WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Command continues to meet all of its obligations to military combatant commanders and warfighters despite increasingly tighter budgets and an access dispute with Pakistan, the organization’s commander told a congressional panel here yesterday.
Air Force Gen. William M. Fraser III told the Senate Armed Services Committee he “could not be prouder” of Transcom’s 150,000 military personnel and civilians.
“No one in the world can match our deployment and distribution capabilities,” he said.
Fraser outlined upcoming budget priorities and recapped the command’s “particular challenges” and “extreme operational tempo” of last year, which included moving people and equipment rapidly for humanitarian relief in Japan, assistance in NATO operations in Libya, and the withdrawal of forces from Iraq, noting that 99 percent of troops were home from Iraq by the December holidays.
“We have a very flexible, very resilient process to reply to these pop-ups,” the general said.
Transcom is “a lean, dynamic organization that plays a critical role around the world,” Fraser said, noting his command maintains global logistics dominance through the work of its subordinate commands for air mobility, military sealift, surface deployment, distribution, and the Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, which was created last year.
Pakistan’s closure last year of a ground route for U.S. and NATO forces into Afghanistan has not affected Transcom’s ability to deliver warfighters what they need, Fraser said. The command has used its many regional partners for alternatives to get into Afghanistan, namely through the Northern Distribution Network, he explained.
Transcom already is planning for the drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan -- 20,000 are scheduled to leave by October -- and Fraser said he is receiving positive feedback from Central Asian countries, including Russia, to make the Northern Distribution Network a two-way route. Still, he said, the Pakistan route is needed because of the size of the drawdown.
“It’s a daunting task,” Fraser said. Transcom workers, he added, are identifying excess equipment and ways to be efficient in the drawdown.
“If it has capacity, we’re making sure we put something on that aircraft and bring it back out to get ahead of this the best we can,” he said.
The general said he does not expect reductions in aircraft tanker and airlift programs, including the C5-A, C-27J, and C-130, to prevent Transcom from meeting its missions. The cuts were based on strategy agreed upon by all the combatant commanders, he said. Also, he said, other changes have made Transcom more capable: improvements have brought depot maintenance time from 19 percent to about 10 percent, and new KC-46 and KC-135 acquisitions will provide “a bridge to the future.”
By continuing to build relationships with commercial partners and other nations, Fraser said, Transcom will meet all future challenges.
“Together, we will ensure our nation’s ability to project national military power -- any time, anywhere,” he said. “We will remain focused on supporting forces around the world.”
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Tom Eslinger, a contract specialist with the U.S. Transportation Command, Directorate of Acquisition (AQ) sorts through stacks of proposals received in response to the latest request for proposal for surface transportation (trucking) solutions in Afghanistan.