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Customs Brokerage Documentation Adds New Capability to DTS

Enterprise Readiness Center (ERC) staff Garth Sanginiti, Army Lt. Col. Chad Blacketer and Bill Lindquist discuss foreign military sales capabilities, Aug. 31, during an impromptu meeting. The ERC serves as the strategic integrator in coordinating transportation and readiness issues through collaborative efforts with component commands, customers and commercial partners. Photo by Bob Fehringer, USTRANSCOM/PA

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When representatives from India’s Boeing C-17 Globemaster III Aircraft sustainment and modification program called U.S. Transportation Command’s Enterprise Readiness Center for assistance shipping parts to the United States for repair, it became evident the Defense Transportation System was struggling to provide seamless support for foreign partners under the Foreign Military Sales Return and Repair program.

In this case, the Indian Air Force was attempting to utilize the DTS to ship small amounts of material to the U.S. for repair under USTRANSCOM’s commercial air Total Delivery Services program.  However, during collaboration between the ERC and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, challenges were identified that were preventing the DTS from providing timely support to the IAF -- specifically, the inability to execute customs brokerage documentation.

“USTRANSCOM’s ability to support FMS repair and return material, to include supporting customs services on behalf of our partner nations, has been a service that has never been attempted under the DTS,” said Bill Lindquist, a procurement analyst for the ERC.  “If we can’t provide repair and return, this inhibits USTRANSCOM’s ability to offer reliable support for international FMS customers, which can ultimately have second and third order effects on U.S. and foreign partner’s Security Cooperation mission.”

After identifying a deficiency in the customs brokerage documentation service, the ERC set out to rectify the problem by assembling a cross-functional team, created with members from the AFLCMC C-17 Program Office, USTRANSCOM Acquisition Commercial International Branch, Air Mobility Command Commercial Air Services Branch, USTRANSCOM Logistics Transportation Policy Branch and Defense Logistics Agency (Distribution/Transportation Office).

This cross-functional team, led by the ERC, spent three months developing requirements and modifying contracting language to issue a formal request for information to the commercial air carriers under the TDS contract, which incorporates customs brokerage services in support of India’s repair and return program.

Following negotiation of rates and terms with the carriers, a proof of principle was conducted in December 2015 to test the process.  DLA acted as the booker and shipper on behalf of the IAF, and worked closely with the selected carrier for movement of the first non-hazardous shipment weighing less than 300 pounds.  DLA also coordinated with AFLCMC and Boeing’s C-17 contract support in India to book requirements, generate shipping labels and track each shipment, all of which are new roles DLA provided for this case. 

As a result of the above efforts, shipping documentation was visible within the DTS, which significantly reduced cargo delays and led to greater efficiency throughout the transportation process.  Since December 2015, 70 items have moved under this new process in support of the IAF’s C-17 repairable program.  Based on the success of this proof of principle initiative, TDS now provides duty-free cargo clearance with India’s customs officials and USTRANSCOM is better postured to expand its transportation services to other nations.

“This was a significant event, as USTRANSCOM was attempting to fill a major void in its capability in offering complete end-to-end logistics support to the FMS community,” said Lindquist.  

Adding customs brokerage documentation service as a DTS capability helps address both DOD’s enterprise readiness concerns and USTRANSCOM’s ability to maintain readiness during a time of decreased activity and presence across the Global Distribution Network.  Shipping cargo via the DTS assists in maintaining active air channels, training for pilots and mariners, and keeping industry partnerships viable.  It also makes repair and return through the DTS less cumbersome for foreign partners desiring to use the DTS.

“In this case, we were able to improve upon a DTS capability to better support our FMS customers,” said Kay Clodfelter, logistics management specialist in the ERC.  “Through greater collaboration with AFLCMC, TCAQ, AMC, TCJ4-Policy and DLA, we were able to leverage additional expertise to better shape discussions with our air carriers, ultimately incorporating expanded customs documentation service under the TDS contract.” 

As demonstrated above, USTRANSCOM continues to foster strong relationships with commercial industry, the command’s ‘fourth component,’ by providing critical commercial resources to meet worldwide DOD mission requirements. 

“Collaborative efforts of this nature strengthen USTRANSCOM’s partnership with industry by identifying existing service gaps and opening the dialogue on how to expand the DTS portfolio of commercially available capabilities to close these gaps,” Clodfelter added.

Building on this effort’s preliminary success, the ERC is assessing potential opportunities to expand this capability to foreign partners in Europe and include customs under other DTS commercial contracts (air and surface) to support the movement of larger commodities. 

The robust engagement between USTRANSCOM and the FMS community has been the catalyst for these types of distribution improvement initiatives, and underscores the command’s strategic objectives to provide seamless and sustainable support as part of USTRANSCOM’s security cooperation mission.   

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