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'Tis the season' - U.S. Transportation Command focused on North Pole studies

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SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (USTCNS) --- Tis the season… To each of us, this time of year means something different. To many it evokes wonderful memories of seasons past, or leads to anticipation and wonder for what lies ahead. For others, it simply means the malls are more crowded. Here, at the combatant command responsible for managing the Defense Transportation System 'tis the season' for one more shot at trying to discover Santa's secrets - easily the world's best global transportation and distribution specialist, ever.

This is, of course, the busy season for Mr. Claus and his team from the North Pole. The busy times last year long, however, for the Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and government civilians assigned to U.S. Transportation Command. While continuing support to the Global War on Terrorism, and reaching milestones of moving one million troops, and 2.75 million tons of cargo to Southwest Asia, the command received additional responsibilities.

In September, the Secretary of Defense designated USTRANSCOM as the Distribution Process Owner for the Department of Defense. The intention is to provide a factory to foxhole distribution system, linking the entire global DOD supply chain.

Managing a new DOD supply chain will require the cooperation and best ideas of corporate and academic America, according to General John Handy, commander, USTRANSCOM. "I'm looking for anything or anybody who's willing to put their brain into the problem," Handy said recently while speaking at St. Louis University.

Although the general's comments were not aimed at Saint Nicholas, valuable lessons can be obtained from studying Santa Claus. Consequently, a task force inside USTRANSCOM is researching the North Pole's distribution model.

Sydney Ross, 11 years old, knows the secret to Santa's success. "I write him a letter every year telling him what I want."

Members of USTRANSCOM's task force have listened to the sixth grader from Belleville, Ill. as part of their research.

According to Navy Capt. Stephen Honda, public affairs officer at USTRANSCOM, "the importance of Sydney's statement is on the collaboration between the supplier, transporter and the customer. That's how we aim to make process improvements in DOD's supply chain."

The techniques employed by Santa, and his team, are arguably the most effective and efficient distribution solutions ever devised.

"One can certainly draw some similarities between what he (Santa) does and what we do here at USTRANSCOM," says Lt. Col. Jeff Derrick, an Air Force officer closely involved with the combatant command's special task force studying the Santa Claus organization.

"We are both (Santa and USTRANSCOM) in the business of distribution - synchronizing the movement of materiel from a source of supply to a final customer," says Derrick. "Like Mr. Claus, our deliveries are extremely important to the people on the receiving end."

Everyone knows Santa's mission, but nobody knows for sure the scope of his workload, or how he and his organization get the job done year after year. Internet sources estimate Santa Claus has 31 hours to transport more than 320,000 tons to about 92 million homes.

A more detailed comparison of Santa's workload to that of USTRANSCOM's challenges as the DPO reveals similarities, and highlights differences. One area studied, is how Santa coordinates and directs his organization's distribution activities.

Army Lt. Col. Rebecca Jones, another task force member from the Directorate of Operations at USTRANSCOM has been working to develop command and control initiatives to improve the coordination of DOD's distribution efforts. She says having the right decision makers at the right place, armed with the right tools, and connected to the right information is a key enabler in streamlining the distribution process between the strategic and theater levels.

"Early in 2004, we (USTRANSCOM) along with many national partners from other logistics commands will deploy the Deployment Distribution Operations Center - Forward to Southwest Asia," says Jones. "The DDOC-FWD will work in support of U.S. Central Command. This pilot program will integrate our national and service capabilities in order to provide strategic-level logistics unity of effort for a combatant commander. Their goal, to synchronize deployment and distribution capabilities and requirements to deliver and sustain maximum combat power for the Combatant Commander.

Improved direction and control measures between seams within the distribution process, is part of the equation. Evaluating performance along the way is equally important.

Air Force Lt. Col Joe Mancy, is leading the task force's efforts to develop measurable standards to gauge success.

"Santa's deliveries are always on time, and on target, that's known by everyone who believes in Santa," says Mancy. "We are trying to figure out what benchmarks Santa and his team use to ensure success - from the North Pole to final destination."

According to Mancy, many of the answers come from proven commercial entities. "We (USTRANSCOM) often meet with leaders from the world of academia and from the commercial sector. We don't have the market cornered on good ideas, and are always looking for ways to improve."

Since the command has been unable to arrange a meeting with Santa Claus, USTRANSCOM is conducting extensive research and preparing to observe this year's travels by Santa Claus.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command tracks Santa Claus annually, and USTRANSCOM is capitalizing on NORAD's experience.

"We do not expect to uncover all of Santa's secrets," says Honda. "The goal is to gain some insight into improving our processes."

"We will combine NORAD's extensive radar tracking tools along with our global network within the Defense Transportation System to try and keep tabs on Santa and his distribution schedule," says Honda. "We will not interfere in anyway (with Santa's deliveries), we are only gathering information to learn from Mr. Claus."

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