Serving at the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) as Director of Logistics (CCJ4) for 36
months (June 2007 to June 2010) has been both an honor and a pleasure. In a fast-paced environment with the combatant command at war, the challenges have been huge. My previous position as the U.S. Pacific Command Director of Logistics was a great billet that prepared me well for the leadership challenges that confronted me at CENTCOM. Many lessons learned there translated directly to CENTCOM, but CENTCOM presented many more unique challenges to overcome.
Nothing is easy about logistics in Afghanistan, Iraq, or any of the 20 countries that make up the CENTCOM area of responsibility. Insurgent violence, political instability, and complex ethnic and religious issues all combine to challenge even the best laid plans. Conducting an effective logistics operation in these environments would have been impossible if not for the cooperation, communication, and dedication of countless professionals across several large and complex logistics organizations.
As I look back over my 36 months as the CCJ4, I am overwhelmed and humbled by the sense of teamwork, dedication, and pride that I have consistently witnessed across the logistics enterprise. From the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) right down to the tactical-level truck companies and supply squadrons, the Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Department of Defense (DOD) civilians have all worked together to document, track, and move mountains of critical resources. Along with the dedicated personnel of the Joint Staff and our national partners of the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), and our service components, all constitute what I like to call “Log Nation.”
In this article, I will attempt to share my personal insights into how I saw the joint operating areas of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the Central and South Asian States progress toward our commander’s intent through the tireless collaboration and cooperation of Log Nation.
|Major General Dowd visits with Afghanistan National Police recruits.
The Situation Upon Arrival
Trusting in my longstanding belief that the most effective way to synchronize plans and operations across several large and complex organizations is to cultivate relationships and dialog, I set out to do just that. I established a senior logistics leader forum to pull together the key leaders from the warfighting sub-unified combatant commands, service components, and national partners. We met by secure video teleconference every month and face-to-face twice a year to develop a common sight picture, discuss upcoming challenges, and brainstorm solutions. This ad hoc venue created a network of working relationships that continues to gain momentum, and the invitee list continues to grow every year. Similarly, I formed a group of senior logistics leaders comprised of our coalition partners of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Each week, I published an update to the CENTCOM commander, which I subsequently shared across Log Nation. This weekly update both informed and stirred discussion, always resulting in productive crosstalk that kept us all synchcronized. Establishing these key relationships early in my tenure, across all echelons of command, proved to be extraordinarily valuable in the demanding times to come.
When I arrived at CENTCOM in June 2007, our main effort was Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). The command had over 5 years of experience systematically rotating forces into and out of Iraq and sustaining those forces with a well-oiled logistics network hubbed out of Kuwait. The 2007 surge of forces in Iraq was underway, and by September of that year, the desired effects of the surge were being realized. General David H. Petraeus, then the commanding general of Multi-National Forces-Iraq (MNF−I), recommended to his chain of command in September 2007 that a gradual drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq begin, with a goal of reaching pre-surge troop levels by July 2008. For the first time in years, there was a palpable optimism about achieving a democratic and stable Iraq and, subsequently, an opportunity to consider a reduced U.S. and Coalition Forces footprint.
Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan remained an economy-of-force effort, with the vast majority of forces and sustainment reaching Afghanistan through the land route traversing Pakistan. This was the general state of play in the command upon my arrival.
Responsible Drawdown of U.S. Forces
The security achievements of 2007 and early 2008 formed a foundation for the gradual establishment of sustainable security in Iraq. U.S. partnerships have been fundamental to this progress since 2003. On 27 February 2009, President Obama confirmed that U.S. forces would be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. The two main implications of this for Log Nation were posturing for a responsible withdrawal of U.S. forces and supporting the training and equipping of Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).
To assist MNF–I in the monumental effort to draw down millions of pieces of equipment, the Army deployed teams into Kuwait and Iraq to oversee the processes and plans for redistributing and disposing of the excess. DLA Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service teams led the way with the responsible removal of hazardous material and scrap from Iraq. DLA removed more than 400 million pounds of scrap metal in 2009 and 2010. Army teams ensured that equipment in Iraq was not declared excess and available for redistribution until the commander on the ground determined that the equipment was no longer required to support the mission.
