Chapter 15—
Getting There: Focused Logistics

Paul M. Needham

The search for new military strategies necessitates the transformation of the logistics processes and organizations that support the current military structure. We begin this chapter by examining the logistics transformation process, reviewing various definitions of logistics (especially those used by the Department of Defense and Joint Staff). Each definition places emphasis on a specific reason for logistics processes and organizations to exist.

Next, we look at Joint Vision 2010 Focused Logistics and Joint Vision 2020 Focused Logistics to examine the direction that the Joint Staff is pursuing in linking logistics and operational concepts. We look at the process of generating military power by considering logistics organizations in the Department of Defense (DOD), theüservices, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) to identify the logistics initiatives that these organizations are pursuing and the potential impact on operational capability. We then analyze the two fundŽmental processes of projecting and sustaining military power. Finally, we briefly discuss some vulnerabilities related to focused logistics.


To define logistics, we focus first on the DOD dictionary:

The science of planning and carrying out the movement and maintenance of forces. In its most comprehensive sense, those aspects of military operations which deal with:

  • design and development, acquisition, storage, movement, distribution, maintenance, evacuation, and disposition of material
  • movement, evacuation, and hospitalization of personnel
  • acquisition or construction, maintenance, operation, and disposition of facilities
  • acquisition or furnishing of services.1

This definition both highlights the movement and maintenance of forces and identifies a comprehensive systems approach to logistics.

The Joint Staff defines logistics as “the process of planning and executing the movement and sustainment of operating forces in the execution of a military strategy and operations.”2 This definition directs our attention to a process approach to logistics.

A third definition comes from the civilian realm. The Council of Logistics Management (CLM) states that “logistics is that part of the supply chain process that plans, implements, and controls the efficient, effective flow and storage of goods, services, and related information from the point of origin to the point of consumption in order to meet customers’ requirements.”3

The range of DOD logistics responsibilities includes those identified by the CLM definition, planning and controlling the “efficient and effective” flow of goods, services, and related information to meet customers’ requirements. In addition, DOD logistics operations concern the repair of capital assets, such as aircraft, tanks, vehicles, engines, and avionics boxes. DOD logistics also includes design, development, acquisition, inventory responsibilities of storage and distribution, reverse logistics (return of items), and disposal. DOD logistics responsibilities include building and obtaining infrastructure; obtaining services; and movement, evacuation, and hospitalization of personnel.

Thus, the range of DOD logistics responsibilities far exceeds the traditional logistics responsibilities in commercial firms. However, if we consider the CLM definition—planning, implementing, and controlling “efficient, effective” flow and storage of güods, services, and related information from point of origin to point of consumption based on the customers’ needs—the military finds much in common with the civilian definition. Recognition of the similarities in the processes, and the need to support customers efficiently and effectively, has led DOD and the services to examine the military logistics processes and organization thoroughly. DOD has a strong incentive to adopt and adapt the best business logistics practices.

Logistics transformation is essential to the defense transformation efforts that have been labeled the revolution in military affairs (RMA). The RMA new operational concepts all demand improved logistics. These include joint response strike forces, enhanced information networking, accelerated deployment of missile defenses, realigned overseas presence and swifter power projection, interoperable allied forces, maritime littoral operations, standoff targeting, forcible entry, enhanced tactical deep strikes, and decisive close combat operations.4 The logistical support processes and current logistics organizational structure must be transformed to support these new, flexible military operations.

Joint Vision 2020: Focused Logistics

Transformation of military doctrine, strategic and operational concepts, and logistics processes began with the reviews that took place after Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The Joint Staff, in 1996, published its vision of the direction the military should focus on for the future in Joint Vision 2010 (JV 2010). The tenets of JV 2010 were primarily directed toward the operational capability of forces and called for the capabilities of dominant maneuver, precision engagement, information superiority, and force protection, as well as focused logistics.5

Joint Vision 2010 was followed by Joint Vision 2020, which takes the Focused Logistics goal of JV 2010 and continues the implementation actions it began. Focused logistics is intended to refocus the services and the commanders in chief (CINCs) toward reducing forward inventories to a minimal amount (“reduced footprint”) and relying instead on consistent resupply. The idea of reduced footprint is intended to apply not only to inventory but also to other support systems, such as hospitals. This reliance on transportation and throughput requires careful analysis, confidence on the part of the CINC, and continued access to ports.

