Logistics is critical not only to employing the force, but also, even more importantly to building the everyday readiness of the force. At the tactical level, we only need to look at the various elements of readiness reporting reviewed by senior leaders to discern that the fundamentals of logistics directly affect the majority of elements defining readiness across the services—personnel, equipment, and supply readiness—which in turn directly affect the ability of the services to meet the recurring needs of ongoing deployments and generate the forces needed for war.
Logistics is the foundation for the success of military operations from entry-level training to the most complex operations across the spectrum of conflict. From providing the facilities that house the members of the force and the ranges where they train, to sustaining the equipment warriors operate and wear, to providing fuel and ammunition in operations and training, the interconnectedness of logistics inextricably links logistics to military combat power.
Military logistics’ defining attributes—agility, survivability, responsiveness, and effectiveness—are measured by the breadth and depth of these core functions, which affect the military from force generation to training to the readiness of units stationed at home and abroad.
“You will not find it difficult to prove that battles, campaigns, and even wars have been won or lost primarily because of logistics.”
—General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Logistics strategy includes a comprehensive process to reconcile Focused Logistics, Force-centric Logistics Enterprise, and Sense and Respond Logistics. The strategy also encompasses other transformational operations, intelligence, and logistics concepts to provide a more comprehensive approach to achieve Joint Focused Logistics capabilities.
An aggressive experimentation campaign and rapidly developed operational prototypes are included to test, refine, validate and integrate transformational logistics technology and concepts. These efforts will enable DoD to better manage logistics developments and to integrate and coordinate with developing concepts for military operations.
Distributed adaptive operations assumes that each element-- or unit of action, can autonomously perform particular tasks, using one or more methods and each element may carry out an entire task itself, or it may coordinate with other elements that perform parts of the task.
Incorporation of network-centric operations and warfare concepts and technologies are critical to ensure each element’s global awareness of the strategic, operational, and tactical environment to permit informed, coordinated operations focused on meeting commander’s intent.
Elements are empowered, using globally-established rules, to seize the initiative, to exploit success, to redesign or task organize themselves in response to threats and opportunities, all guided by achievement of commander’s intent.
Organizations, composed of these elements, will learn and adapt to successes, failures, and other situational changes. Future joint forces will act in this distributed adaptive manner to generate desired effects in support of the commander's intent.
The commercial sector has advanced modern supply chain management disciplines and methodologies, built upon advanced information technology to achieve distributed, adaptive logistics support. The end state vision of this effort is integrated joint logistics that fuses information, logistics processes, and platform embedded sensor-based technologies to support tactical, operational and strategic sustainment levels operating in a joint integrated logistics environment.
A set of overarching transformational military concepts, specifically network-centric operations and warfare are emerging that require close integration of operations, intelligence, and logistics functions.
A major component of the logistics transformation process is the use of experimentation and rapidly developed operational prototypes to support and enrich reconciliation of advanced concepts and technologies, and to test the operational, organizational, and technological validity, impact, and military utility of transformational elements, especially in a larger context across the range of military operations.
Focused Logistics is the ability to provide the joint force the right personnel, equipment, supplies, and support in the right place, at the right time, and in the right quantities, across the full range of military operations. This will be made possible through a real-time, net-enabled information system providing accurate, actionable visibility as part of an integrated operational picture, effectively linking the operations and logistics across joint forces, Services, and support agencies, the commercial sector, and coalition partners.
Sense and Respond Logistics (S&RL) is a network-centric, knowledge-driven, knowledge-guided concept intended to sustain modular, reconfigurable force capabilities to execute Joint and Coalition effects-based operations and to provide precise, adaptable, agile support for achievement of commander's intent.
S&RL relies upon highly adaptive, linked and dynamic physical and functional processes, employing and enhancing operational knowledge development, sense-making, and decision support. It senses, predicts, anticipates and coordinates actions that provide competitive advantage spanning the full range of military operations across strategic, operational and tactical levels.
S&RL promotes doctrinal and organizational transformation, together with technological advancements, and supports scalable coherence of command and control through functional integration of operations, logistics, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
The S&RL concept is being developed and tested, through experimentation, to provide an end-to-end, point-of-effect to source-of-support adaptive construct of logistics resources and capabilities. Within the S&RL vision, every entity is both a potential consumer and a potential provider of logistics.
The S&RL vision is intended to deliver flexibility, robustness, and scalability across the full range of military operations through adaptive, responsive, real-time demand and support logistics within U.S military and coalition operations. The networks promise greater tactical logistics agility, superior survivability, more comprehensive support for the full range of operational forms, and a potential for reduced in-theater logistics footprint.
