The Big Switch
Assuming its new leading role in defense logistics,
Transcom searches for the right commercial manager
By ROXANA TIRON, Special Correspondent
materiel is shipped throughout the
Change is needed, according to
Transcom, because “individual DoD
shippers act unilaterally by independently selecting transportation
mode, level of service and transportation provider. … Multiple information systems are employed to execute
and manage shipment activity. There
is no centralized planning, coordination or control.”
Currently, each command makes
its own arrangements for shipping
parts and supplies to thousands of
end-users. Hundreds of thousands of
individual decisions are made every day on how to ship
things based on varying standards. Problems often
arise, such as five separate shipments being sent to the
same place, instead of being consolidated into one.
The essence of DTCI is to streamline the Pentagon’s
myriad ways of moving goods within the United States
by relying on a commercial manager and commercial
practices. At the center of the DTCI is a commercial
company to leverage DoD’s clout as one of the nation’s
major shippers, implement efficiencies and cut costs.
This new commercial manager — yet to be hired —
would handle many of the tasks now done by
Pentagon organizations such as Transcom and the
Defense Logistics Agency.
Although far from the only component of
Transcom’s new role, DTCI’s contracting mechanism
represents what some consider a critical step toward
making the command the central shipping coordinator
to all combatant commands. DTCI would handle
domestic shipments, covering the gamut of supplies,
but exclude items such as ammunition and explosives,
weapons and household goods, among others.
“Our aperture has much expanded,” said Rear Adm.
Mark Harnitchek, Transcom’s director of strategy, poli-
The new commercial manager would leverage DoD’s market clout
and cut costs.
■ Most Pentagon shipments within the U.S. now are done with no
■ Fearful of being shut out, transport “intermediaries” are taking
their case to Congress.
■ But Transcom officials foresee huge savings.
■ Changes under way at Transcom eventually could affect all
services and combatant commands.
The U.S. Transportation Command (Transcom)
is on the cusp of fundamental change, but it is
fighting to overcome some impediments that
could hamper its new role as the military’s chief manager of logistics and transportation.
Pentagon leadership in 2003 bestowed on Transcom
the title — and the increased responsibility — of
Distribution Process Owner (DPO), propelling the
command into new territory. With sweeping authority
over logistics strategies and processes for all of the
Defense Department, Transcom — one of the nation’s
nine unified combatant commands — has embarked
on a number of initiatives. But its new role has not
come without controversy ranging from initial bureaucratic wrinkles to criticism about the way it plans to
implement centralized oversight.
The command no longer focuses solely on the strategic movement of material, or, as logisticians like to call
it, “port-to-port movement.” It is now responsible for
every step of distribution from the depots to the battlefields, or in military parlance, from factory to foxhole.
Chief among the new endeavors is the Defense
Transportation Coordination Initiative (DTCI), which
is expected to take off this year and change how defense