Focused logistics is more, however, than a “reduced footprint.”
JV 2020 identified six elements of the focused logistics program:

  • Joint Deployment/Rapid Distribution
  • Multinational Logistics
  • Agile Infrastructure
  • Force Health Protection
  • Information Fusion
  • Joint Theater Logistics Command and Control (C2).

These six program initiatives are leading to significant transformation of logistics processes.

Improvements within the deployment and distribution arena are being pursued by the U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), the Defense Logistics Agency, and the services. Under the Multinational Logistics program, planners must consider what is available in the location to which American forces will deploy. Agile Infrastructure is aimed at changing from a presumption that DOD must build and own the infrastructure to the expectation that it can lease infrastructure or use it temporarily. Force Health P›otection is aimed at improving healthcare while reducing the support forces needed in a forward location. Information Fusion and Joint Theater Logistics C2 are information programs aimed at providing visibility of the inventory, transportation, and material management. Two enabling programs, the Joint Total Asset Visibility program and the In-transit Visibility program, are aimed at providing reliable datû to decisionmakers and reducing the total cost, while continuing to provide effective support. Focused logistics is transforming the way in which logisticians plan to support warfighters and provide them with flexible options for military operations.

Recognizing that it needed to streamline logistics processes and logistics systems, DOD looked to business for models. Businesses had begun close examination of logistics processes to decrease costs, increase profits, and improve customer service. In doing so, they found that these objectives were not mutually exclusive. Improving logistics systems—that is, inventory, order processing, transportation, warehousing, and distribution networks—improved their bottom line: profit.

Changes in the logistical processes of firms originate from the application of various theoretical constructs. These included the inventory-transportation paradigm, which makes tradeoffs between inventory and expedited transportation; the postponement principle, which delays the final form or assembly; the speculation principle, which attempts to anticipate demand; substitution, which allows the use of other components; adoption of “lean” manufacturing, which reduces work-in-progress; just-in-time and time-definite delivery; and application of information technology to logistics processes. Although these constructs fit in the category of logistics tradecraft, each construct affects the firm’s entire strategy. These principles are now being applied to military transformation.


DOD created various organizations to provide support for both combatant commands and administrative commands. The Unified Command Plan creates various geographical and unified combatant commands. The administrative lines are formed by the Title 10 responsibilities of the services—the Army, Navy, and Air Force—to organize, train, and equip their forces.6 This requirement leads the services to create organizations that support the forces; both the forces and their supporting organizations are assigned to the warfighting CINCs.

The services follow a straightforward paradigm in creating combat forces. First, they identify the tasks that the forces must accomplish. Then, the services develop doctrine as to the best way of accomplishing tasks. The services train and experiment to test doctrine and strategy and make changes as needed. These changes can significantly affect logistics requirements.

External changes also can change logistics requirements significantly. For example, improvements in microcircuitry can result in an improvement in reliability of avionics systems. A ten-fold increase in reliability reduces the frequency of repair and calibration; this ripples through the logistics organization to result in fewer maintenance technicians, fewer sets of repair equipment, and less equipment, repair parts, and people to deploy.7

The need to repair parts and systems to balance operational use rate and investment in spare parts has decreased because of improved reliability. The impact of improved reliability on the organization is seen in the reduction and elimination of intermediate-repair capability at the unit level. The ripple effect of this is geographic centralization of repair, the reduction in manpower (for example, repair technicians and warehouse workers), and an increase in transportation (in the return logistics channel for repair and overhaul).

This cascading effect of technological change and the impact on logistics functions requires a continuing review of the organizational structure that provides logistical support to warfighters. The organizational change as a result of improving reliability has a secondary benefit of reducing the need for deploying large numbers of repair technicians and equipment. We will look at how each service has responded to these changes.


The Navy, like the other services, has seen improvements in reliability of its weapon systems, with a cascading impact on its repair parts requirements and manpower reductions. However, the operational demands on logistics systems have changed little since the mission of the Navy—power projection and protection of sea lines of communication—has not changed.

Improvements in reliability and transportation have, however, allowed the Navy to focus on reducing its large inventory of spare parts and the large infrastructure of land- and sea-based repair facilities and ships. The Navy has seen organizational changes as repair and storage of parts have become more centralized. These changes in the shore environment have included the consolidation of fleet support centers, maintenance depots, and both shipbuilding and repair facilities. Under the DOD Strategic Logistics Plan 2001, the Navy has just one inventory control point (Naval Supply Systems Command) from which it is able to manage all unique or Navy-assigned items with the use of modern information technologies. The Navy Sea Systems Command manages three depot maintenance centers and two Trident submarine repair facilities. The Naval Air Systems Command manages three aviation repair depots. The overhead for the Navy’s material management and repair capability is spread over three separate commands. In addition to this decentralized organizational structure for material management, the Navy has additional organizations for intermediate-level repair for the fleets.

