There is a lot of discussion among logisticians
about increasing logistics interdependencies among service
components in the conduct of joint operations. As I took on
my new assignment on the staff of the U.S. Joint Forces Command,
I wanted to investigate the nature of the interdependence of
organizational systems and report my findings to the logistics
When we use the term “interdependence,” we should
recognize that we derive its meaning from “open systems” theory
in the biological sciences. “Open systems” take
inputs from the external environment, transform some of them,
and send them back into the environment as outputs. James
D. Thompson, an organization theorist, was one of the early
in adapting this biological metaphor to describe intra- and
interorganizational behavior. In his seminal 1967 book, Organizations
in Action, Thompson describes three types of interdependence
(listed here from the least to the most complicated)—
• Pooled interdependence. In this type of interdependence, separate organizations,
which perform adequately on their own, might fail if one or more of them fail
when they all operate in a broad context. One organization’s failure
threatens all, but perhaps not all at once. The traditional military practice
independent service- and national-based operational logistics structures is
a good example of pooled interdependence. Joint operations can occur, but only
with service-oriented logistics support.
• Sequential interdependence. This type of interdependence is linear, like
an assembly line—one unit in the sequence produces something necessary
for the next unit and so on. Supply chain management is a perfect example,
ensuring goods are produced and delivered from “factory to foxhole.” For
example, the Army Materiel Command and Defense Logistics Agency ensure that
purchased, and a vendor ensures commercial delivery as far forward as possible,
where users receive direct shipments or retail activities distribute the items
• Reciprocal interdependence. Here, the output of one organization becomes
the input for others and vice versa. Organizational boundaries become less
distinguishable, and the combined performance of the organizations requires complex
forms of coordination.
This form of logistics support is rare for U.S. forces. One example is the
establishment of regional medical centers (such as in Landstuhl, Germany), where
one service combines with another to provide general and specialized diagnosis
and treatment. Another is in joint force projection, where the U.S. Joint
Forces Command resources and prepares forces for deployment and the U.S. Transportation
Command delivers them according to the combatant commander’s (COCOM’s)
Thompson maintains that when units come together in collective configurations,
they become a synthetic organization, usually with a relatively short lifespan
(such as a temporary joint task force created for disaster relief or military
operations), and often “emerge” in response to specific environmental
conditions and as the situation at hand develops. Figuring out ahead of time
exactly what type of interdependence will
develop with synthetic organizations probably is not possible. The design
of interdependencies, which depends on the uniqueness of each situation,
evolves as circumstances change. However, organization design based on modular
capabilities can reduce the
uncertainty. This is why the Department of Defense is striving to foster
in the current and future forces.
Ways of Coordination
The challenge for logistics force developers is to design
more modular and capabilities-based organizations in anticipation
of ad hoc interdependence.
reorganization (or “adhocracies”) must be a process flexible
enough to adapt to rapid environmental changes in real time. Logisticians
array of coordination tools at their disposal to organize continuously
levels of interdependence. I want to discuss these in order from easiest
to most difficult. Each type of coordination is associated with a level
The least difficult way to coordinate is very familiar to the military—using
already established standards (laws, institutionalized doctrine, rules,
routines, processes, regulations, or standing operating procedures) that
fix interdependent relationships among multiple units. This coordination
often associated with pooled interdependence.
The second way to coordinate—one more often associated with sequential
interdependence—is to develop unique plans to
coordinate a series of decisions yet to be made. This form of coordination
is in addition to established standards, but it is more appropriate in
situations, such as early in military operations when tasks change often.
Plans dictate, for example, the Army’s requirements to provide Army
support to other services. The Marines are particularly dependent on Army
services for sustained land operations and on the Navy for medical, chaplain,
and construction support. All services are sequentially interdependent
on the Air Force for strategic airlift, strategic reconnaissance, and strategic
assets. The Air Force is sequentially interdependent on the Army for furnishing
inland surface transportation, air base security, and construction support,
seizing forward air bases (as was done recently in Iraq), and providing
and theater missile defense coverage.
The most complex process of coordination—and the one most often concurrent
with reciprocal interdependent relationships—is mutual adjustment.
The more uncertain and ambiguous the situation, the more likely logisticians
require reciprocal interdependence. A unit’s impromptu reliance on
other service capabilities likely will result in this form of coordination.
because the unit must manage reciprocal support in real time as new information
becomes available and may not have the luxury of calling service-specific
capabilities when and where they are needed. As logistics information technologies
and contemporary operational environments become more fluid, the logistician
must become more capable in facilitating adjustments to operations in real
time. Note that the term “facilitate” replaces “command
and control” in cases of reciprocal interdependence. Traditional
command and control routines that go up and down the chain are too slow
reciprocal support relationships.
Conflicts From Interdependence
Different kinds of interorganizational conflicts (such as service rivalries)
may arise with each type of logistics interdependence. In cases of joint
operations with pooled logistics interdependence, conflicts may result
of national resources. This was seen in World War II, when U.S. forces
operating in the Pacific theater competed for resources with those in the
theater. Landing craft were in short supply; which theater had priority?
Organizations that operate in sequential interdependence rely on outputs
from relatively independent organizations that have little or no incentive
to the demands of dependent organizations. For example, the Navy and Air
Force establish sea and air lines of communication to overseas locations.
the existence of a national logistics authority (such as the U.S. Transportation
Command) to ensure that service and COCOM transportation priorities are
Organizations immersed in reciprocal logistics interdependence can operate
routinely without conflict (as in the regional medical center concept).
However, in a more
ad hoc organizational arrangement, the failure of one service organization
to provide its fair share of logistics capabilities to the others will
lead to discontent
and reciprocal finger-pointing.From a bureaucratic organizational perspective,
why would the Navy want to move from sequential to reciprocal logistics
interdependence with the
combat operations? After all, Navy forces are semiautonomous, with their
own sea-capable distribution system. Why should the Army expect the Navy
anything more complicated than service-oriented, pooled, or, at most, sequential
logistics interdependence? What support can the Army reciprocate to the
Navy that the Marine Corps-Navy team cannot provide logistically on its
may be a key strategic question for Army force planners to answer as they
consider how to provide transformational future joint logistics capabilities.
The relationship between efficiency and effectiveness when developing interdependence
also is important. Inherent risks occur in moving swiftly toward vast reciprocal
logistics interdependencies. The military might not want to rush toward
business-like efficiencies in reciprocal relationships because doing so
effectiveness. One of my colleagues, retired Colonel Michael Matheny, stated
Joint interdependence is aimed at efficiency as well as effectiveness.
It strikes, to a degree, at the redundancy we have always enjoyed in developing
military capability. Military redundancy is not always efficient, but can
be effective, since in the peculiar environment of war, business models
From the perspective of Defense transformation, reciprocal logistics interdependence
in joint military operations will require that the services cultivate trust
and reliability as critical values. Conventional service-oriented logistics,
by U.S. Code Title 10, seems to undermine the prospects of organizing jointly
to take advantages of true reciprocal interdependence. To leverage the
efficiencies of reciprocal logistics interdependence, our legislators must
consider changing the Title 10 restrictions that inhibit it. As the U.S.
military moves increasingly
toward purer joint operations, it must find new ways to educate and develop
service and joint logisticians who can facilitate the nuanced intricacies
and mutually beneficial forms of interdependence.
Colonel Christopher R.
Paparone is the Deputy Director of Logistics and Engineering at the U.S.
Joint Forces Command. He received a B.A. degree from the University of
South Florida; master’s
degrees from Florida Institute of Technology, the Naval War College, and
the Army War College;
and a Ph.D., from Pennsylvania State University. He can be contacted at