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U.S. Transportation Command in 2023 – an eye to the Future

Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, commander, U.S. Transportation Command addressing the National Defense Transportation Association’s and USTRANSCOM’s annual Fall Meeting audience in St. Louis, in October 2022. USTRANSCOM photo by Sgt. Vontrae Hampton.

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (Dec. 12, 2022) – U.S. Transportation Command’s (USTRANSCOM) logistical successes were on full display in 2022. The team comprised of almost 130,000 active, guard and reserve service members and Department of Defense (DoD) civilians, combined with our commercial partners, proved their readiness. They delivered a myriad of aid from combat power for Ukraine to baby formula for American families while balancing the demands of countless global missions – all with an eye on the future. 

Over the past year, Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, commander, USTRANSCOM, laid the foundation for future operations by establishing the command’s priorities and publishing its strategy, aligning it with the National Defense Strategy (NDS). 

“Future operations will not resemble recent successes, but they have demonstrated the importance of the National Defense Strategy’s strategic ways of integrated deterrence, campaigning, and building enduring advantages,” Van Ovost said in October while addressing government and commercial partners at the National Defense Transportation Association’s and USTRANSCOM’s annual Fall Meeting. “Our priorities and warfighting framework are fully aligned with these key concepts, and the capabilities we deliver will underwrite the lethality of the joint force.”

Integrated deterrence is the centerpiece of the NDS and is intended to make adversaries doubt they can achieve their objectives. In what the NDS describes as this “decisive decade," USTRANSCOM’s ability to fight, deliver, and win through its global mobility enterprise is necessary to prevent conflict. Should deterrence fail, the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise (JDDE), the global mobility enterprise USTRANSCOM directs, must be ready. 

Van Ovost put this in perspective when she told the Fall Meeting audience that USTRANSCOM must remain ready now and in the future and referred to China as our most consequential strategic competitor.

“Militarily, they have studied our capabilities and are keenly aware of logistics’ critical role in any future military action. To that end they have custom designed their kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities to target our lines of communication,” she said.

The timing, tempo, and scale of a potential conflict with China means USTRANSCOM must focus on evolving its strategic advantage, particularly to improve command and control of global logistics and integration with the Joint Force (the entire U.S. military).

A look around the corner at what’s on tap for USTRANSCOM in 2023 viewed through the lens of each of the command’s four priorities:

•    Ready now and in the future 

Warfighting readiness is non-negotiable.

Operationally, USTRANSCOM will orient and synchronize activities, and investments to balance the enterprise’s attention on today’s requirements while preparing to meet those of tomorrow. To get there, USTRANSCOM will align its objectives across its Warfighting Framework. The framework’s elements are: global mobility posture; global mobility capacity; and global command, control and integration, which are detailed in the command’s strategy.

In 2023, USTRANSCOM will participate in a series of exercises focused on the Indo-Pacific region. Van Ovost emphasized the importance of these training events. 

“Through the Globally Integrated Exercise, Pacific Sentry, Air Mobility Command’s Mobility Guardian ’23, and other combined exercises we will put a premium on closing operational gaps to strengthen deterrence and develop new concepts to prevail.”

Since 85 percent of American forces are based in the continental United States, the need for modern and capable transportation systems, infrastructure and platforms are important to deploy these forces during the next conflict, especially to the vast Indo-Pacific region. Thus, mobility recapitalization efforts are critical to operate in a future logistics environment. Advocating for modernization will remain a focus, especially the need for air refueling aircraft and ships.

2023 also brings a new responsibility. “TRANSCOM is preparing to assume the role as the Department’s single manager for global bulk fuel,” said Van Ovost, “Partnering with DLA’s capability and experience, TRANSCOM will focus on the synchronization of posture, planning, execution, and advocacy for resources to meet the energy needs of the joint force in a contested environment.” This will ensure fuel will be transported to vital locations and able to get to the warfighting units during conflict, while reducing the threat to this resource. 