The Navy’s combat logistics system that supports ships and battlegroups at sea has also been changed as a result of improvements in reliability, the reduction in the total number of ships, and improvements in transportation. The Navy has reduced the number of logistics ships (ammunition and stores ships) and the number of tenders (repair ships). To provide the necessary support, the Navy has turned to refueling in various ports, taking on provisions during these port visits, and applying common business practices of buying commercial off-the-shelf instead of acquiring customized, purpose-built materiel for all its needs.

The Navy has implemented a program called High Yield Logistics. The goal of this program is to optimize available funds through best value, customer support and communication, process innovation, and workforce productivity.8 The objectives of the program are to “provide extraordinary support to the warfighter, strategically source support inventory, infrastructure, maintenance, and service functions and to optimize the resources the Navy keeps to increase effectiveness and reduce redundancy within the remaining infrastructure.” The Navy plans to create a one-touch system using the Internet for access to the Navy and DOD inventory control system at all customer service points. A Navy-Marine Corps intranet is being established to create a central information system that will eventually replace 200 separate Navy and Marine computer systems.

Reliability improvements are allowing some organizational realignment within the Navy, but the service is retaining much of the organizational overhead that was previously needed for a much larger support structure. Thus, there is a need to continue transforming the logistics structure.

Marine Corps

The Marine Corps has begun several initiatives to improve and speed logistics processes. These initiatives center on the need for an integrated logistics system and a centralized organization to focus and manage the various logistics systems. A third initiative is aimed at creating a cadre of officers who are exposed to the best current logistics practices in industry and the best current applied logistics research. As with the Navy, the thrust of these initiatives is to improve the effectiveness of the combat forces and create the efficiencies found in the best-run commercial organizations.

The Corps’ Integrated Logistics Capability initiative is aimed at examining a total program—from development to disposal—for the best total-cost solution to logistics. This initiative recognizes the inherent relationship among such qualities as reliability, maintainability, availability, and serviceability. In the acquisition logistics arena, for example, these relationships are expressed as mean-time-between-failures, which helps determine the number of anticipated replacement parts that must be acquired. The mean-time-to-repair is a measure of the degree of maintainability associated with a system. Balancing these product characteristics, along with transportation-inventory trade-offs, helps to define the logistics support structure required for different systems. The Marine Corps seeks to balance these characteristics to maximize effective operational support.

The Corps has created a single organization to focus on the life cycle of the product—its equipment and materiel—from design to production to support to disposal. The newly established Marine Corps Materiel Command will be the single point within the Corps to evaluate operational requirements, field solutions (systems) to satisfy the requirements, and (perhaps from a logistics viewpoint most important) to sustain the system through to disposal. This command will operate in a manner similar to the existing Air Force Materiel Command and the Army Materiel Command; it will be a single organization responsible for all materiel used by the operating force.

The Marine Corps has partnered with academia and industry to ensure that its officers are exposed to innovative commercial practices. The benefit will be seen in more effective and efficient Marine Corps support to the operational forces. As the Marine Corps develops new operational concepts, the logistics officers will be able to design optimal logistics systems to support the forces.

Air Force

The current Air Force logistics organizational structure was defined by the Air Force to support its operations structure. Its centralized supply and maintenance concept centered on the Air Force’s need for a main base with a runway. The fact that the runway is in a fixed location dictated the operational structure and allowed the logistics organization to be centralized. This allowed certain economies of scale.

The Air Force has now begun changing its organizational structure to decentralize maintenance and supply to individual operating squadrons. Air Force doctrine has changed to reflect the post-Cold War need for deployable units. The new Expeditionary Air Forces now have supply and maintenance personnel as integral parts of the squadrons. This new squadron structure with integrated maintenance and supply personnel is similar to the structure found in Navy units. The changes are intended to improve operational effectiveness and flexibility and create efficiencies based on reliability improvements.

The Air Force has initiated several programs to improve logistics support to operational units, known as Agile Logistics, Logistics Transformation, and Product Support Strategy. Although these programs are aimed at improving the efficiency and effectivengss of support, they also create opportunities to alter operational deployment and support strategies.

