The Railroads for National Defense Program (RND) ensures the readiness capability of the national railroad network to support defense deployment and peacetime needs. The program integrates defense rail needs into civil sector planning. Rail is a vital mode of transportation for the DOD due to the size, weight and amount of military cargo required to deploy to seaports of embarkation in a timely manner.
The RND program, in conjunction with the US Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), established the Strategic Rail Corridor Network (STRACNET) to ensure DOD’s minimum rail needs are identified and coordinated with appropriate transportation authorities. The STRACNET is an interconnected and continuous rail line network consisting of over 41,300 miles of track serving 141 defense sites. It is not intended to be a routing guide as military cargo may also travel over non-STRACNET lines. It is currently assessed and updated for sufficiency on a 5-year cycle, with the most recent update published in July 2023.
Rail Network Coordination
Additionally, the RND program analyzes railroad abandonments and mergers for impact to defense sites and takes appropriate action through communication with the carriers and through the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to mitigate these impacts. The RND program coordinates regularly with the FRA, the STB, State DOTs, the Association of American Railroads (AAR), the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance of Way Association (AREMA), and individual railroad companies to protect DOD interests in railroad infrastructure and promote the health of the network.
Rolling Stock Fleet Analysis
As well as monitoring rail infrastructure impacts, the RND program also ensures the DOD has access to an adequate supply of rail rolling stock. The program works with commercial rail car pooling authorities and DOD rail car fleet managers to analyze rail car fleet capacity and readiness. This analysis largely focuses on rail cars required for heavy and specialized equipment such as tanks and other heavy tracked vehicles. If needed, the RND program will work with necessary agencies on the procurement of DOD-owned rolling stock to meet mission requirements.