TRANSCOM's latest sealift exercise not 'driven' by RAND report criticism

By Justin Katz / September 19, 2019 at 11:22 AM

U.S. Transportation Command this week announced a major exercise of more than two dozen auxiliary ships to test the fleet’s readiness but says a recent RAND study that sharply criticized the agency’s testing methodology as ineffectual did not drive changes.

The so-called "turbo activations" involve giving certain vessels, maintained by the Maritime Administration and Military Sealift Command, five days to prepare to go out to sea. The goal is to test whether the vessels, manned by skeleton crews when not in use, are prepared for a large-scale, wartime contingency. The activation announced this week involves 28 vessels, according to a Sept. 17 TRANSCOM statement.

A RAND report published last month sharply criticized the "turbo activation" process, Inside Defense reported.

TRANSCOM "participated in the development of the RAND study and we have carefully considered its findings," command spokesman Dave Dunn told Inside Defense in a statement today.

"Our planners draw upon many sources to continually refine and improve our processes to assess and ensure the readiness of the nation's sealift forces. While the current turbo activation plans were to some degree informed by the RAND study, it was not driven by it," the statement continued.

The study, requested by the chief of naval operations' staff, found the military has often chosen ships for activation based on their likelihood of success, "pooled resources" to ensure chosen ships succeed and that the test itself is not reflective of the mission sealift ships would have to execute in an actual contingency.

"The turbo activation process is a testimony to the resilience of people who are told they have to go do something. But it has nothing to do with how ready the ships would be in the event that all of them were needed, or many of them were needed, at the same time," Bradley Martin, one of the RAND report's authors, told Inside Defense in August.