The Agile Logistics program is an adaptation of the lean logistics concept that reduces the amount of inventory maintained. This program intends to use time-definite transportation and real-time information to reduce inventory levels at centralized storage locations and to allow deployment and support of units with fewer parts. A goal is to reduce the forward support footprint by 50 percent.9 Agile Logistics will allow operational concepts to be considered without the extensive “logistics tail” seen in the past. Reliability improvements, transportation enhancements, and support-organization changes are enablers of the Agile Logistics program.

The Air Force also is embarking on a Logistics Transformation program. The goal of the program is to transform the focus from providing massive support to large, forward-deployed units to, instead, mobile precision support for smaller deployable operational units. Several key concepts of the program are “time-definite delivery; time-definite resupply; effective command and control; theater ‘reachback’ to [the continental United States (CONUS)] logistics centers; and the use of integrated, state-of-the-art information systems to source, acquire, and transport items directly to the warfighter.”10 The desired effect of this logistics transformation program is to make logistics support more effective and efficient while capitalizing on technological and other changes in the transportation industry, the use of new information technologies, and improved reliability.

The third new Air Force logistics initiative is a new Product Support Strategy. This strategy is based on the need for comprehensive management of products (weapon systems) from design to production to support to disposal. The Air Force plans to have a single product manager who will be responsible for the product throughout its life cycle. This initiative aims at incorporating “best business practices” such as a prime (single) support integrator, long-term business relationships, use of commercial standards, partnering, developing service-oriented, performance-based agreements between suppliers and warfighters, and emphasizing long-term continuous improvements.


The Army has made similar organizational changes for almost the same reasons. Reliability of equipment has allowed the reduction of the intermediate-level logistics organizations required to repair equipment. Reliability improvements, increases in transportation availability, and improved speed of repair have contributed to the changes. The Army has initiated several logistics initiatives, identified in the DOD Strategic Logistics Plan 2001 as Velocity Management, the Single Stock Fund, and the Wholesale Logistics Modernization Program.11

The Wholesale Logistics Modernization Program is intended to develop an enterprise resource planning service for the Army to replace the legacy systems that it uses to manage maintenance and supply. The Army’s Velocity Management program is one of its initiatives to improve processes and transform the logistics system.

Velocity Management is the Army program to examine the full range of product development and support in order to analyze and redesign the logistics system to leverage improvements in reliability, transportation, and information. It is based upon recognition that rapid material movement allows the commercial business sector to reduce inventory and improve customer service levels. Business logistics transformation resulted in applying rapid transportation and information rather than keeping large inventories (the information/inventory tradeoff). The reliability improvements now engineered into equipment result in fewer failures, longer periods between major repairs, and greater assurance that the equipment will function as expected. In the past, multiechelon maintenance organizations (unit, intermediate, and depot) were established to take advantage of economies of scale and investments in inventory, maintenance technicians, repair equipment, and transportation. Improved reliability has reduced the need for intermediate-level maintenance. Tradeoffs in terms of manpower, deployment requirements (people and equipment), and cost (dollars) reduce deployment requirements while retaining required effectiveness. The new logistics structure incorporates a unit-level organizational structure that focuses on remove-and-replace forward maintenance; intermediate and depot-level repairs are done at a centralized facility. To reap all of the benefits of Velocity Management, the Army objective is to substitute velocity of material movements for inventory investments.

The Velocity Management program also aims to “reduce processing times for repairs, financial management, and determination of inventory requirements, procurement, transportation, and financial management.” The Army’s own internal management processes have been partially responsible for the large, bulky logistics systems that existed. Over the years, each level of the organization developed to respond to various management directions that the Army or other agencies have imposed. The combinations of reliability improvements and process reengineering allow significant organizational changes that should result in a leaner, lighter, more mobile Army.

The Single Stock Fund is an initiative to improve the logistics and financial processes of the Army’s Working Capital Fund. This initiative merges the retail (local) and wholesale processes into a single, centrally managed fund. The purpose of the initiative is to bring better financial accounting procedures and logistics functions together.

Defense Logistics Agency

Another major organization within DOD also has logistics responsibility: the Defense Logistics Agency, which was established originally to act as a wholesaler for DOD. Its purpose has changed over the years with various defense management reform actions; it is now responsible for 94 percent of the consumable items managed within DOD, all of the distribution centers within DOD, and the processing of 88 percent of all material requisitions. DLA is transforming itself through three initiatives: DLA 21, Strategic Sourcing, and Business Systems Modernization.

The DLA 21 transformation initiative is a broad, integrated plan for DLA to provide “essential military logistics support for the 21st century warfighter.” This plan focuses on “organizational redesign, modernization of automated business systems, employment of strategic partnerships with industry, better knowledge and understanding of customer (warfighter) needs, and replenishment and development of a world-class workforce.”12 Each segment of the plan creates a more flexible and responsive organization with a customer-focus orientation.

