On 18 April 1987, acting on the recommendation of the President's Blue Ribbon Commission on Defense Management, President Ronald Reagan ordered the establishment of USTRANSCOM. After decades of studies, hearings, reports, and commissions, the nation finally had a unified command to serve as the single advocate for the Defense Transportation System. President Reagan nominated, and the Senate confirmed, Air Force General Duane H. Cassidy to be the first Commander in Chief of USTRANSCOM.
Establishment of USTRANSCOM in 1987 was a signal event in the history of defense transportation, but compromises had been made to bring it into existence. The Services retained their single manager charters for air, land, and sea transportation, and USTRANSCOM's responsibilities were largely restricted to wartime. These shortcomings would be rectified during Air Force General Hansford T. Johnson's assignment as USTRANSCOM Commander in Chief.
Air Force General Ronald R. Fogleman's top priority as USTRANSCOM Commander in Chief was to prepare the command to exercise the authorities and responsibilities Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney had given it in February 1992: to execute air, land, and sea transportation for the Department of Defense (DOD) in peace and war.
As Commander in Chief of USTRANSCOM, Air Force General Robert L. Rutherford's focus was to increase the command's efficiency without decreasing its warfighting effectiveness. "The strategic plan had been laid out," he said. "The structure was in place, good people were in place. We needed to make sure we had it resourced properly."
Air Force General Walter Kross was the first Commander in Chief, USTRANSCOM, to have served previously in the command: he was Director, Operations and Logistics during the Persian Gulf War. Shortly after assuming command, he told the USTRANSCOM staff he felt like someone who had worked in the family business, gone away to serve in the armed forces, and "I then came back to run the family business, but everything had changed."
Two terrorist events framed the tenure of Air Force General Charles T. "Tony" Robertson, Jr., as USTRANSCOM Commander in Chief: the simultaneous bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and the deadliest domestic terrorist attacks in US history that occurred on 11 September 2001.
Air Force General John W. Handy brought clear-cut visions as Commander of both USTRANSCOM and Air Mobility Command (AMC). Consequently, USTRANSCOM experienced more change, received more authorities, and launched more initiatives than at any time since its creation while sustaining a high operating tempo.
Two objectives characterized Air Force General Norton A. Schwartz's tenure as the first full-time Commander of USTRANSCOM: continue to advance the many initiatives already underway and run the command more like a business.