The priority for redistribution of excess equipment in Iraq is to push it to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. DOD sponsored a program to transfer equipment to Iraq. Collaboratively, with the services in the lead, we determined what equipment would be transferred to the ISF, what would be transferred to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and what would be shipped back to the continental United States (CONUS). Equipment was also made available to other government agencies through the National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property for local government use, should a state or local government desire to pay the transportation cost for returning it to CONUS. As of December 2009, over 1.9 million pieces of standard Army equipment in Iraq, valued at $12 billion, were scheduled to return to CONUS. This comprised approximately 63 percent of the equipment in Iraq today.
The Army established the Equipment Distribution Review Board cochaired by the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army and the commander of the Army Materiel Command. This board facilitated the distribution of equipment by streamlining existing Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program policies and processes. Much of the board’s work to date has been to support filling Afghan National Army requirements. NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] Training Mission-Afghanistan/Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (NTM−A/CSTC−A) is an active participant, and the board recently accelerated delivery of equipment to meet NTM−A/CSTC−A training requirements for the Afghan National Army.
MNF–I immediately began examining what minimum essential capability the ISF would need in order to maintain an acceptable level of security against both internal and external threats. MNF−I determined it was important for the ISF to have at least a foundational capability to protect its land, maritime, and air sovereignty and determined that the ISF would not fully achieve the required capabilities before the end of 2011 without help.
In July 2009, MNF−I submitted a list of equipment requirements for the ISF to achieve the essential, sustainable capabilities needed to maintain security after U.S. forces depart Iraq at the end of December 2011. Of the approximately 3.3 million pieces of equipment in Iraq, Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC−I) identified approximately 53,000 pieces—the vast majority excess to service needs—required by the ISF to maintain internal stability and security.
To continue the momentum and further assist in the progress of the ISF, with the Joint Staff in the lead, we worked closely with the services to develop sourcing solutions for the equipment identified by MNSTC−I. We applied a mix of authorities to facilitate the transfer of equipment, property, and services to the both the ISF and the ANSF. Applicable authorities included the FMS program, Section 516 of the Foreign Assistance Act authorizing transfer of excess defense articles, and Section 1234 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010, known as the Levin Amendment. As of March 2008, the Iraqi government had purchased over $2 billion worth of U.S. equipment and services through FMS. Since September 2008, delivery has improved as the FMS system strived to support urgent wartime requirements.
Much hard work remains to be done in assisting the ISF to assume full responsibility for security by December 2011, when the Security Agreement comes to an end and the drawdown of U.S. forces is scheduled to be completed. Achieving critical ISF capabilities as U.S. forces draw down is the best way to ensure that we remain on track to draw down American forces to roughly 50,000 and end our combat mission by August 2010.
Growth in Afghanistan
The decision to authorize an additional 21,500 U.S. forces in Afghanistan in early 2009, followed by the President’s commitment of additional forces in December 2009, set the conditions to reverse Afghan Taliban gains. These additional forces are joining some 68,000 U.S. forces and 30,000 Coalition Forces already in Afghanistan, all of which have undertaken a fundamental shift in how they are being employed across the country.
As of late January 2010, we had already moved some 5,000 troops and expected that 18,000 of the President’s 1 December 2009 commitment would be in country by late spring. The remainder of the 30,000 will arrive as rapidly as possible over the summer and early fall, making a major contribution to reversing Taliban momentum in 2010.
As complex as the new strategy in Afghanistan was, the logistics of getting the troops and equipment in place was an equally complex undertaking. Our main concern going in was ensuring that we set the theater with the early deployment of critical enablers. These enablers included DLA’s push of more than 4,000 containers of construction material, which helped enable the construction of critical forward operating bases (FOBs); analysis of the feasibility of moving forces according to the President’s timeline; and successfully expediting the fielding of the mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) family of vehicles.
In early 2009, we began to refine and fulfill logistics requirement to support deployment of the initial 21,500 personnel into Regional Commands South and West. Most critical to setting the theater for success was the early deployment of engineering teams and equipment. Through significant coordination and effort with the Army Corps of Engineers, the services, and others, we expedited the delivery of thousands of pieces of critical engineering equipment. By early August 2009, eight base camps were completed, enabling a combat aviation brigade, Stryker brigade, and Marine expeditionary battalion to begin combat operations.