The organizational redesign has focused on streamlining DLA. The new Logistics Operations organization is intended to focus on supply-chain management, readiness, and contingency operations support. An Information Operations organization has been created to integrate information technology and electronic business practices. A Financial Operations organization has been created to centralize and streamline financial systems for DLA and the interfaces with the Defense Financial and Accounting Service. The Human Resources department has been created to develop and maintain the workforce. These organizational changes reflect a major effort to transform DLA from a large bulk provider to the “provider of choice.”

The DLA Strategic Sourcing Initiative is aimed at creating and maintaining supply-chain relationships with key suppliers. DLA is attempting to create the types of partnerships with producers that are successful in business, such as sharing information in exchange for lower total price commitments. DOD is attempting to create a win-win situation for itself and the producers of materials. Within this initiative are several DLA initiatives—including Prime Vendor, Virtual Prime Vendor, and Direct Vendor Delivery—that seek to incorporate “best business practices” into DLA operations.

Deployment Issues

U.S. military strategy calls for significant military power to be forward deployed. The operational side of DOD is currently organized into geographic regions and functional areas. The geographic regional commanders are assigned forces for daily operations and forces for contingency planning purposes. The functional commanders are assigned specific functional areas to operate in and provide support to the geographic commanders. These include space, transportation, strategic, and special operations. These functional commanders are assigned forces for daily operations and forces for various other levels of increased activity. Of specific interest in logistics transformation is the U.S. Transportation Command because of the service that it provides to the services and the CINCs.

USTRANSCOM is in the process of transforming itself to provide better, more integrated transportation service to the warfighters. Three transformation initiatives have been started: Reinvention CINC; Defense Transportation System Enterprise Architecture; and Strategic Distribution Management Initiative. These initiatives are aimed at improving the deployment ability and sustainment ability for the geographic CINCs.

The Reinvention CINC initiative started when Secretary of Defense William Cohen tasked the Commander in Chief, U.S. Transportation Command (USCINCTRANS), to “emulate the best business practices of private industry.”13 The areas that the USCINCTRANS chose to focus on are financial controls, organizational controls, and process controls. USTRANSCOM operates with a revolving-fund financial system similar to that used by DLA. The system basically requires the command to üharge its customers (warfighters) for their transportation. Customers request funds for transportation and then use their operating accounts to buy from and pay USTRANSCOM for the service. The method of financing the operations creates the need for change. This transformation effort is aimed at improving this process and having real-time financial data available to decisionmakers. This financial process focuses on peacetime activities, but the overall viability of the system is dependent on proper financial management in peace in order to be able to operate in war or a crisis.

Organizationally, USTRANSCOM consists of three major components: Air Mobility Command from the Air Force, Military Sealift Command from the Navy, and the Military Traffic Management Command from the Army. USTRANSCOM was created originally to operate in wartime or a crisis to coordinate and manage the deployment of forces and their equipment. In the early 1990s, the peacetime transportation responsibility was also given to USTRANSCOM. This move allowed it to organize better, operate for maximum performance, and integrate wartime training into peacetime support operations.

Change to the process controls is the other major initiative included under the Reinvention CINC umbrella. The DOD Strategic Logistics Plan states that “instituting business rules, information processes, and contracting decisions for optimal effectiveness and efficiency” are the objectives of this initiative.14 Sound business practices and procedures are needed; the objective of these changes improved deployment and sustainment of warfighters—that is, customers.

The Defense Transportation System Enterprise Architecture is directed toward building the military transportation system of the future. The primary focus of this effort is to create an information system with a set of decision support tools (models) that will enable rapid analysis and decisions. New information technology will enable optimal use of transportation assets for deployment and sustainment.

USTRANSCOM and DLA, along with the services and DOD agencies, are improving the DOD distribution system. The Strategic Distribution Management Initiative is aimed at reducing friction between the elements of the distribution system.15 Within the distribution system, USTRANSCOM has transportation responsibility between a designated port of embarkation and a port of debarkation (“port to port”). DLA, which has responsibility for the distribution centers, is working with USTRANSCOM to improve the flow of materials to warfighters. The CINC, representing the warfighter or customer, is currently responsible for the distribution system from a designated port of debarkation to the forward location of the warfighters (“from port to fort”). The current term for this segment of the distribution system is “reception, staging, onward movement, and integration.” The CINC identifies where he or she wants forces and material delivered, where to assemble, how and by what means they will travel forward, and how the forces and material will be integrated into the existing operational structure. The Strategic Distribution Management Initiative is intended to create an integrated supply chain in which stockage decisions are integrated with storage locations, with distribution nodes such as ports and transshipment locations, and with transportation.

