The Defense Department should place a greater emphasis on funding and developing transportation and logistics capabilities to support its lethal assets in a future conflict, and explicitly prioritize it in future national defense strategies, a Senate Armed Services Committee member and retired military officer said Dec. 5.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a member of the SASC readiness and management support subcommittee and retired Army Reservist, critiqued senior department leaders for “blind spots” related to logistics and transportation capabilities within the 2018 National Defense Strategy in a Dec. 5 committee hearing on Capitol Hill.

The strategy “spends very little time addressing the vital resources that would be needed to project power and sustain that power during a conflict, … like rail cars and transport ships,” Duckworth said, addressing hearing witnesses John C. Rood, the undersecretary of defense for Policy, and Air Force Lt. Gen. David Allvin, director for Strategy, Plans and Policy for the Joint Staff.

Duckworth, who retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2014 after 23 years of service, asked whether the witnesses would support a supplemental or an addendum to the National Defense Strategy that would focus on developing resilient transportation networks and logistics systems that can survive in contested environments.

Allvin said that he doesn’t have an opinion “either way” as to whether it should be an addendum, but acknowledged that logistics has historically been the “redheaded stepchild” of U.S. military capability priorities and that the services are all working to increase emphasis on transportation and logistics.

“For the first time … in decades, we have looked at how one might project power under contested environments,” Allvin said. “The idea that the logistics and transportation enterprise is really starting to move up in a position of importance, I would say is a positive trend.”

“Even though it’s not specifically in pen and ink in the strategy, there has been a lot of effort that reflects that reality,” he added.

Duckworth, who represents the headquarters of U.S. Transportation Command in Belleville, Ill., responded that the fact that logistics and transportation capabilities are not explicitly mentioned in the NDS is a problem, “because it can be overlooked.”

She noted that while officials can say the area has seen increased attention, “I’m not seeing it in the budget request though, and that to me is the ultimate” sign of attention.

Referring to the Army’s long-range precision fires plan, and to the investment in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program or Navy submarines, Duckworth added: “What I haven’t seen is a corresponding rise in investments in the less flashy, but still critical, transportation and logistics systems. And I think this is going to lead us to a more lethal force, which is good, but much more unsustainable and fragile force, because we can’t sustain the lethality that we have.”