Military construction projects scheduled for completion over the next 12 months will deliver 4 new runways, ramp space for 8 C−17 transports, and parking for 50 helicopters and 24 close air support and 26 intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. This represents roughly one-third of the airfield paving projects currently funded in the Afghanistan theater of operations. Additional minor construction plans called for the construction of over 12 new FOBs and expansion of 18 existing FOBs.
Afghanistan is a landlocked country with very little infrastructure. The task of executing the deployment and sustainment of the additional forces was viewed by many as perhaps the greatest limiting factor to the plan. My planning staff called together a major planning effort to identify and recommend possible sourcing solutions to satisfy force requirements. In coordinating with TRANSCOM and the services, we conducted a force flow conference to determine the feasibility of moving the required forces into Afghanistan in accordance with the President’s timeline. The analysis showed that the movement plan was feasible but carried high risks. In other words, we could accomplish the mission as long as additional emergent requirements were kept to a minimum. We knew the requirements would grow, so we had to think outside the box to develop creative solutions.
Our business rules call for all sensitive or classified cargo to be flown into Afghanistan on military or commercially contracted aircraft. All other cargo is shipped via surface routes. Our primary surface route uses the seaport of Karachi, Pakistan, where we have no U.S. force presence. Equipment is disembarked and then transported by commercially contracted vehicles, known as “jingle trucks,” along two primary routes. One route crosses into Afghanistan through the Chaman gate, while the other crosses into Afghanistan along the Khyber Pass through the Torkham gate. Both of these routes take our cargo straight through the heart of insurgent territory. Despite the Government of Pakistan’s tremendous support and partnership, we recognized the need to expand our options for surface movement into Afghanistan.
|Major General Dowd signs a transit support agreement with Jordan for support of the Iraq drawdown.
Northern Distribution Network
We began in earnest to establish a northern distribution route in early 2009. We devised a strategic engagement strategy that leveraged leadership from CENTCOM, TRANSCOM, OSD, and the Department of State. Through senior leader visits and negotiations, the
Northern Distribution Network (NDN) became a reality.
We now have a series of robust routes that traverse Europe, the Caucasus, and the Central and South Asian States into Afghanistan. We have also established a surface route to transport military equipment from Iraq through Turkey that merges with the NDN for onward movement to Afghanistan. As June 2010, the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command has booked over 50 percent of all sustainment heading to Afghanistan on the NDN and has delivered over 11,000 20-foot containers of cargo to Afghanistan through these new northern routes.
At present, the transit agreements with most of the countries through which the NDN runs limit the type of cargo eligible for the NDN to nonlethal cargo only. As a result, the land route through Pakistan is still used for nearly all unit cargo. We hope to expand the categories of cargo permitted on the NDN and to retain and expand logistics hubs in Central Asia.
The success of the NDN is a testament to the cooperation and commitment of several organizations. We all stayed synchronized through biweekly flag officer-level and O6-level secure video teleconferences hosted by TRANSCOM and CENTCOM. Expansion of the NDN through Europe, the Central and South Asian States, and Turkey lessens our reliance on the surface route through Pakistan and provides the logistics flexibility needed to deploy and sustain the increased force in Afghanistan. Today, the NDN has proven to be far more than a logistics initiative. It is, in fact, a diplomatic engagement tool.
Central and South Asian States
Our relationship with the Central and South Asian States continues to improve as a result of the NDN. We are actively working to expand our partnerships with these nations by locally procuring supplies for OEF forces from NDN-supporting countries. We sought special legislation, Section 831 of the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, to provide enhanced authority to acquire products and services produced in the Central and South Asian States that support military and stability operations in Afghanistan.
This legislation directly supports the economic development of the Central and South Asian region. With DLA serving as CENTCOM’s lead for this initiative, the economic impact since July 2008 has exceeded $400 million. This level of economic activity represents a substantive commitment by the U.S. Government to the countries of this region.
