Joint Distribution Process Analysis Center Within the U.S. Transportation Command
Matthews provided an overview of the Department of Defense (DoD) “National Defense Programs” (Highways for National Defense [HND], Railroads for National Defense [RND], and Ports for National Defense [PND]) and discussed the processes and procedures by which the DoD leverages these programs to ensure access to sufficient infrastructure to support DoD transportation requirements. The U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM)1 is a functional combatant command—it supports all Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs) related to transportation and distribution, with the goal of delivering the warfighter and any material or equipment necessary to sustain him or her. Under the purview of USTRANSCOM, the Joint Distribution Process Analysis Center (JDPAC) was created in 2005 in partnership with the Transportation Engineering Agency (TEA) to provide credible, insightful analysis and engineering to influence deployment and distribution decisions. According to Matthews, JDPAC/TEA engages in operational analysis (e.g., cost-based decision support analysis and
workload forecasting), deployability analysis (e.g., operations plans feasibility and transportation data), and transportation engineering (e.g., transportation infrastructure and traffic engineering). TEA, on behalf of USTRANSCOM, administers the National Defense Programs (HND, RND, and PND) and is charged with providing executive-level representation for DoD on all transportation engineering matters. To execute this role, TEA is authorized to conduct direct engagement with commercial transportation providers, civil sector transportation authorities including the Department of Transportation (DOT), state transportation authorities, the military services, and the GCCs.
He noted that highways would be categorized as civil infrastructure, while railroads and seaports are largely commercially owned, and he clarified that DoD leverages civil infrastructure as opposed to advocating for or funding specific projects. DoD would advocate for or fund civil infrastructure activities only if there are no other viable alternatives or when the requirement is driven primarily by DoD.
Matthews described the HND program’s role as a liaison with federal agencies and state transportation departments to ensure that defense interests are maintained and to establish policies and guidance for DoD’s safe and efficient use of public highways. The HND program dedicates a substantial amount of time to helping secure the overweight/oversize waivers required to transport DoD equipment. To illustrate the nation’s progress in highway infrastructure, he shared the history of the 1919 Motor Transport Corps Convoy, a 3,000-mile trip from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco, California, on the then-called Lincoln Highway (today’s Interstate 80). This journey, in which Major Dwight D. Eisenhower participated, primarily promoted the building of through-route and transcontinental highways. The convoy’s average speed on mostly unpaved roadways over 56 days of travel was approximately 5 miles per hour; 81 vehicles were involved in 230 road incidents; and the convoy broke (and repaired) dozens of wooden bridges along the way. The journey had a clear influence on the passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 and the development of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, according to Matthews. Ultimately, construction took three times as long as expected and cost four times as much, with the final segment not completed until 1992. The HND’s current Strategic Highway Network (STRAHNET) includes approximately 61,000 miles of highways (including the interstate system) and 2,000 connectors to military installations and seaports (see Figure 2.1a). He noted that even with the potential loss of a segment, the system remains incredibly resilient with numerous alternative routes to transport forces from installation to ports.
The RND program has a similar role to the HND program in that it ensures that DoD’s interests are represented in all railroad infrastructure activity, including assessing the impacts of rail line abandonments or rail line mergers and considering
issues of overwidth clearance. Matthews explained that the first transcontinental railroad emerged in 1869: it served as a decisive advantage for the Union during the Civil War and motivated U.S. expansion westward. The RND’s designated rail network, the Strategic Rail Corridor Network (STRACNET), includes 32,000 route miles with 4,000 miles of defense connectors to serve more than 120 defense installations and seaports (see Figure 2.1b). The RND works closely with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and provides an updated STRACNET every 5 years. He described the commercial rail network in the continental United States as healthy, owing to adequate investments by the owning railroads. These investments have resulted in improved track conditions and fewer track-related accidents over the past 30 years.
As evidenced by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 1992, DoDowned tracks have experienced challenges with poor conditions affecting military transport operations. However, with a substantial investment through the Army Strategic Mobility Program soon after the issuance of the report, many previously
damaged Army tracks are now operating in good condition. Matthews emphasized that the Army generally prefers to use railways over highways for large shipments because they offer less potential for damage to occur to equipment, have the capability to move heavy equipment efficiently, and provide greater opportunity for equipment to arrive together and on time.
The PND program includes both commercial and military ports and focuses on the readiness of those designated as either strategic or alternative seaports (see Figure 2.1c).
The strategic port program is conducted through the National Port Readiness Network, which has a comprehensive memorandum outlining the roles and responsibilities of the various agencies involved. Matthews also described the complex modeling and simulation activities that help to determine how much seaport access is needed on all three U.S. coasts. The two most critical military strategic seaports are the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point in North Carolina and the Military Ocean Terminal Concord (MOTCO) in California, as they serve as the primary ammunition outloading terminals. Millions of dollars are being invested to improve the condition of MOTCO, specifically, because that infrastructure was built during World War II.
Matthews concluded by reiterating that DoD leverages civil infrastructure and tries to be a good steward in working closely with the public, federal agencies, state agencies, and commercial partners responsible for that infrastructure.
In response to a question from Mehdi Ahmadian, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), Matthews described JDPAC’s 2015 “fort-to-port” analysis, which recommended that the U.S. Army invest $100 million in new rail cars to support its movement from installations to seaports in a timely fashion. Such an investment is not feasible for the U.S. Army, so an alternative recommendation to leverage commercial trucks was issued. Mike Rigdon, Institute for Defense Analyses (retired), wondered about JDPAC’s use of modeling and simulation tools, and Matthews noted that JDPAC predominantly uses transportation models instead of engineering models. JDPAC primarily relies on its own Analysis of Mobility Platform (AMP), which is a very complex model representing the entire DoD transportation system and its requirements, transportation advances, and the transportation network down to a detailed degree. This was the model used to conduct the fort-to-port analysis, Matthews continued.
A workshop participant asked Matthews to comment on how the nation’s aging infrastructure could affect DoD. Matthews emphasized that while there are challenges on DoD’s own installations, the civil infrastructure has few transportation challenges (as long as clearances for oversize and overweight vehicles will continue
to be granted), especially since an alternative route can usually be found. Jesus de la Garza, Virginia Tech, asked whether equipment will eventually have to be shipped in pieces, owing to clearance and weight constraints. Matthews responded that this process is already in place, to a certain degree—the Abrams tank has to be taken apart in order to be air-transported, and other newer tanks have to be disassembled just to be transported via rail. This process can be problematic: when armor has to be transported detached from the vehicles, this does not allow for rapid deployment engagement. The solution to this problem is to evaluate the materials that are currently used, Matthews explained; if material weights could be reduced, many transportation challenges could be alleviated.