Coordinating efforts of small combat elements operating in tactical scenarios requiring dispersal and disaggregation is difficult. It’s probably going to get even more difficult to coordinate combat elements, and maintain tempo, when we start considering combat in close quarters and fighting in scenarios that separate forces from one another.
Logistics Officers need to start preparing for this challenge as it applies to future operations. Logistics Officers supporting combat brigades formations generally think about company sized teams when they talk about purpose-specific forces. However, must sustain the combat brigade in the future, so Logistics Officers need to become better practiced – or at least consider – sustaining small units.
In order to win the battle, coordination and tempo have always been essential tenets for combat arms and Logistics Officers to remember. Key is arrangement of physical and non-physical actions to ensure their contribution is unified within a single mission.
Through coordination, tactical actions are focused to create a turbulent and rapidly deteriorating situation that shatters adversary cohesion and will to fight.
Conflict is a competition for times/space and ability to maintain a higher tempo allows us to exploit friction, achieve surprise, seize the initiative and maintain speed. Coordination requires a well-developed and executed plan, orders and control measures. However, tempo also requires agile and responsive logistics that can effectively support operations at the combat team level.
In practice, commanders and their staff plan for activity ‘two-down’. For a combat brigade this means a focus on coordinating the efforts of combat teams that are usually allocated to a battlegroup. A brigade can only generate so many combat teams based on its company or squadron level headquarters elements.
Within the battlegroups, commanding officers group armoured troops, infantry platoons and other capabilities together. A range of additional enablers are often attached to these combat teams at different times for a specific task and purpose.
These groupings are never templated, but usually reflect teams established and practiced during training prior to battle. From this mix of combat teams the brigade commander establishes battlegroups, based around a battalion or regimental headquarters.
Most of sustainment capabilities at the formation level with battalions and regiments possesses small integral echelons. Logistics capability is allocated to battlegroups to support tasks in a similar way as combat forces when they are assigned to combat teams and battlegroups.
There are several ways in which this allocation occurs as defined by duration, distance and threat. In the first, combat service support capability is allocated for a set time or battle phasing. Alternatively, the brigade headquarters provides coordination and sets control measures where support capability bricks to independently navigate the battlefield to allow the sustainment of forward combat teams.
This modularity could be taken further with logistics teams of platoon size the basis for Capability Blocks within a combat formation. This means battalion commander must generate small and capable platoon-sized ‘replenishment teams’ to include:
--Proficient distribution teams, transport sections, and transport troops that can group and regroup to achieve the distribution effect across the battle space.
--Technically qualified and proficient forward repair teams and forward repair groups to maintain and repair brigade equipment across the battle space.
--Bulk fuel section, ammo sections, and warehouse platoons capable of defending, holding and preparing combat commodities for distribution.
--Logistic command teams capable of command and employment of any Capability Block allocated to it.
Replenishment teams must operate in direct support to combat teams. To achieve this level of dispersal in a formations logistics capability would be difficult for reasons of control, but technology could assist future logistics commanders.
In the near future, enabled by a range of new platforms, replenishment teams should possess the ability to communicate, provide their own protection to some extent and have sufficient situational awareness to navigate a complex battle space, and most importantly, protection and weaponry to survive the fight.
As a support commander at any level, must realise you command a high value target and a physical vulnerability of the formation. This is especially the case if logistics capabilities are centralised and made static in large positions.
There are ways to mitigate this risk, but it is usually the case that dispersed, but mutually-supporting platoon-sized support capabilities, is the best way for sustainment to be assured without tempting an adversary with a large logistics target.
Moving in small packets, below detection thresholds if possible, and responding with overwhelming firepower if required should become the norm for logistic elements. In applying this concept, losing a replenishment team to adversay action will pose a significant problem for the combat team being sustained. However, considered in the context of a non-dispersed formation, such a loss would seem minor in comparison to losing either a company or Brigade Maintenance Area or Support Group.
