The Strategic Distribution System in Support of Operation Enduring Freedom

by Marc Robbins, Patricia Boren, Kristin J. Leuschner

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In early 2000, leaders of the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) agreed to embark jointly on the “Strategic Distribution” program (SD) as a means to streamline and improve significant elements of the Defense distribution system, and thereby deliver more reliable and cost-effective service to DoD forces and organizations in the United States and around the globe. For over a year and a half, SD teams made considerable progress in enhancing the underlying structure of the Defense distribution system and improving service through a series of rolling implementations. In 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) posed a demanding challenge to the Defense distribution system and tested the principles and strategies that were being implemented. SD’s main goal of providing fast, reliable service to its worldwide customers had to be met in a new environment in which vital resources, usually devoted to moving cargo to worldwide military units, were pulled away for months at a time to support other war-related missions, while forces were deployed to new bases at the far ends of the globe. This documented briefing seeks to explain the multistranded story of SD, discussing why a significant change was needed in Defense distribution, how SD sought to transform the system, and how well that system met the challenge of OEF.

The research in this briefing was sponsored by the U.S. Transportation Command and the Defense Logistics Agency. The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute and RAND Arroyo Center, both federally funded research and development centers, the first supported by the OSD, the Joint Staff, the unified commands, and the defense agencies and the second by the United States Army.

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