•    Empower a competitive and resilient warfighting team

“Our strength is derived from the interconnection of our capabilities, the resilience of our global network, and the dedication of our people,” said Van Ovost. “This is the strategic advantage we must evolve.”

Leaders will continue investing in people to build and hone critical skills required to compete and win during any crisis. Investing in people includes maintaining an environment in which all are treated with dignity and respect, and strengthened by demonstrating that we value families, and the personal wellbeing of all. The directorate of Manpower and Personnel hired a fulltime expert in recruiting and a position to lead inclusion and diversity initiatives. To stimulate innovation and help to develop the next generation, the command has entered into Education Partnership Agreements with multiple universities to further the study of science, technology engineering and technology topics, which are foundational competencies for USTRANSCOM’s global mobility enterprise. 

USTRANSCOM is supporting various innovation efforts though research, development test and evaluation projects with other military teams. These efforts will build upon those, like the Army’s RAIL kit, a modular ramp system for unloading cargo, and the Ares Dynamic Network Automation project, which explores the use of double blockchain technology for secure communications with commercial vendors. This emphasis on collaboration and innovation will continue in 2023, including: 
-    Army initiative to develop a 40 ft. platform to support airdrop of service payloads; 
-    Naval Facility Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center project to enhance over-the-shore operations in contested environments through a positioning system that supports remote unmanned operations; and
-    Army Development Command/Armament Center project to provide the 21st Theater Support Command in Europe the data, planning and execution information it needs to move forces once they arrive in theater to their final destination.

•    Drive cyber domain mission assurance

Cyberspace is a critical warfighting domain that USTRANSCOM relies on to conduct global mobility operations. Consequently, the command is developing measures to mitigate malicious efforts from individuals, terrorist groups and nation states. Next year, USTRANSCOM will update its network infrastructure and software required to implement Zero Trust principles to help secure its unclassified network. The command will also address cybersecurity risks to its global mobility systems through threat-driven assessments modeled after the Department’s Strategic Cybersecurity Program assessments.

Throughout 2023, USTRANSCOM will deepen relationships with commercial partners because the success of USTRANSCOM is linked to the transportation industry. Central to these efforts is advancing existing cyber information sharing and collaboration forums and initiating new ways to share best practices. USTRANSCOM will also encourage commercial partner participation in DoD and National Security Agency voluntary programs. These programs exist to establish collaborative partnerships with companies to share resources, expertise, and intelligence that can help our commercial partners identify and prioritize cyber threats.

•    Create decision advantage

“Data must be treated as a strategic asset, and the command has invested in modernizing the way we manage and analyze or mission critical information, including the utilization and exchange of data with our commercial industry partners,” says Van Ovost. “TRANSCOM is blazing the trail and setting the example for others to follow in capability, data cataloging, and the creation of Pegasus, our own community space within Advana.” 

Pegasus is USTRANSCOM’s software and integration with Advana, which is a technology platform that provides decision makers, analysts, and users at all levels with access to enterprise data and structured analytics—in a scalable, reliable, and secure environment.

As TRANSCOM focuses on the Indo-Pacific region, the command is working with the services and other combatant commands to deploy, sustain, and maneuver forces throughout large distances. These efforts require the command to find ways to deliver resources to distributed forces over great distances. The complexities of distributed logistics demand that the JDDE, including resources from allies and partners, be employed in a dynamic manner while anticipating and mitigating risks to our forces and commercial partners. 

“After more than three decades of operations there is one constant,” Van Ovost said reflecting on USTRANSCOM’s 35th anniversary. “We must maintain our readiness to fight tonight while keeping a keen eye on our ability to do so into the future.”

USTRANSCOM exists as a warfighting combatant command to project and sustain military power at a time and place of the nation’s choosing. Powered by dedicated men and women, USTRANSCOM underwrites the lethality of the Joint Force, advances American interests around the globe, and provides our nation's leaders with strategic flexibility to select from multiple options, while creating multiple dilemmas for our adversaries.


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