by Lieutenant Colonel Gary R. Engel
In his book, Supplying War: Logistics From Wallenstein to Patton, Martin Van Creveld defines logistics as "the practical art of moving armies and keeping them supplied." Joint and combined operational concepts go even further in defining logistics to include support not only for armies but also for the other components of our military force, including those of our coalition or allied partners.
Focused logistics support operations continue to play a vital role in delivering combat power in any military operation. In the introduction to Joint Publication 4-0, Doctrine for Logistics Support of Joint Operations, General John M. Shalikashvili, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, comments, "Logistics is the foundation of our combat power. We must, therefore, continue to develop and refine joint doctrine that promotes the most efficient, effective use of all available assets. Adherence to that doctrine is the key to our success."
Joint Vision 2010 established focused logistics as a crucial element of our joint doctrine. Focused joint logistics operations require support systems that are efficient and effective and embody the five logistics characteristics contained in Field Manual 100-5, Operations: anticipation, integration, continuity, responsiveness, and improvisation. The Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and one of its major subordinate commands, the Army Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM), are developing an Army-specific theater support command structure that will provide common-user, theater-level, modular logistics support to joint and combined forces. Current operational logistics doctrine, including the concept under development by CASCOM, is based on legal requirements that demand that each Service component train and supply its own forces. In my opinion, the current and proposed changes do not achieve a joint and combined focused logistics support system that will be both effective and efficient in supporting present and future military forces. CASCOM's current efforts to develop a system that manages joint theater distribution confirm my belief. The logistics system that supports our forces on future battlefields must be a seamless organization that provides state-of-the art support with joint efficiency and maximum effectiveness.
While efforts by agencies such as CASCOM and other Department of Defense logistics organizations are steps toward improved theater-level support, I believe future logistics operations in any theater must be both combined and joint. Stovepipe support systems in the individual Services will not support focused logistics. We must develop an operationally joint and combined, centrally orchestrated logistics "system of support systems" for the future.
Throughout history, logistics support has been provided to commanders at the operational level of war, usually on an ad hoc basis. Technological and operational innovations have been related to advances in logistics support capabilities. It is imperative to understand that the adversary who fully integrates technology, operational innovation, and logistics support often achieves an advantage in relative combat power over his foe. History has proven that the more an organization can fight or execute its mission as it has trained, the higher will be the probability of its success.
All current and proposed U.S. military logistics doctrine is based on Title 10 of the United States Code, which requires each Service component to train and supply its own forces. Under these legal constraints, operational commanders depend on various Service components to provide the quantity and types of forces needed to accomplish the assigned mission. Compounding this problem in the operational theater is the fact that each Service, as well as each allied and coalition member, establishes individual logistics organizations to provide support to its forces.
Current and proposed doctrine builds on the concept of centralized planning and decentralized execution within all U.S. military operations. These concepts are based on the principle that performing a task should be left to the individuals who are in the best position to achieve the optimal solutions for mission requirements. Current and future logistics doctrine advocates modularity and split-based operations grounded on these fundamentals of centralized planning and decentralized execution.
The doctrinal concepts being developed by CASCOM focus on an Army-specific organization that provides common-user logistics support to Army, joint, combined, and allied forces in the theater of operations. It will be structured to incorporate available host nation support assets. This organization will report to the Army service component commander and will focus on eliminating logistics fragmentation within the Army service component. By incorporating the theater army-level personnel support command, transportation command, engineer command, finance command, medical command, and theater army support command into one large, streamlined support organization, fragmentation within the Army service component can be reduced.
Doctrinal Weaknesses and Vulnerabilities
Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm clearly demonstrated the need to revise our existing theater-level logistics doctrine and infrastructure. Lieutenant General William G. Pagonis commented that, during the early phases of Desert Shield, "Logisticians had to compete for space on incoming planes to get experts in theater and create a structure for a deployment that was already well underway." It became apparent during the Gulf War that changes in tactics, strategy, and technology were dictating a corresponding modernization of logistics operations. Because of changes in technology and the nature of modern warfare, the operational commander in Southwest Asia was forced to establish the 22d Support Command (Provisional), an ad hoc organization that was tasked with ensuring adequate logistics support.
Numerous weaknesses and vulnerabilities are forcing pending changes, many of which are interrelated. All of these weaknesses can be linked back to most, if not all, of the five logistics characteristics that must be addressed to support our forces successfully. For example, by improving our ability to anticipate during planning, we can reduce our need to improvise. We must look at these characteristics not only in the context of today's force, but also of our military force of the future. Changes will occur while we continue to focus on the guidance in Joint Vision 2010 and as we come to understand that nearly all of our future operations will be combined operations. Areas that will require change in a combined operation include priority of support, total asset visibility, movement control, management of resources, and command and control.
Priority of support in the theater. As an operational logistician attending a tactical or operational briefing, I immediately wonder, "Who receives the priority of support, especially if the operation is being conducted in a constrained resource environment?" Under our current and proposed theater-level logistics support doctrine, priority of support becomes extremely unclear at the joint and combined levels. Therefore, each Service-specific logistician strives to maximize support to his individual customer while, in many cases, competing with another organization for the same resources. This factor is especially crucial when addressing the limited availability of transportation assets for force deployment.
