar 22, 2010
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