MRAP Vehicles Save Lives
I have seen MRAP vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan, battle damaged beyond recognition, from which our troopers have safely walked away. MRAP vehicles save lives. They offer a proven capability to reduce combat deaths and casualties associated with roadside bombs and other explosives. The Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen who use these vehicles have great confidence in the MRAP’s abilities to defeat enemy attacks.
The MRAP family of vehicles is the best vehicle protection we have to date, with their V-shaped armored hulls and raised chassis. As of 1 March 2010, 25,561 vehicles in the MRAP family were under contract out of an acquisition objective of 26,882. Of those, 17,457 were MRAPs and 8,104 were the lighter, more maneuverable MRAP all-terrain vehicle (M−ATV). As of 1 March 2010, we had fielded just over 37 percent (approximately 5,338) of the approximately 14,331 vehicles required in Afghanistan.
To expedite delivery of this lifesaving weapon system, we have worked with TRANSCOM, OSD, and the Department of State to establish a multimodal shipping concept of operations. Vehicles are transported by ship to a seaport of debarkation in the CENTCOM region and then cross-loaded onto aircraft at a nearby aerial port of embarkation for final delivery by air into Afghanistan. The creative thinking and problem-solving by my very talented and persistent staff have ensured that cargo, including MRAP vehicles, is flowing into Afghanistan to save lives and meet the President’s timeline.
Leveraging NATO and ISAF Contracts
In contrast to operations in Iraq, operations in Afghanistan are commanded by NATO and ISAF. We determined early on the importance of leveraging support with our NATO partners. For example, through the collaboration achieved during our NATO senior logistics leader sessions, we were able to commit to sharing contracts for fuel and real life support at FOBs where we had a multinational presence. Since the capacity for support in Afghanistan was limited, we shared where it made sense to do so. This helped control the cost of contracted support and also lessened the national burden on each participant by limiting the number of FOBs requiring support. The collaboration with NATO and ISAF increased dramatically throughout my tour as the CCJ4.
Contractors on the Battlefield
The deployed contractor force is a key component to the success of the warfighter mission and an indispensible source for essential technical support, maintenance, transportation, security, base support, and construction capability. Accounting for total numbers and locations of contractors allows the commanders the visibility to better forecast logistics and force protection requirements.
The Joint Contracting Command Iraq and Afghanistan (JCC−I/A) serves as the centralized management and enforcement organization for contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it awards only 25 to 30 percent of the contracts in the theater. It does, however, vet each contract in the theater to ensure that all applicable clauses are included in the contract. CENTCOM will soon expand the JCC−I/A into a Joint Theater Support
Contracting Command to synchronize contracting efforts in Pakistan and Kuwait as well as Iraq and Afghanistan.
A thorough oversight program ensures contract compliance to meet warfighter requirements. This becomes especially important when overseeing private security contractors on the battlefield. Private security contractors provide unique skills and can quickly meet the increased needs for security when military forces are stretched thin. Several high-profile incidents involving serious misconduct by private security contractors have led Congress and DOD to mandate management frameworks and strict legal accountability specifically for these contractors.
The Government Accountability Office, the DOD Inspector General, and other inspecting organizations have increased their assessments of contracting operations from 6 in 2007 to 54 in 2009. With the help of these organizations, Log Nation has made significant progress in the area of contractor oversight. It must continue that trend.
As the Director of Logistics at CENTCOM, I have had the pleasure of working with a remarkably talented group of officers, noncommissioned officers, Government civilians, and contractors. Their efforts and sacrifices have sustained us through my 36 months in the job, but more broadly, over almost 9 years of continuous war. Thanks to them, we are positioned to finish well in Iraq and can begin to turn a corner in Afghanistan. Our deputy commander, Marine Corps Lieutenant General John R. Allen, often says that the historians will one day write books about the NDN. I am convinced they will.
At the end of the day, it is the job of the logistician to ensure that the warfighting commanders never have to look back for support. As I depart CENTCOM to take command of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, I am pleased to be entrusted with new challenges that will allow me to continue to play a part in this unique time in the history of DOD logistics. Most of all, I am truly honored by the opportunity to play a significant role in Log Nation’s continued future in this complex region.