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  5. CFIRE signs agreement with Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center

CFIRE signs agreement with Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center

The National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education (CFIRE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has signed an agreement with Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center to assist military planners in identifying the base as a critical part of a strategic military intermodal logistics hub, a vital step that could save the U.S. Department of Defense millions of dollars as military equipment begins to make its way back to the United States from Afghanistan, officials announced Wednesday.

CFIRE signed the agreement after researchers assessed the potential for significant logistics cost savings and equipment lifecycle cost efficiencies afforded by the situational opportunity in the South Mississippi defense corridor.

Col. William "Brad" Smith, commander at the sprawling Mississippi National Guard installation located just south of Hattiesburg, says the opportunity for a cost-effective alternative to expensive legacy systems has presented itself with the $570 million restoration of the Port of Gulfport underway, other nearby installations, and Camp Shelby as the platform to streamline the return, reset, redeployment, redistribution, and disposal of equipment from Operation Enduring Freedom. 

"This is a rare opportunity to take advantage of the synergies that exist in the South Mississippi Defense Corridor. It's a military site selector's dream," says Smith of the five military installations that could play a critical role in the return of equipment. "It's reassuring that an organization like CFIRE can see this from 1,000 miles away."

Other installations in the SMDC include Keesler Air Force Base, Combat Readiness Training Center-Gulfport, the 1108th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group, Naval Construction Battalion Center-Gulfport, and Stennis Space Center.

Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Teresa Adams, executive director of CFIRE, says the time is right to move forward to name the Port of Gulfport a strategic seaport and begin routing equipment to it. She cites several key factors, including unmatched rail and intermodal access, unfettered access to the Gulf of Mexico, interstate connectivity, C-5/C-17 capable airports, and a 135,000-acre Army installation within an hour of the port. Adams also notes the significant infrastructure investments at the Port of Gulfport.

"Based on our experience, the joint utilization of the Port of Gulfport as a strategic seaport and Camp Shelby as a depot site will allow the Army to create an innovative logistics solution, maximize its limited resources, and realize benefits from the joint force capabilities within the South Mississippi Defense Corridor," Adams says. "Ultimately, this collaborative logistical relationship will provide a platform for further economic and community development that is more than ever, so important in the Gulf area."

Adams says other factors make the South Mississippi Defense Corridor attractive, include growing rail traffic west of the Mississippi River driven by the oil and gas industry and the Panama Canal expansion, Post-Panamax ships taking priority in major east and west coast commercial ports, and a recent study from the U.S. Government Accountability Office citing several current strategic seaports as having major deficiencies that present significant obstacles to mission accomplishment. 

According to Army officials, the defense department will spend $7 billion to ship nearly 750,000 pieces of equipment worth $36 billion as combat operations come to an end in 2014.

The National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education (CFIRE) is a Tier 1 University Transportation Center funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Research and Technology. The northern hub is led by University of Wisconsin-Madison, and includes partners at University of Wisconsin-Superior, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, University of Illinois at Chicago, Michigan Technological University, and the University of Toledo. The southern hub is led by the University of Memphis and includes Vanderbilt University, University of Southern Mississippi, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The CFIRE consortium's annual budget is approximately $3.5 million.

Camp Shelby continues to meet the challenge of providing for the Nation's defense by planning, developing, and providing a constantly evolving diverse and demanding training environment to meet new and emerging threats to our Nation's security.  

Steve Wagner