SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill – When the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command Training Symposium and Traffic Management Workshop were cancelled this year, a vital link between the command and its customers was severed.
The symposium and workshop were cancelled in response to Department of Defense guidance that promotes further efficiency and cost consciousness in federal government operations.
According to SDDC transportation experts, in years past, the symposium and workshop were conduits for the exchange of ideas and, more importantly, an avenue for education, training and policy updates related to the movement of DOD cargo in support of military contingency operations, exercises and humanitarian missions around the world.
To fill that void, SDDC’s Strategic Business Directorate (G9) recently began communicating with DOD shippers through massive, monthly teleconferences. DOD shippers include transportation and logistics personnel across the military Services and other government agencies, including Defense Logistics Agency, Defense Contract Management Agency, General Services Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, and more.
Within the G9 directorate, the Business Integration Branch (part of the Domestic Business Division) is responsible for organizing the monthly Shipper Sessions.
“With the cancellation of the symposium and training workshop, we had to look at another avenue to engage our customers — to keep them updated, to educate them, to train them — so they can maintain the proper policies and procedures when moving DOD freight,” said Chuck Morgan, Business Integration Branch team lead and acting supervisor.
Morgan and his team have already conducted two sessions, one in October and another in November. Because of the holidays, no Shipper Session will be held in December; however, he said the service will continue in 2013 with sessions scheduled for January, February and March.
If the first two Shipper Sessions are any indication, DOD shippers are eager to participate. According to Morgan, more than 100 DOD shippers dialed in during the first session, and more than 50 shippers participated in the November teleconference.
Jeffery Criger, a traffic management specialist who works for the Air Force Sustainment Center’s Transportation and Distribution Branch at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, attended the October Shipper Session. Because his office is responsible for developing proposals and recommending policy to the Air Staff in all areas of cargo movement, packaging, and cargo funding, he said someone from his office normally attends either the SDDC Symposium or the Traffic Management Workshop.
“The Air Force applauds SDDC efforts to keep the lines of communication open in response to ever tightening government budgets, which has forced the cancellation of [the symposium and workshop],” Criger said. “Additionally, the training provided and feedback received during these Shipper Sessions is invaluable to the entire DOD Transportation and Distribution community.”
Criger said he plans to attend future sessions, as well. “Since our office is currently leading the effort among all Air Force major commands to revise the Air Force Cargo Movement Policy, it is imperative that we continue to participate in every Shipper Session offered by SDDC. Moreover, the Air Staff has strongly advocated and publicly endorsed Air Force participation in these Shipper Sessions, from the MAJCOM down to the unit-level.”
With the cancellation of the SDDC Symposium and Traffic Manager’s Workshop, Morgan said using current technologies to interact with SDDC customers is more important than ever.
“We need to ensure our shippers are following the correct policies and procedures for shipping DOD freight,” he added. “If they don’t, the result could be damaged cargo, lost or delayed cargo, or other issues that could result in mission failure or additional cost to the government. The more we can educate our shippers, the smoother the process will be; it will be more efficient and more effective.”
He added that in today’s fiscally challenging environment, the monthly teleconferences are the best option for addressing DOD shippers’ needs. “We know the need [for training and education] is still there, but we don’t have the money, and they don’t have the money. We can’t get to them, and they can’t get to us. Using the Shipper Sessions, we can still provide the training, education and advice our shippers are looking for.”
DOD shippers interested in attending an SDDC Shipper Session can request a call-in number by e-mailing SDDC’s Business Integration Branch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Morgan said his team will respond to each request by providing a call-in number, along with other details, including call-in times and instructions, a schedule of events, links to important or relevant information, and more.
“It doesn’t matter what [branch of service or government agency] you belong to,” added Morgan. “If you’re a DOD shipper who uses SDDC services, you can participate with us.”
Morgan said his team will cover two topics per session. The November session featured special requirements, to include rate negotiations and DD Form 1085 (Domestic Freight Routing Request and Order) processing, and the movement of Arms, Ammunition & Explosives and hazardous material. For the January session, he said topics will include carrier performance and Transportation Discrepancy Reports, or TDRs. Morgan said Shipper Session topics were determined based on feedback from a military shipper survey his office distributed prior to the cancellation of the SDDC Symposium.
He added that identical Shipper Sessions are conducted twice in the same day. A morning session (8 to 10 a.m.) is geared toward customers on the East Coast and in the European and Southwest Asia theaters; and an afternoon session (2 to 4 p.m.) is conducted for customers on the West Coast and in the Pacific theater.
Each session is attended by every member of the G9 Business Integration Branch, as well as specific SDDC subject matter experts (briefers). According to Morgan, a member of his team begins each session by discussing hot issues, followed by the two main topic briefings (30 to 45 minutes per topic), and every session ends with a question and answer period.
He also said participants are asked to review the briefing slides and have their questions ready prior to each session. Slides are published on the SDDC website at http://www.sddc.army.mil/GCD/default.aspx. The website also includes example forms, organizational e-mails, and a live FAQ page, which includes questions that have already been asked and answered. Morgan said the FAQ is a “live document” that will continue to grow as the branch receives additional questions during each Shipper Session.