The logistics capacity of the U.S. military today is unmatched. However, a constantly changing operating environment and resource constraints demand we optimize joint logistics to enhance our capabilities for tomorrow. We have an opportunity to significantly advance our systems, processes and organizations to improve support for the joint force commander and we must seize it.
The necessity of joint logistics is widely accepted throughout the defense logistics community, but I believe current systems reflect many inefficiencies, unnecessary redundancies and process gaps that increase both risk and cost. Achieving harmony among service and agency systems, processes and programs will resolve today’s inefficiencies, but poses a significant challenge.
Joint logistics is the deliberate or improvised sharing of service resources to enhance synergy and reduce both overlaps and costs. We need joint logistics because the services, by themselves, seldom have sufficient capability to independently support the joint commander, especially during expeditionary operations.
The global war on terror, other threats to our security, diverse global commitments, and complex interagency and multinational operations characterize the joint logistics environment. Future operations are likely to be distributed, and conducted rapidly and simultaneously across multiple areas within a single theater, or across boundaries of more than one geographic combatant command.
Within this environment, force projection operations give us the ability to close the gap between early entry and follow-on combat operations, and simultaneous stabilization and reconstruction operations. The requirement to integrate “sustainment” and force-projection operations in a complex environment presents the greatest joint logistics challenge. Effective integration of sustainment will help deliver freedom of action to the commander. Freedom of action enabled by sustained logistics readiness is what we should expect from joint logistics.
Effective joint logistics depends on the relationships between the global players in the logistics network. The services, by law, are responsible to raise, train, equip and maintain ready forces and form the foundation of this network. The services are responsible to deliver systems life cycle readiness.
The services and the Defense Logistics Agency share responsibilities as defense supply process owners, sharing roles as supporting organizations to the service components. Their deliverable is perfect order fulfillment.
Joint Forces Command serves as the joint deployment process owner, and is the primary conventional force provider. Its deliverable is the fulfillment of the capabilities required by the joint force commander.
The U.S. Transportation Command serves as the defense distribution process owner, supporting DLA and the services for the movement of supplies, and JFCOM for the movement of forces. Its deliverable is time definite delivery.
Because the services lie at the heart of the joint logistics network, we should measure the value of our processes, systems, programs, organizations from the perspective of the service components of the joint force.
The value of joint logistics is in its ability to sustain joint logistics readiness. We can measure that value by how well we achieve three joint logistics imperatives: unity of effort, domain-wide visibility, and rapid and precise response. Unity of effort is the coordinated application of all capabilities focused on the joint commander’s intent, and is the most critical of all joint logistics outcomes.
Achieving unity of effort is driven by three enablers: appropriate organizational capabilities and authorities, shared awareness across the joint logistics domain and common measures of performance.
Domain-wide visibility is the ability to see the requirements, resources and capabilities across the joint logistics domain. Three enablers drive this imperative. One is connectivity — access to the network 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Another is a standard enterprise data architecture — the foundation for effective and rapid data transfer and the fundamental building block to enable a common logistical picture. The other is a global focus — support to the joint force is global business and any view of joint logistics that operates below this level will deliver less-than-acceptable readiness.
Rapid and precise response is defined by the ability of the supply chain to meet the constantly changing needs of the joint force. Lack of key supplies, regardless of the reason, undermines readiness and increases mission risk. We can assess how well the supply chain is performing by measuring the following metrics.
Speed is the most critical aspect. In measuring speed, our focus should be on what is “quick enough,” recognizing that not all supplies are equal in importance. Items that truly drive readiness deserve special treatment.
Reliability is the ability of the supply chain to provide predictability. When items are not immediately available, the system must provide immediate and accurate estimates of delivery to enable the war fighter to make decisions regarding future mission options.
Visibility is rapid and easy access to order information. It fundamentally answers the commander’s questions, “Where is it?” and “When will it get here?”
Efficiency is the supply chain footprint. It is directly related to the resources needed to compensate for inefficiencies within the supply chain.
We must move forward with programs and initiatives that truly support joint logistics. We cannot wait until every issue is resolved to make decisions. The challenge of integrating service and agency programs and systems not designed to holistically support joint operations cannot be overestimated. We have a responsibility to the American people and the next generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen to do better — much better.
Army Lt. Gen. Claude V. (Chris) Christianson is the director for logistics on the Joint Staff. The complete version of this paper may be accessed online at www.ndia.org, under NDIA Divisions Pages/Logistics.