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Commander looks to future at AUSA winter symposium.

Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command commander Brig. Gen. Charles Fletcher spoke Feb. 17 at the Association of the United States Army's Winter Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The panel discussion, "Equipping and Supporting an Expeditionary Army," reached an audience of active-duty military, Department of Defense civilians, industry professionals and retired service members and other advocates for the military.

Chairing the discussion was Lt. Gen. Richard A. Hack, Deputy Commanding General of United States Army Material Command.

Other members included Maj. Gen. William E. Mortensen, Director of Logistics, J-4, United States Central Command; Brig. Gen. Jerome Johnson, Commanding General, United States Army Field Support Command; and John Stoddart, President, Defense Business, Oshkosh Truck Corporation.

The SDDC commander spoke to TRANSLOG after taking part in the panel discussion.

Q: What did you want to accomplish by speaking here?

A: This was a great opportunity. I think our message was to three different audiences.

One, to the active-duty people here, to say. we are really different than we were several years ago, that we no longer stop at the port. We're going forward, we're providing services to the betterment of the joint force, particularly the Army. So I Wanted them to know that we're malting deployment easier, that we're going to be at the installation and at the port, being the deployment experts for the deploying units, and providing visibility of cargo along the way.

Second, there were so many retired Army leaders here who are also influential on the industry side and with current Army leaders. To them, we're saying that we're no longer (Military Traffic Management Command), the "old householdgoods guys." For one thing, we're not constrained by the old ways of standard military documentation that has gotten more archaic over time. B y educating retired military leaders about our new initiatives, they will understand our processes and our needs. They'll know that we do more than just move household goods. We are in the theater, all the way forward and are providing big bang for the buck.

Our industry partners, our third audience here, have gotten so much better in the way that they're doing things. If we had benchmarked ourselves seven years ago in in-transit visibility, we would have been one of the best in the world, particularly for a surface movement company. Now, if you look around, most of our ocean-carrier partners have a logistics services element under their corporate umbrella, and they sell end-to-end in-transit visibility. Now we want to say to industry, "You've got all this visibility from supplier to port, or port to consumer, what's it going to take for us to share your data?"

We may decide to manage this data ourselves or have a shipping company or a third-party provider do all this, but we'll get much better visibility and enrich the information environment in which we work.

Q: What about visibility of unit cargo moves that normally travel on military vessels?

A: We want to get our partners into moving unit equipment, too. Right now, the requirements side and the places they go don't lend them to solution sets that meet our needs. But part of that is why we want to get commercial ocean carriers into the retrograde business. If they get regular service to Kuwait to bring back retrograde equipment, then the next logical step is to start redeploying units on these ships, and then deploying units. We'd have some peaks and valleys, but we'll be able to get loads going both ways.

Q: Does industry have the roll-on/roll-off capacity we require to move unit cargo?

A: American Roll-On/Roll-Off Carrier, for example, just put several vessels in their Amercan-flag fleet that they are using in service from the East Coast to Kuwait. These are not only roll-on, roll-off, they're actually heavier duty, with stronger decks, than some of our own ships. So there are a lot of opportunities.

Q: Are you looking to industry for other capabilities?

A: Besides the data-sharing initiative, we are looking how industry conducts its end-gate process. That is, when commercial cargo arrives at a port, how does the ocean carrier know that the cargo has arrived? They use optical character readers that look at three pieces of information on the truck and chassis, and the carrier immediately knows what the load is and sends it through.

Q: You mentioned some technology challenges. What are some of SDDC's successes that you want to build on?

A: Just the magnitude of this operation (Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom) from a transportation point of view. The amount of stuff that we deploy over and redeploy back just boggles the mind. We have units that are doing things at an operations tempo that we haven't seen before. We never got to this level of cargo movement in Desert Storm ... so we never really got into our major I sustainment) effort. We're in a high effort now all the time. In that sense, that's a great news story.

The challenge comes because although we're moving a lot of things, we don't always know what we're moving. That's not just an Army problem. You can go to Wal-Mart or to anybody, and there's a whole bunch of stuff in the back that's frustrated cargo. We have not put the emphasis on knowing what's there, and now we're starting to do that.

And that really gets to the issue. Our future is information dominance within this field. We will have other people doing the physical work, but we need to be the world's experts in information. And that's where industry we can look to industry.

For example, Wal-Mart is pushing passive radio-frequency identification-using the new, 40-cent, paper-thin tags on individual items. They will develop a technology that, because of the size of their operation, likely will become an industry standard. We'll be able to leverage that.

Q: What will you take back with you from this symposium?

A: I had an opportunity to talk over a long laundry list of issues with General Mortensen.

In looking at the displays, there's a lot of interesting information about the technology and how they are integrating it in the tactical operations centers, which gives us a real insight into what we (as logisticians) need to provide to give more value to their operational picture.

I think we can do a lot. We're looking at the Battle Command Sustainment Support System, or BCS3. which is the logistics piece of a constellation of Army battlefield command systems. The systems provide a common-operating picture of the theater or even the world.

Q, What capability will that give logisticians and the Department of Defense as a whole?

A: Development of BCS3 started as a logistics status report on vehicles that are available, and it is now progressed into a much larger capability. You'll not only be able to see the supply trucks moving, but you'll also know what's on them.

But in order to see what's moving on the trucks, you'll have to see all the supplies in the pipeline. So this picture has gotten bigger and bigger. Eventually, you'll be able to look at all the stuff moving-the Defense Logistics Agency cargo, Army Materiel Command cargo, (SDDC) containers. Eventually, the logistician will be able to influence the system, finding and prioritizing cargo for shipment and otherwise managing the movement of supplies.

Q: And this is seeing limited use today?

A: Yes, we have it in our Ops Center, DLA and Army Materiel Command has it. So now you can begin using that picture that you developed at the tip of the spear and now you're expanding back and all the players are beginning to look at this.

Even though the technology is there today, our process is not quite mature yet. We've bought a race car, and everybody's looking at it saying, 'ooooh,' but now we've got to figure out how to drive it.

Patti Bielling, Public Affairs Specialist

SDDC Operations Center
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Title Annotation:Association of the United States Army; Charles Fletcher on hot seat
Author:Bielling, Patti
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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