Synchronizing Global Distribution planning.
The term "synchronization" has multiple definitions and each definition is based on the situation. Joint Publication 1-02 defines "synchronization" as: "The arrangement of military actions in time, space, and purpose to produce maximum relative combat power at a decisive place and time." The challenge now is to determine how this definition pertains to deployment and distribution, and applies to the associated planning process. GCP-D 9033 can be thought of as a musical score for an orchestra, where the timing of the notes made by the multitude of instruments are what produces music out of the potential chaos of uncontrolled and unsynchronized sounds from the individual instruments. In the Global Distribution Synchronizer (GDS) case, the GDN is the complex entity that includes infrastructure, conveyances, C4 systems, access and agreements. Using these "instruments," USTRANSCOM in support of the other Combatant Commands has the role to serve as the conductor that synchronizes the "musicians" together for a common goal to deliver harmonized music. USTRANSCOM synchronizes resolution of multiple distribution and deployment issues across the global theater to achieve a resilient and sustainable GDN. For USTRANSCOM, synchronization of planning also means coordinating individual actions of members of the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise (JDDE), working in unison and following a common framework to achieve a common goal ... a synchronized planning process that interconnects our combatant commands and their distinct distribution requirements. Delivering a repeatable, predictable and flexible process is critical to our ability to successfully synchronize global distribution and deployment and must be performed routinely.
Synchronization is composed of foundational Phase 0 activities which set the conditions for success; essentially showing what "right" looks like for the JDDE and providing that essential backbone for future phased operations. How effective the GDN performs in later phases of operations is based on how well the network is shaped in Phase 0. USTRANSCOM is the only command that employs a global distribution focus vice a regional approach to complement and support the Combatant Commands. This expanded focus enables global synchronization across the Combatant Commands' Theater Distribution Plans (TDPs); identifying those distribution gaps and seams that hinder smooth distribution and deployment planning and subsequent flow across the individual Combatant Command's Areas of Responsibility (AOR).
History provides numerous lessons learned that verify that when setting the conditions for military success, it is far less expensive and quicker to be proactive than reactive in logistics and distribution planning. This lesson points to the importance of engaging early in the planning process since distribution solutions traditionally require considerable time to develop and implement. This considerable time requirement is one of the driving factors to synchronize the global planning process. Driven by the current resource-constrained environment, shared or finite resources across the JDDE call for a more synchronized approach to Phase Zero planning. Looking at the codependency across GCC borders, regional requirements also dictate an early and deliberate planning approach to sequencing and prioritizing distribution efforts. Other benefits from early synchronization include preserving independent operations and the "warfighter's" freedom of action; creating distribution network resiliency; and enabling flexible execution options. Now more than ever, distribution planners need to prioritize what issues are most critical in this era of declining resources to enable simultaneity of operations.
As an example, let's examine our Joint Task Force, Port Opening (JTF-PO) capability. In the 2003-2005 studies, after action reports recognized critical gaps and shortfalls in our ability to rapidly establish, initially operate, and clear a port of debarkation. In 2005, the Focused Logistics Warfighting Assessment formally identified a need to fill this gap, to include the requirement to conduct cargo handling and movement operations to a forward node. In 2006, we moved from a Joint Chiefs of Staff Tank Brief to certifying Aerial Port of Debarkation (APOD) Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in just nine months. Seaport of Debarkation IOC followed in 2009. JTF-PO spanned five years from formal identification of the issues to full operational status. Luckily this was just in time to respond to the 2010 Haiti earthquake. LTG P.K. Keen, the US Southern Command, Deputy Commander, stated that JTF-PO "saved the day." This example illustrates that critical issue resolution of this type does not happen overnight, instead we have to identify the challenges we will be facing in the next five years and beyond.
With these long resolution times, we must identify how to synchronize the distribution planning process to get ahead of capability gaps and single points of failure within our GDN. GCP-D 9033 provides that synchronized planning tool that takes an annual, iterative approach to identifying distribution gaps or issues. The plan executes four sequential stages annually: Issue Identification; Issue Prioritization; Issue Resolution; and, an update to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy which includes a Campaign Plan Assessment. Issues are drawn from many existing sources such as: the latest strategic guidance; existing plans; GAO reports; lessons learned; and, already programmed studies, which identify gaps and seams in our plans and across the GDN. These gaps and seams, or issues, are then prioritized for resolution based on risk and mission impact. The findings also allow informed resource allocations across the Department.
Although the plan provides great potential, there are also challenges associated with this synchronizer role. Overcoming perceptions of a loss of operational control required an aggressive information campaign when the team first began drafting the plan. In this first year of execution, challenges such as rebalancing force structures, bed down changes transitioning to a more CONUS focus, increased area access and area denial challenges, shifts in strategic focus and budget cuts for the Department will continue to impact how we plan and operate.
Looking back at the synchronizer role under my tenure as the United States Transportation Command Commander, the role has evolved greatly. I took command just after USTRANSCOM stood up a Northern Distribution Network (NDN) in support of Afghanistan through a process that was reactive and slow to need. This highlighted the need to change to a more proactive look at the GDN. The NDN, although highly successful as an alternate to the ground route through Pakistan, required considerable time. USTRANSCOM planners worked with Central Command, other agencies and departments to build international distribution relationships and examine options with commercial partners. Much of this extensive coordination could have been completed in advance of the emergent need. Although there are some relationships that are hard to predict and can't be worked ahead of a crisis, along with the fact that international organizations and leaders, to include the UN, take their own independent actions, the NDN highlighted the importance of proactively cultivating relationships during Phase 0 vice during combat operations.
This proactive look at our Global Distribution Network is one of many benefits to the Plan's customers. Our customers include Combatant Commands, individual Services and multiple Agencies. The Services are dual roled as both customers and enablers as the team works through the stages of GCP-D 9033. Included in the Plan's beneficiaries are our interagency partners. Balancing the needs of multiple customers who use the same distribution network is a critical part of USTRANSCOM's synchronization role. Through GCP-D 9033, USTRANSCOM looks at each of our customers' needs with a unique global lens. Support for one GCC often requires transit through multiple GCCs, which could easily be missed with only a regional focus. GCP-D 9033 also provides a common TDP framework to help highlight issues between TDPs and Theater Campaign Plans. GCP-D 9033 has an additional benefit of being a Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan (JSCP) tasked plan that brings the right people to the table to develop resolution plans for issues affecting the GDN. Through the annual update to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, GCP-D 9033 gets visibility on prioritized Global Distribution issues that the Plan identifies as high risk, but could otherwise be buried in data or assumed away. This also brings logistics to the forefront of the plans community.
As we've shown, GCP-D 9033 is a valuable, deliberate, annual process to assess and enhance the Global Distribution Network. It is important to remember that it is a Phase Zero plan based on the premise that our definition of success is based on how effectively we proactively synchronize distribution and deployment processes. USTRANSCOM's responsibility to synchronize the distribution planning process is essential to effective and efficient management of the GDN, and support to the greater DOD mission. Our customers depend on us to live up to our motto of "Together, we deliver."
By General William M. Fraser, III, USAF, (former) Commander, United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM)
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|Author:||Fraser, William M., III|
|Publication:||Defense Transportation Journal|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2014|
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