Logistics touches every aspect of military strength and is the sum of the capabilities brought to bear by all of the U.S. military services and those of a wide array of international partners.
Equipment readiness is a key area of concern. Military units cannot perform their mission without the equipment needed to do so. Availability and delivery of parts and spare components, maintenance capability and the capacity to surge increased maintenance volume on short notice, the ability to contract additional support when necessary—all of these logistical elements are essential to military effectiveness.
Within logistics, the supply function is critical to equipment readiness. Simply stated, supply readiness is the ability to have the right types and amount of equipment available for a ground unit, a ship, or an aviation unit.
Maybe not so obvious to many leaders is the interconnectedness of supply readiness to all other aspects of unit readiness. Without the right equipment, units cannot train to the full complement of their mission sets. Lacking something as simple as power generation capability on a ship, on the ground, or on an aircraft can prevent a unit from establishing the command and control capabilities that are vital to modern warfighting.
The core functions within logistics are supply, maintenance, deployment and distribution, logistic services, engineering, and operational contract support OCS. Logistics includes planning and executing the movement and support of forces as well as those aspects of military operations.
In assessing the true value of logistics, we need to distinguish between efficiency and effectiveness, even though efficiency certainly affects effectiveness. Effectiveness is ultimately what matters at the tactical edge. Efficiencies should be pursued to free resources for use elsewhere, but those efficiencies must never be taken at the expense of troops who have been committed to battle.
Many logistical challenges will remain unchanged in the near future because of the sheer physics of distributing ammunition and bulk liquids and the requirement to move major ground warfighting equipment and personnel. Nevertheless, changes that positively influence the agility, survivability, responsiveness, and effectiveness of logistics systems can and must be made.
Change must be made that ensures logistics agility by designing procedures and acquiring systems that adjust to changing requirements across a widely distributed force constantly and with domain-wide visibility, highlighting the needs, resources, and capabilities of the force.
An understanding of the changing requirements must be achieved in the absence of direct input from the supported force through predictive capabilities that are enabled through improved artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities.
Future logistics command and control systems can ensure agility by operating despite an enemy’s efforts to disrupt communications. This can be done by developing the means to transfer logistics data systems seamlessly from digital-based processes to analog-based processes and back. This requires both technological and training/conceptual change across the force, not exclusively in the logistics enterprise.
Improvements in logistics effectiveness require improved integrated capabilities and authorities that allow logistics challenges to be resolved at the lowest levels, leveraging shared awareness, and focused on effectiveness. The ability to measure effectiveness against efficient performance is critical. This focus on effectiveness will prioritize the force’s critical logistics needs by evaluating all requirements against mission success.
Responsiveness can be improved by leveraging industrial-base support from the point of manufacture to the tactical edge forces. Improved responsiveness through domain-wide visibility and predictive logistics capabilities driven by improved artificial intelligence capabilities will provide sustainment based on finely tuned metrics that eliminate the need to request support. In short, we need to have the ability to autonomously anticipate the needs of the commander, not simply respond faster to bottom-up needs identification.
The use of unmanned platforms will be critical to the future of logistics. Unmanned platforms that support ground distribution will complement unmanned aerial platforms that deliver vital sustainment to widely distributed forces.
In addition, unmanned platforms that can evacuate the injured from the point of injury without sacrificing high-cost combat platforms and additional combat capability will be critical in the dispersed battlefield. Every facet of military logistics must embrace unmanned platforms, from unmanned sea-based ship-to-shore connectors to platforms for the refueling of ships to the use of unmanned platforms for aerial refueling.
To say the least, the challenges of military logistics are unique. Although many of industry’s best practices and technologies are relevant and even vital to the modernization of military logistics, the agility, survivability, responsiveness, and effectiveness of military logistics require another level of integrated innovation in technology and operational concepts.
The Logistics Construct is a tool to enable strategic, operational and tactical movement and sustainment of forces and materiel in support of military functions.
- Integrating force projection and sustainment functions into a coherent operating system
- Anticipating through war gaming in the planning process and sensing during execution
- Interpreting feedback from the interaction of activities and the environment, and then responding through networked capabilities
- Focusing on precision from point-of-effect to the source-of-support
- Projecting and sustaining the joint force in global context.
- Merge force projection and sustainment to support operations
- Employ a knowledge-enhanced effects-based approach
- Sense and interpret force projection and sustainment requirements
- Use collaboration to allow execution of an effects based approach
- Balance operational effectiveness and efficiency and ensure comprehensive force protection.