How can the formation staff coordinate this concept and give the brigade its tempo? It won’t be an easy task. With a set number of Combat Teams and replenishment teams available to a brigade, coordination and control measures become central to their effective and efficient use. ‘Road space’ must be managed efficiently as support elements will routinely move forwards and rear as the battle develops.
Intermixed in this movement, combat teams will leap frog in tactical bounds; requiring replenishment at various intervals. Further rear bulk commodity movements and distributed, and continually moving, ‘Logistics Nodes’ will very quickly stretch the ability to sustain tempo. Managing this complex battlespace will require the best out of the formation staff.
The ability to enable, sustain and maintain combat teams concurrently in any operational setting is the key to generating tempo and winning the fight. This requires Logistics Officers to ‘think smaller’ when considering the use of Logistic Capabilities.
Future combat and operating scenarios in close quarters, will require Logistics Units to operate independently, and most likely in platoon-sized elements supporting combat teams in combat.
Just as members of the combat arms need to develop new tactics, techniques and procedures to operate in a dispersed battlefield, so too will Logistics Offices. Transferring what was once a regimental echelon sustainment task to formation level logistic units will require developing a different strategy space to generate capabilities suitably structured to interact directly with combat teams so to effectively sustain the brigade.
This requires more of Logistics Officers who must build Capability Blocks of the brigade and the mechanics of how combat teams move, fight and execute tactical tasks. This will enable them to better visualise and plan sustainment requirements.
Doctrine should guide them in developing such an understanding. Undoubtedly seeing it, exercising it and simulating it will be lead to better outcomes; Logistics Officers must practice the concept regularly in collective training. Furthermore, Logistics Commanders must trust junior Logistic Officers to command and fight logistics capabilities in the battle space. This is something that some Logistics Officers have been reluctant to do in the past, and it must change.
Changing old Logistics approaches to focus upon small-team operations will better prepare logistics teams for the requirement to be responsive and agile. Coordinated effectively with the formations battle plan, small-team operations will better support Brigade tempo and contribute to it winning the fight.
When we think of readiness, we tend to confuse it with preparedness terms such as a ‘notice to move’. However, it is common to find that despite a unit being well within its designated ‘notice’ when time comes for action, the unit is constrained because of the availability of kits, a lack of enabling elements available in supporting formations, the slow activation of supply resources by strategic organisations as well as a variety of other logistics factors.
In some cases, strategic-level decisions result simply because available capabilities cannot be appropriately sustained and, accordingly, are unable to be deployed. No operation is free of friction caused by logistics, but there are many examples where the readiness of respective logistics systems was inadequate, under-resourced and inefficient.
Results in logistics are a consequence of a process; a process involving numerous capabilities, agencies and organisations and takes resources made available to the military at the strategic level of combat and converts them to combat power at the tactical level. Logistics is the ‘bridge’ which takes supply resources and applies them on the battlefield.
When activities occuring within this ‘bridge’ are properly controlled and coordinated, ultimately contribute to the overall ‘readiness’ of the logistics system to act when it is required. Many of the operational issues directly resulted from how the logistics process was not suited to the demands of the operation.
Some of the logistics deficiencies identified might have been directly addressed through improvements in supply resourcing. However, there are other equally influential factors that are essential for logistics readiness, and the early performance of the logistics process at during an operation.
Fundamentally, logistics readiness refers to the ability to undertake, to build up and then to sustain, combat operations at the full combat potential of forces. It comprises actions undertaken during operations, but is predominantly a consequence of routines and practices set in organisation behaviour long before deployment.
It is not a simple matter of issuing logistics units their own ‘notice to move’ or applying some other metric that will inevitably be ‘crashed’ through in a time of crisis; rather logistics readiness is a function of total organisational performance and efficiency. This standard of performance is achieved by addressing factors that are applicable at all levels – from the strategic to the tactical.
There must be a mutual understanding between commanders and the logistics units, agencies and organisations that support them. This is founded on clear communication of commander intent, but also the cooperation set within the military or formation. It also recognises that there must be timely exchanges of information; one of biggest challenges in supporting operations is knowing how far to compartment operational information, especially with supplier partners.