The above initiatives accomplish two tasks. The first is to make the daily operation of USTRANSCOM as efficient as possible so as to reduce the overall costs for the users of transportation services. Second, by
examining the entire supply chain and making it more effective,
USTRANSCOM, along with DLA, is improving provision of the essential sustainment support.

Service Initiatives

Additional initiatives from the services are also aimed at enhancing the capability to deploy. The Army is fielding the Interim Armored Tactical Vehicle to be able to deploy more quickly. This vehicle provides several new enhancements related to deployability. First, the new armored vehicles are much lighter than the 30-ton Bradley or the 70-ton Abrams. Second, because they weigh less, the vehicles need less fuel to operate. Additionally, the lighter vehicles may be candidates for electric drives now being developed, which would reduce the fuel requirement further.

Research and development are coming up with new products all the time; the potential second- and third-order effects from adapting this new technology are being examined for potential further reductions in support requirements. The other services are also making changes to fielded equipment to take advantage of improved operating capability along with reduced logistical support requirements.

Several other research and development projects may have significant impact on the deployment of forces. One is the large, medium-speed dirigible that is currently being researched by several firms. If this effort is successful, then 1 million pounds could be airlifted on a single air ship traveling at 150 to 200 miles per hour. Another project is a high-speed cargo ship that would permit transportation of large military forces to be accomplished very quickly. These would be transformational changes to the deployment equation.

Strategic Reach

Deployment considerations also raise questions of strategic reach, touching on the system of bases, departure ports, en-route support bases, arrival ports, and destination locations. These are not new issues. In a 1959 book, Logistics in the National Defense, Henry Eccles discussed these issues in the context of lessons learned from World War II.16

The deployment process begins at a home station: a base where forces are garrisoned. The deployment commences with the passing of information from the Joint Staff, to the services, to the commands, to the individual units. Information about the number of people, weight and size of equipment, support equipment, and the like is passed to USTRANSCOM and to the geographic CINC who will be relying on the forces. USTRANSCOM, in conjunction with the services and CINC, plans the movement of the forces to a port of debarkation. The first movement is thus “from the fort to the port.” The USTRANSCOM Military Traffic Management Command arranges for movement via motor carrier or rail to airports or seaports; Air Mobility Command from airports; and Military Sealift Command from one seaport to another.

Several decisions must be made by USTRANSCOM and its components regarding the method of movement. Will DOD transportation equipment be used? Will equipment have to be leased or chartered? Since DOD does not own sufficient transport aircraft and ships to move forces for a major contingency, agreements have been made with the airlines and shipping firms to ensure the availability of aircraft and ships in time of crisis. This Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) has worked and enables the participating firms to receive various benefits, such as government business and operating subsidies based on added expenses to support DOD. The use of the commercial transportation system was a significant initiative in 1952, but it must now be reexamined. From a strategic standpoint, these agreements and the intent to use the commercial transportation system raise the importance of the system to a national security level. The issue related to deployment is what level of investment DOD should make in airlift and sealift assets and how to obtain the necessary lift in a crisis. A new program called VISA is modeled on the CRAF program; it ensures that space for containers will be available in crises. Both this program and CRAF must be examined continuously to ensure that they meet the deployment demands of the future. The recent relief package for the airlines is an example of the possible support that DOD must give to the airlines to keep them viable, healthy, and available for the CRAF program. Although some would question this government relief, most would agree with the decision to provide relief support to the airlines that contribute to national security.

Strategic Bases

Another major logistical issue related to deployment is the need for strategic bases. Current aircraft technology requires that aircraft be refueled after 3,000 to 4,000 miles. Several options exist to fill this need. First, bases can be established to allow aircraft to land and be refueled. They can be military bases on U.S. territory, commercial bases on U.S. territory, or allied bases, military or commercial, that the ally has agreed to allow us to use. If the desire is not to land certain aircraft on an ally’s homeland, then a tanker bridge could possibly be created using refueling aircraft. However, even tankers must be able to land and load fuel.

