By Alex Fees
Scott Air Force Base, IL (KSDK) - It's called the Fusion Center because it is command and control for military travel and transport all around the globe, and it's located at Scott Air Force Base near Belleville.
The facility is front and center lately because of the withdrawal of American troops out of Afghanistan.
Colonel Robert Brisson is U.S. Transcom Chief of Operations. He spoke of the surge of 33,000 troops officials there had just "closed out" with U.S. Central Command.
"And it's really bigger than Central Command and Transcom. Those are the two biggest partners in that movement of folks outbound," he said. "It was Department of Defense-wide, and featured some of our commercial partners really coming into the mix and adding airplanes and shipping capability to the mix, so we could meet the President's timeline to get that number down below 68,000 by the end of September. And we did that, on the 20th of September we achieved below 68,000."
U.S Transcom is normally considered classified. On Tuesday, officials allowed in a NewsChannel 5 reporter/photojournalist, but not before Brisson walked around and talked to personnel, to make sure they were in a so-called "down" mode.
"So normally on the screens that we have throughout the Fusion Center floor we'll have information like current intelligence updates visible. The 'classified,' 'secret,' 'no foreign national' viewing capability. We also have things like certain air movements that we might be tracking that are more critical to us than others. While we do a significant amount of movement every day, there are certain movements we do that tend to be more visible to the Secretary of Defense, maybe even the President. So we pay a little more attention to those than we would the normal, day-to-day, milk runs, so to speak, in our vernacular," said Brisson.
For his on-camera interview, Brisson escorted his guests to a room with an unclassified level.
"Generally we operate the room at a secret level," he said, "so yes, we are capable of working classified out here," he said.
Brisson said about half the airlift U.S. Transcom does globally happens via commercial transportation.
"We'll take an organic airplane and move people or stuff out of Afghanistan to a port in a foreign country, say the port of Dubai in United Arab Emirates. And we'll move that, put it on a surface vessel. It's a cheaper form of transportation. Slower. But much more cost-effective to the tax-payer," he said.
Brisson said that requires extra levels of security.
"So the DOD has to insure, in particular U.S. Central Command, that that environment we're sending them into is a safe environment for them to operate in," he said.
Now that U.S. Transcom officials have met President Obama's initial troop withdrawal goals from Afghanistan, they'll move on to their next initiative.
"Behind that, we are starting to think even more closely about the exactly what the retrograde of cargo will be out of Afghanistan. There is a lot of equipment over there that has got to come out, too, to meet the next mandate to be out of Afghanistan by 2014," he said.
Brisson said all this planning began long ago.
"Frankly shortly before the President made the announcement for the troop surge to go inbound, we already start thinking about that troop surge coming outbound. It is just as challenging to get people outbound as it is to get them inbound. We are the single manager for transportation for DOD," he said.