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Leadership Perspective – MILITARY/GOVERNMENT

My Vision of Our Shared Future

By Gen Darren W. McDew, USAF Commander, United States Transportation Command


nited States Transportation Com- mand and our government and com- mercial partners deliver on behalf of

the Nation, and I am incredibly proud of all we have accomplished together in the command’s almost 30-year history. Our enduring partnership represents a signifi- cant strategic advantage for our Country. I often describe all the daily, complex ac- tivities we do in two basic ways. First, we have the ability to deliver an immediate force tonight through our airlift and aerial refuel- ing capabilities. Together, they serve as both a worldwide deterrent and an immediate response to hostilities and natural disasters. The second is our ability to deliver our Na- tion’s decisive force when needed. Here, our or- ganic and commercial sealift fleets combine to enable an overwhelming response to any global threat. While many intuitively under- stand the need for boots on the ground to win wars, few realize sealift delivers the bulk of our war-winning capabilities. In both the case of a decisive force via sea and an immediate force by air, we enjoy the great fortune of a strong transportation base upon which these capabilities spring forth. It would serve us well not to underestimate the importance or overestimate the resilience of that base. We simply cannot rest on the many successes we have had up until now. In the last 15 years, we have become accus- tomed to geographically-isolated conflicts, while benefitting from distinct technological superiority. We have learned many lessons from these conflicts, not all of which will be helpful and some may actually be harmful to our ability to conduct future operations. You see, we have enjoyed moving our people and assets to and from these con- flicts with impunity and relative security. However, we should expect future conflicts to cross regional boundaries and have con- tested strategic lines of communication, which brings the real possibility we will experience attrition, something we have not accounted for since World War II. Ad- ditionally, likely adversaries will field nu- merically superior forces with technologi-

16 | Defense Transportation Journal | OCTOBER 2016

cal capabilities approaching our own. I’m also concerned that we have instilled in our up-and-coming leaders a particular style of command and control, which uniquely limits their decision-making authorities. This style of centralized decision making simply will not be compatible with the cyber-con- tested, dynamic nature of future conflicts. If that future operating environment isn’t complicated enough, the emerging business environment exacerbates many of those chal- lenges. We are already facing the challenges of a shifting global workforce across much of the transportation base, with pilots, mari- ners, and truck drivers all in short supply, for a multitude of reasons. Mariners are a par- ticularly critical resource as we’re losing the mariner base that our Nation has enjoyed for so long. This, compounded by the maritime industry moving away from steam in the next three years, and our Ready Reserve Fleet comprised of 43 percent steam vessels, pres- ents real challenges to our ability to deploy. Emerging technologies like autonomous

vehicles may bring relief to some of those shortages, but also stand to create new and different workforce challenges for all of us. At the same time, advanced-manufacturing technologies, along with autonomous and re- mote systems, might represent a fundamen- tal disruption in transportation altogether. In such a world, cybersecurity becomes all the more important. The unfortunate reality, however, is cybersecurity is already underval- ued and underappreciated. Consider the fact that our commercial part- ners account for about half of our wartime movement capability. Because of this, any one of their cyber vulnerabilities becomes a weakness for all of us. In fact, our commercial partners are a key national security asset, just one that too often goes unnoticed. We need to correct that, and we also need to recognize the connection between us runs both ways. Those risks to our commercial transpor- tation partners require good communica- tion and trust between us so we can share threat and vulnerability information with- out hesitation. While we are working from

an amazing foundation, the world we see on the horizon will demand even greater trust and transparency. We must find ways to get beyond our natural hesitations to en- sure we stay relevant in the future together. With those challenges in mind, I am fo- cused on evolving the United States Transpor- tation Command in ways that ensure we are able to answer the Nation’s call today, while simultaneously preparing for the future. In that evolution, we will need to work together to advocate for tomorrow’s capabilities, ex- tend mission assurance through the cyber do- main, and address the fundamental changes happening in our Nation’s workforce. Just as I advocate for the systems, peo- ple, and processes that will make us effec- tive militarily, we need those same evolu- tions in our commercial systems. We need to develop a mindset that naturally leans toward ensuring we can accomplish what the Nation has entrusted us with, regard- less of our public or private status. In large part, developing that mindset de- pends on identifying today the leaders of to- morrow. I am humbled by General George C. Marshall’s ability to use the lean budget- ary Interwar Period for rehearsals, exercises and wargames. Those preparations had two key effects: they highlighted operational challenges and they identified future leaders. We must do the same thing both in com-

merce and in the military. We need to proac- tively explore and experiment with what we see on the horizon, and identify those game- changing technologies and use them to our collective advantage rather than waiting only to scramble in response to them. We also must identify those young leaders who think differently and are not limited by the stan- dard ways of doing business. Marshall identi- fied the likes of Eisenhower, Patton, McNair, and Bradley. Whom have we identified for the future C-suite…the future E-ring? We know the next 15 years will look dif-

ferent from the last 15 years. What will we do with that knowledge? Will we build on the sol- id foundation of our National Defense Trans- portation Association relationship and get af- ter the challenges of tomorrow today? Will we find ways to challenge our thinking and norms and identify the people, technology, and pro- cesses that will deliver success in the future? I know we can, as Together, We Deliver!

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