Humanitarian Assistance Transportation

In early 2011, we were asked to perform an analysis of the Department of Defense's humanitarian assistance cargo transportation programs. Detailed discussions with individuals in the various programs, and an analytical model based on historical data resulted in a report with specific recommendations. In addition to the report bellow, you may also watch a final briefing on the humanitarian assistance cargo transportation report.  The report's executive summary reads:

Presidential, national military, individual service, and combatant commander strategic documents all list humanitarian assistance as one of the core goals and responsibilities of the United States armed forces. One part of humanitarian assistance programs is the transportation of nongovernmental organization cargo from the United States to destinations in need. This report analyzes three programs for the transportation of such cargo: the Denton Program, the Funded Transportation Program, and Project Handclasp. The Denton Program and the Funded Transportation Program are employed by the Department of Defense, while Project Handclasp is a Department of the Navy program. All three programs have historically had limited activity to European destinations when compared to other geographic areas of responsibility.

The three programs operate under different legal authorities, funding sources, and operational structures. The Denton Program’s legal authority comes from the U.S. Code for the Armed Forces, Title 10, Section 402. It is funded by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and United States Transportation Command. The Funded Transportation Program’s legal authority comes from U.S. Code for the Armed Forces, Title 10, Section 2561, and it is funded by the Overseas Humanitarian Disaster Assistance and Civic Aid appropriation. Project Handclasp operates under a Chief of Naval Operations instruction and is funded by the Navy.

The analysis shows that currently no transportation program exists that focuses on providing a quality of service to combatant commands’ humanitarian assistance transportation needs. Both the Denton Program and the Funded Transportation Program are a public service by the Department of Defense to nongovernmental organizations, and are driven by applications to the programs from nonmilitary sources. Project Handclasp is a Navy program, funded by the Navy, with its current focus primarily on Navy missions.

The analysis outlines the legal, fiscal, and operational mechanisms that may be used to create a program that focuses on providing a quality of service to combatant command’s humanitarian assistance transportation needs. While several options for lead executor of such a program exist, the recommended option is utilizing existing facilities by creating a joint role for Project Handclasp. In this way, Project Handclasp can execute a similar mission for combatant commands as it currently does for the Navy, using several new methods of transport. Project Handclasp has been used by combatant commands in the past; however, operational and organizational hurdles must be overcome before it can serve a clearly defined joint role.

Finally, the analysis employs an analytical model of space-available transportation to estimate the shipping capacity to European destinations. The analytical model shows that exclusively space-available transportation is generally insufficient for providing the quality of service that may be required for relationship-building through humanitarian assistance cargo transportation, and that contracted shipping may be necessary. The analytical model further shows only limited improvement of combined space-available transportation and contracting over contracting alone.


Meredith Dozier and Nedialko B. Dimitrov. Analysis of Humanitarian Assistance Cargo Transportation. Naval Postgraduate School Technical Report, NPS-OR-11-007, January 2012

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