Posted: Monday, 24 July 2017

The CMTS Coordinating Board released the update to the Strategic Action Plan for Research and Development in the Marine Transportation System, June 2017. This strategic action plan for research and development (R&D) identifies priority needs and next steps to address U.S. Marine Transportation System (MTS) improvements to meet the most pressing needs of users and operators. The plan was forwarded to Transportation Secretary and CMTS Chair Elaine L. Chao on July 12, 2017, by Coordinating Board Chair Rear Admiral Paul Thomas, Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy.

One of the primary research and development needs identified in the report is to collaborate across transportation modes, with both public and private sectors, to create a high-fidelity freight flow model that accurately reflects national freight flow, including the MTS and multimodal connections.

Such a tool has the potential to answer these and similar complex questions:

  • Where are the most significant system bottlenecks that have the greatest constraining effects on overall MTS capacity?
  • Strategic_Action_Plan_06-17_Cover
  • To what extent does MTS port areas, terminals, and intermodal connection points act to constrain the seamless flow of freight across transportation modes?
  • Where can targeted investments and operational changes best increase MTS reliability, provide the greatest return on investment (ROI), and eliminate significant vulnerabilities?
  • Does intermodal freight flow more efficiently across all modes if a navigation channel in a particular port is dredged three feet deeper?
  • If a marketplace dispute leads to throughput disruptions across a region, is there sufficient capacity for that cargo to move to another region?
  • Does chronic traffic congestion near a port subtract from the transportation cost savings provided by deeper and wider navigation channels?

The Strategic Action Plan was developed by the CMTS Research and Development Integrated Action Team (R&D IAT), which was established by the CMTS Coordinating Board in March 2009 to provide a strategic capability to identify and implement innovative research and to develop new products in response to pressing challenges. In 2011, the R&D IAT issued the Strategic Action Plan for Research and Development in the MTS, which it has been implementing. One milestone to implement the Strategic Action Plan is to bring Federal agencies together with industry and academia for the next biennial CMTS-TRB R&D conference, slated for June 19-21, 2018, at the National Academies of Science in Washington, DC.

  • The final CMTS R&D IAT Strategic Action Plan (June 2017) can be found here.

Contacts for the R&D-IAT: Jeff Lillycrop, USACE Technical Director (, and Lauren Knapp, USACE Staff/Knauss Fellow (

The CMTS is a Federal interagency coordinating committee directed by Congress and charter to improve the coordination of and make recommendations with regard to Federal policies that impact the MTS.