For sealift, the issues of concern include throughput, access, and resupply at sea. Throughput is a measure of the rate of arrival and servicing available at a port to bring materials forward to the warfighter. Access refers to the ability to use a port—that is, whether permission from some other government has been received and whether the draft of the port is adequate. Resupply at sea also presents challenges. The Navy has perfected the ability to perform underway replenishment, but the supply ships must obtain supplies (food, fuel, and repair parts) from some location in the area. Some sort of forward support base is needed to support the Navy. In Operational Naval Logistics, Eccles proposed an offshore, mobile, floating base that gives the Navy the capability to take its base with it anywhere the ocean allows.17 This concept is currently reflected in the Navy with the use of aircraft carriers as landing fields for helicopters and the system of repair ships that accompany battlegroups. This concept needs further exploration.

Transformation in the area of deployment may require new technology to provide lift; new information systems to optimize deployment flow with available lift assets; and new thinking. Technology may provide the opportunity to bypass ports of debarkation and strategic bases en-route and go straight to a deployed location. New information systems can ensure optimal use of transportation assets and the tracking of forces at all times. New thinking is what will transform the deployment process and allow new operational concepts to be explored without current constraints.


Sustaining deployed forces depends upon the distribution network that will transport sustainment stock along the supply chain.18 The distribution network will in most cases be similar to the deployment network, although the nodes—ports of embarkation and debarkation—may be different. The supply chain is of critical importance since DOD split logistics responsibility requires careful coordination and cooperation. A separate but equally critical issue is that of maintaining the defense industrial base that provides critical support for sustaining the forces.

The distribution channel that leaves the factories to go to warehouses, then to the distribution centers, and onward to the forward support bases must be able to handle the requirements for the forces deployed. The capacity of the system depends on the ability of the nodes (ports) to support throughput levels sufficient to provide a constant flow of material or to build up a sufficient inventory. The current practices call for a just-in-time inventory approach, where minimal inventory levels are retained; this critically depends on assured, timely transportation. This idea is an extension of the classic inventory-transportation paradigm of building and maintaining a large inventory versus using expedited transportation to provide items when needed.


A major area of concern for all logistics issues is the capability of industry to provide timely support to DOD. The economics of the reduction in the size of the military establishment has contributed to a real decline in the numbers of firms that manufacture defense products. The challenge for the future is how to ensure the viability of critical firms in a market that is DOD-controlled. This problem requires innovative approaches to ensuring that the American domestic defense industry remains capable of supporting the U.S. military.

The other problem area connected to industry is the globalization of world trade due to efforts of firms to find the most efficient manufacturing sources. The result is that many firms now locate manufacturing operations off shore. As more components for major systems are manufactured off shore, questions arise as to how reliable the source is and whether it can be counted on, especially in a crisis. As the transformation of our logistics operations continues, we need to ensure that efficiency does not become the sole criterion for decisions. Preservation of domestic defense industrial capability may thus require changes in acquisition regulations and laws to ensure that an adequate level of manufacturing capability is retained within the United States.


üs the United States transforms its military logistics to focused logistics processes to support deployed forces, certain vulnerabilities may be created for those forces. The new focused logistics processes—lean logistics, velocity management, and the like—require rapid, dependable transportation; assured communications; and continuous throughput. When any of these elements are inadequate, support to the deployed forces could be jeopardized. Additionally, new operational concepts that rely on the assumption of focused logistics will be at risk when any of its enabling elements is not available.

An opponent could attack several of the enablers. Along the supply and communications chain, several weaknesses could reduce the logistics support for deployed forces. First, rapid, dependable strategic transportation must be available. This includes sealift, airlift, rail and road, pipelines for fuel distribution, and inland waterway transport. Along the first leg of the deployment—from the “fort to the port”—the communications channels and the command and control channels are vulnerable. Units and commands must have timely, accurate information for unit activation, preparation, and movement scheduling. Accurate, assured communications are essential to planning timely unit movements.

The next leg of the deployment—“from port to port”—requires use of en-route support bases for refueling, crew rest and changeout, and throughput considerations. Such bases have several vulnerable points: force protection, protection of communications, and assured availability of fuel for aircraft. Throughput considerations are critical to sealift, including the availability of ports for discharging forces, unit equipment, and sustainment stocks. There are vulnerabilities in force protection issues, assured communications, and the availability of suitable ports and facilities. Although most problem areas can be alleviated for some time period, this may not be enough: focused logistics requires the constant arrival of rapid forces and resupply to avoid a large buildup of sustainment stocks. Time is a major factor, especially when suitable infrastructure is not adequate.

