By Brian Preski
The importance of the Port of Philadelphia to Pennsylvania’s large military and commercial markets was dramatically underscored when the Department of Defense’s base closure recommendations did not include four army depots that play critical roles in the ongoing war against terrorism.
In fact, the Commonwealth is expected to gain nearly 1,000 jobs.
Letterkenny Army Depot, a 17,500-acre complex located in Franklin County; Tobyhanna Army Depot, a full-service communications-electronics command situated in Monroe County; Defense Distribution Center Susquehanna, the defense department’s largest warehouse in the world; and Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, which orders all food, fuel, medicine and spare parts for our warfighters are key players in the Port’s continuing effort to support the rapid movement of personnel and equipment to theaters of war around the globe.
The winning strategy to designate the Port of Philadelphia as just one of 14 Strategic Military Seaports in the nation is already paying dividends not only in our ability to provide much needed supplies for the men and women in combat, but as a viable partner to these defense facilities located in a state historically hit hard by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) process.
Since Pennsylvania is home to a number of critical logistics and supply facilities, it has a natural ally in the Port, which has repeatedly demonstrated its remarkable ability to move military cargo in a quick, efficient and secure manner. This winning combination has produced dramatic results, and against the backdrop of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Pennsylvania’s military facilities are successfully meeting the urgent demands of the war. Additionally, our handling of military cargo enhances our capacity to handle commercial cargo as well.
The events of 9/11-and the resulting war on terrorism-turned traditional military thinking on its head. The ongoing global conflicts require unprecedented transportation and logistics support systems. Warfighters must be moved to and from war theaters, all the while, of course, sustained by everything from food, water and medicine to spare parts for tanks, trucks and airplanes. The urgency to reduce downtime for damaged equipment is dramatic; therefore, a quick response for supplies is required.
The Commonwealth has not always fared well in the BRAC process. In fact, according to Gov. Rendell, Pennsylvania has suffered a “disproportionate share” of BRAC cuts. During the previous four rounds, the state lost more than 3,000 military and 13,000 civilian jobs statewide. Clearly, we needed a new strategy to stave off future closings.
The initial success came three years ago when the Port was selected by the defense department as a Strategic Military Seaport-the first one following the attacks on 9/11. Thanks to the determination and coordinating efforts of the Delaware River Maritime Enterprise Council (DRMEC), a non-profit group funded by state and federal governments, as well as the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority and a dedicated contingent of elected officials, the Port is currently on the cutting edge as a national model for military cargo deployments.
In 2003, the Port hosted a national demonstration of their new strategy when DRMEC’s Regional Agile Port Intermodel Distribution System (RAPID) was employed. Through RAPID, four Paladin Howitzers were shipped by truck from Alabama to the Port of Charleston, then over water to the Port of Philadelphia, and finally by rail to Letterkenny Army Depot. Defense officials hailed this new technology and the capability to move cargo quickly and securely.
Last year, the Port was one of the five busiest in the nation at shipping military cargo, largely due to a new strategic port system that dramatically reduces deployment time, and thanks to the hard work and dedication of labor. Time and time again, the Port of Philadelphia has shown it can do the job efficiently.
A critical partner in this succ