To achieve balance between logistics and combat resources and elements. There must be an appropriate balance of logistics resources to the combat elements. This is captured in the idea of the ‘tooth-to-tail’ ratio. However, logistics resources can be appropriated by a variety of means and may include multiple supplier organizations.
The important factor is the total amount of firepower which can brought to bear. If the greatest total of effective power can be delivered with on combat manpower for each troop unit, then this is the desirable ratio.
Logistics plans and policies, from stockholding policies at the unit and formation level right up to national mobilisation plans at the big picture strategic level must be available. Format and bulk of plans are less important than those that are developed through interagency effort, and reflecting the nature of an efficient and effective logistics process.
Logistics organisations must be structured to support operational requirements rather than back office needs. Although organisations may not need to be resourced to their full combat capability during most periods and rarely are because to do so would be cost prohibitive, the organisational architecture must be established to enable the transition to an operational footing and policies in place to enable such a transition to occur rapidly.
There must be a high state of materiel readiness across the force. In addition to appropriately funding the sustainment of equipment, and the establishment of appropriate stockholdings in appropriate areas to enable operational contingencies, the means of sustaining equipment must be as appropriate for support operations as they are for efficiency in garrison.
Failures in materiel readiness in garrison are often replicated in major sustainability issues on operations, and necessitate consequential actions to achieve desired operational readiness outcomes.
Logistics process, capabilities and organisations must be systematically assessed for its readiness. Every military activity or exercise is an opportunity for assessing logistics performance, but it is rare that military exercises comprehensively test and assess operational sustainability and logistics readiness with rigour.
Fewer still are those exercises that test logistics readiness through a major deployment performed at short-notice; a phase of an operation that demands all supporting agencies are ready.
Of course, it is hard to remove any discussion on logistics readiness without referring to the capacity of the logistics ‘tail’. It may appear easier to build up logistics forces, and support organisations, than it is to have combat forces at commander disposal since it is generally easier to supply equipment for logistics purposes than it is for combat forces.
The assumed familiarity between logistics operations and supply organisation activities suggests that any conversion between the two is relatively simple, and there is always the possibility that the supplier sector can be turned to overcome any deficiencies there are for in-house logistics capabilities.
There are perceptions which tend to ignore the importance of logistics readiness to the overall employability of the force. Even if the ease of raising these logistic capabilities were a simple task, to take it for granted that operational deficiencies can be overcome at short notice is not a good idea.
If military forces are to be responsive, fully trained and equipped logistics forces must be available and processes ranging from strategic activity to tactical action must be coherent and well-practiced. A combat force without efficient and effective logistics support is ineffectual and, in the end, a waste of organisational effort.
At the root of logistics readiness is the union between acquiring and maintaining military capability to have it available, and the establishment of a logistics process which enables or constrains its use operationally. Budgets, supply factors, and military capability are typically executed by Service headquarters, and limit the combat forces that can be created and made available.
However, it is logistics capabilities and practices that limit the forces that may be actually employed on military operations. The combat unit that is formed and given the latest technology, best armour and capable of overmatch against any possible adversary will be ineffective – undeployable in practice – without a logistics system capable of sustaining it.
Logistics readiness is particularly vital for those militaries that consider themselves as expeditionary at its core. Not only do robust logistics capabilities define the capacity of a military to project force, these same capabilities underwrite the ability of a military to respond quickly, affording them time to overcome the distance there may be to the operational area.
Militaries rarely assign logistics readiness issues as their highest priority to resolve. Instead they are typically consumed with ensuring that the elements at the forward edge of the operational area are as ready as practicable. Yet if compromises are made with regards to the preparedness of the logistics ‘system’ as a whole, or the logistics process is inefficient or ineffective due to poor practices and inadequate logistic discipline across the military, the readiness and preparedness of any unit destined for operations will itself be compromised.