The final leg of the deployment—“from the port to the fort”—is from the point of arrival to the forward location that needs support. Here there are several specific vulnerabilities, especially in transportation and communication. As units, equipment, and sustainment stocks are moved along, there is significant dependence on rails, roads, and inland waterways. The geographic CINCs, along with CINCTRANSCOM, design and develop the transportation network to ensure that CINC operational capabilities are integrated with the distribution systems.

Joint Vision 2020 and focused logistics provide new capabilities to increase flexibility, but their vulnerabilities must be addressed. Two major areas of concern are the deployment and sustainment stages of support for deployed forces (Joint Deployment/Rapid Distribution). Other areas of focused logistics also create vulnerability, in particular the communications required in order to “trade information for inventory,” maintain Joint Theater Logistics C2, and provide Information Fusion. Multinational Logistics requires the support of host nations providing material, manpower, and infrastructure. Force Health Protection is required for medical regulation and care of troops. Stabilizing and evacuating injured troops can allow reductions in deployed hospital staff, support, and protection forces, but they require communications for diagnosis, rapid transportation to protected areas for treatment, and new technology to allow enhancement of treatment capabilities. Agile Infrastructure recognizes the need for ports, bases, transportation systems, and communication systems, yet vulnerabilities are created because the services or the CINC do not necessarily own and control the infrastructure.

An additional major concern is in the services’ support to deployed forces. Several services, most notably the Air Force, have adopted a support concept called reachback. The concept recognizes the need to be able to deploy without very much support equipment or very many people, and instead to receive the necessary level of support from a secure area far away. The secure areas may be a unit’s home station within the continental United States, a centralized facility within the United States, or a forward, secure main support base within or closer to a theater. This concept reduces the initial lift requirements but shifts the sustainment requirement to assured, time-deýinite transportation and communication links. Herein lies the vulnerability. For reachback to work, transportation must be guaranteed, and communication of logistics requirements from a forward theater to the support location must also be guaranteed. Transportation and communications are the vulnerabilities in a reachback support system.

The Future

The fundamental logistical processes that contribute to flexibility in military strategy are those involved in generating military power, deploying military forces, and supporting military forces. Each of these three fundamental processes are subject to the frictions that arise because of organizational issues, relationships, and “seams” between organizations. We must also examine the secondary and tertiary effects of acquisition changes, engineering changes, and changes in the logistics “tradecraft.” Organizational issues require the coordination and cooperation of the people involved, to ensure that the seams do not become barriers or rifts. Engineering changes provide new applications of science and manufacturing that result in products that require less support and maintenance.

Logistics will remain a comprehensive discipline in support of military operations. As DOD continues to transform its processes, it will find new ways to incorporate the best practices developed in civilian business contexts. DOD will continue to move its logistics processes closer to the Council of Logistics Management ideal: planning, implementing, controlling the efficient, effective flow of goods, services, and related information from origin to the point of consumption to meet the customer’s requirement. Joint Vision 2020 and focused logistics, along with the efforts of the services, will provide direction for transforming current logistics processes. Logistics transformation in conjunction with development of new military concepts or reassessment of old concepts must ensure that DOD has the flexibility to respond to any crisis.


 1.  Joint Publication 1–02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, April 2001). [BACK]

 2. Ibid. [BACK]
 3. Council of Logistics Management, accessed at <>. [BACK]

4. See chapter 3 in this volume by Richard Kugler and Hans Binnendijk. [BACK]

5. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Vision 2020, Focused Logistics, accessed at <
>. [BACK]

6. 10 USC 3013, 5013, 8013. [BACK]

7. Eccles discussed the snowball effect that described the expansion of support forces. The concept described in the text is the inverse of the snowball effect. Henry Eccles, Logistics in the National Defense (Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Company, 1959). [BACK]

8. Goals as stated in the DOD Logistics Initiatives of the 2001 DOD Logistics Strategic Plan, 2001, accessed at <>. [BACK]

9. Ibid. [BACK]

10. Ibid. [BACK]

11. Army Strategic Logistics Plan, May 11, 2000. [BACK]

12. DLA 21 Strategic Plan 2000. [BACK]

13. DOD Logistics Strategic Plan, 2001. [BACK]

14. Ibid. [BACK]

15. USTRANSCOM Strategic Guidance FY 2002, accessed at <>. [BACK]

16. Eccles, Logistics in the National Defense. [BACK]

17. Henry Eccles, Operational Naval Logistics (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing
Office/Bureau of Naval Personnel, 1950). [BACK]

18. James Toth, Military Strategy Note Theater Distribution Concepts, ICAF Military Strategy and Logistics Note, 2001. [BACK]





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