Backing into the buzzsaw: The Defense Department's attempt to merge the Military Traffic Management Command and the Military Sealift Command, 1973--1984
Long divided among the armed services, American military transportation functioned expensively and inefficiently in the 1970s. As critics observed, the services' fragmented management of their separate segments threatened American military readiness by slowing response time in an emergency. This dissertation examines the Defense Department's lengthy attempt to streamline transportation by merging the Army's Military Traffic Management Command (MTMC) with the Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) It faced strong opposition from entrenched service interests, especially the Navy. The military confronted several other issues, including adaptation to technology, interservice rivalry, civilian-military relationships (specifically interaction with Congress), and the Defense Department's own struggle for unity of command. To support its conclusions, this study draws on the secondary literature plus Congressional hearings, Congressional, DoD and outside reports and twenty volumes of merger records located in the Military Traffic Management Command history office. As this dissertation reveals, frequent analyses of military transportation from 1955 onward exposed the armed services' duplicative and inefficient transportation operations, which could hurt military readiness. Almost all recommended a single transportation director rather than individual control by the armed services. For this and other reasons, Congressional involvement in military transportation policy changed from reactive (until 1971) to assertive (after 1973). Under formal direction from the House Appropriations Committee in 1979, the Defense Department spent three years trying to implement the MSC/MTMC merger. Ironically, legislative action halted that action in 1982 as conservative senators and representatives responded to Navy protests. After two more years of negotiations, the Navy and Congress vetoed a more limited merger. The Joint Chiefs of Staff then officially cancelled the scheme in November 1984. Seemingly definitive, this act did not end needed restructuring of military transportation. Though interservice rivalry and Congressional conservatism slowed reform, they could not halt change, as subsequent military exercises and studies revealed consistent transportation inefficiencies and sluggishness. As this study concludes, the Senate's cancellation of the merger spurred more sweeping reform efforts.