Operational reporting consistently identifies forces as having culminated as a consequence of system-wide logistics failures that may have been otherwise prevented. Less well known are the times in which senior commanders have had to make choices on which forces they chose not to deploy based on the readiness of the logistics forces and the logistics process more generally. It is a venture into the world of strategic decision making, where logistics truly becomes the ‘arbiter of opportunity’, if not the arbiter of choice, and the true measure of whether a military is ready for combat.
Must Identify specific metrics critical for logistics support meeting supply schedule expectations of installations. Ensure definitions are provided within assumptions & appropriate measures identified following site visit investigation.
Recent site visits have documented increasing number of metrics being evaluated. Growth in number of total metrics must be minimised to ensure reasonable amount of effort is required to obtain & assess supply information to arrive at reasonable conclusions/recommendations.
Impacts must be assessed using primary mobile transit metrics to include Operational availability, materiel readiness, total cost of in-house provisions & mission downtime. Other specific appropriate metrics include work order planning, automated Supply line connection Support, installation structure quality & quick transport functions.
Whenever an supply line connection event occurs, whether it involves the results of a quality inspection on Flight Line or supply delivery, records should flow seamlessly into the scorecard deposit with real-time updating of supplier performance. Of all the attributes of an ideal measured system. this is the one that is rarely implemented.
For real-time updating of Logisitics work orders, the scorecard system must be linked to other supply line constituencies, including fiscal accounts, quality control, and transportation. Any system that stresses objective rather than subjective assessment, particularly under real-time conditions must receive serious consideration.
Many Logistics systems are moving toward real-time supply metrics visibility. Some organisations are beginning to rely on suppliers to self-report and submit their performance to the scorecard system on a frequent basis. Some are even beginning to solicit performance marks from or about second or third tier suppliers.
If a Logistics organisation is set on measuring most of its suppliers, then the less critical suppliers should receive a basic scorecard—perhaps even one that is categorical. Depending on level of effort required to obtain scorecard ratings, the cost to measure a supplier could outweigh the value of measuring that supplier.
An effective supply system will not only generate the scorecard itself; it will enable information to be presented in a variety of reporting formats, along with easy generation of useful reports. Some on-demand reports can show side-by-side supplier rankings, demonstrate performance changes by category, and highlight the suppliers that improved or deteriorated in performance over a certain period. Systems allowing slicing and dicing of raw inputs is an essential element of an ideal scorecard system.
Most measurement systems are reactive in that they report what has happened, not what is likely to happen. As with a metrics process control system, an ideal measurement system would be able to “look ahead” to spot troublesome trends and non-random changes in supplier performance before it becomes out of control. An ideal Logistics system would notify supply line teams of potential problems before the impact of those problems is even realised. The system should be deigned to have predictive capabilities.
Logistics performance bench marking involves comparing products, practices, processes, or strategies against suppliers considered to offer best-in-class Logistics services. Benchmarking techniques can involve working directly with other units to compare scorecard practices, performing searches to find information on performance measurement and working with suppliers to obtain scorecard information.
It is critical for Logistics teams to feature the sharing of best-practice information. While informal bench marking can occur at any time, formal reviews of the scorecard system should occur regularly. Today, when almost too much supply information is available, there is no excuse for not remaining current regarding the trends and technologies that relate to supplier performance measurement in Logistics Domains.
1. Are Logistics Metrics given strategic priority to directly control behaviour and supply line performance?
2. Have limited number of key measurements been established to keep supply line objectives on track?
3. Are labour-intensive measurements that at first seem relevant of little practical use?
4. Are wrong measures being picked and leaving out important ones could lead to lower supply line performance?
5. Are supply line based drivers only effective on after-the-fact measures, like customer loss or fiscal performance?
6. What is total cost of getting product availability to the point of field action to include materiel stocks and transit?
7. Is supplier responsible for the fact that products have poor availability for field-level use?
8. Is supplier responsible for transit operations of downstream customers picking up products on location?
9. Is upstream component parts supplier responsible for the fact that order could not be produced due to lack of supplier part?
10. Is supplier responsible for on-time delivery to customer after transit order?