Total asset visibility. The theater logistics structure must include the capability to redirect or cross-level critical items of supply from one organization to another. For maximum efficiency, the senior operational logistics commander must have total asset visibility and control of all available resources and supplies. Our existing and proposed logistics systems do not provide a logistics commander with total asset visibility or with the authority he needs to accomplish this cross-leveling task. As examples, during the war with Iraq, over 41,000 containers of supplies were delivered to the theater of operations, and approximately 28,000 of them had to be opened just to determine what they contained. Additionally, if the Marine Corps in the theater was short of Ml tank ammunition, it was the joint theater logistician who had to try to cross-level supplies from an Army organization if possible.
Movement control. Under current doctrine, the Army-specific theater movement control agency (TMCA) is tasked with managing and controlling the transportation networks in the theater. This certainly sounds good, but is this mission beyond what we should realistically expect of the commander? It is logical to assume that, outside the United States, the available transportation networks are controlled by the host nation, such as Korea. Obviously, the TMCA coordinates use of those networks, but this process may occur while the Air Force, Marine Corps, or other coalition members are attempting to use the same networks. Because no single Service can allocate transportation assets, deconflict movement access, or prioritize requirements for other Services, a joint theater movement control organization is required. Clearly, this organization must function in a joint and combined environment.
Management of scarce resources. Current and proposed doctrine does not provide for one joint manager, commander, or organizational structure to manage closely common, critical items of supply that may exist in limited quantities. Also, other critical items of support, such as limited transportation assets or medical facilities, must be managed efficiently. The theater commander must have an individual commander or organization that he can hold responsible for managing all commodities and support in his theater. Under current doctrine, the multiple logistics organizations that reside in a theater of operations do not allow for prudent management and control of limited resources. Economy-of-force operations can be affected seriously by the inability to manage scarce resources properly in a constrained environment.
Command and control. Simple, clearly defined unity of command and control is a crucial advantage to any organization, and logistics organizations are no exception. Doctrinally, command and control of U.S., allied, and coalition partners are fragmented and disjointed. Obviously, multiple operational logistics command and control organizations detract from effectively achieving unity of effort.
Service and Agency Competition
Many would argue that competition among the Services is simply a reflection of an integral, healthy part of American society. Currently, joint operations create highly competitive situations for logistics resources, especially during economy-of-force operations. Although competition is healthy at certain times and in certain places, it is not healthy as a part of the command and control structure in a theater of operations during war. At such times, there are already high levels of confusion and stress. During conflict, the military must forego interservice rivalries so it can function as a joint team that is capable of conducting combined operations. Additionally, supporting agencies both within and outside of the military, such as the Military Sealift Command, the Military Traffic Management Command, the Defense Logistics Agency, civilian contractors, and numerous other critical agencies, must be integrated fully to maximize support for the combat force.
Unity of Effort
An operational logistics structure that fails to achieve unity of command and maintains stovepipe organizations will detract from unity of effort. As Lieutenant General Leon E. Salomon said in his "Open Letter on a Unified Logistics Command" (Army Logistician, September-October 1995), "Stovepipes, with their single functional focus, create unnecessary layers that are often more procedure oriented than consumer oriented." Further, this type of operational environment often causes duplication of effort and wastes limited resources.
As an example, during Operation Desert Storm, each of the Service combat commanders procured enough antitank ammunition or bombs to destroy the entire Iraqi tank forces with their own combat forces. If analyzed from each Service's perspective, this procurement appears to demonstrate effective planning. However, realistic assessments conducted after the conflict indicated that there was entirely too much ammunition delivered to the theater. Obviously, the waste of limited transportation resources and funds caused by this oversupply of ammunition would have been further exacerbated in an economy-of-force situation. Did this waste delay the initiation of the Gulf War? Can we continue to afford this type of waste in the future? Unity of effort achieved through unity of command can eliminate or greatly reduce this problem for future military forces.
Needed: A Joint Theater Support Command
Guidance contained in Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Publication 3-0, on the future direction of an organization, states, "Logistics, then, is key to arranging the operations of campaigns and should be planned and executed as a joint responsibility." JCS guidance also emphasizes that we must maintain the capability to operate in a combined environment. The JCS Concept for Future Joint Operations: Expanding Joint Vision 2010 (May 1997) further states that "logistics functions will transition from rigid, vertical organizations of the past to integrated, modular, and specifically tailored combat service support packages." Obviously, the primary focus of the logistics community should be maximizing effectiveness and efficiency while providing all required support to the operational combatant commander in the joint and combined environment of the future battlefield.
Based on the above JCS guidance and the focus of logistics support operations, I believe that we must develop a single, theater-level, operational logistics command and control organization that is both joint and combined in nature. This organization would report directly to the commander in chief of the theater. Further, this joint theater support command (JTSC) would be responsible and accountable for all required logistics support provided by U.S. forces in the theater. The structure would be modular in design and would permit operations at any level of conflict through centralized planning and decentralized execution. Modularity also would enable split-based operations, as well as the incorporation of reserve component follow-on forces in a streamlined, tailored organization. The JTSC would focus on improving the five characteristics for logistics support to the theater commander (anticipation, integration, continuity, responsiveness, and improvisation), and would serve as an enabler and a combat force multiplier in the delivery of combat power to any conflict or operation. Its simplified command structure and modular logistics support organization would enhance efforts to support both U.S. and allied combat forces.
Advantages of Streamlining
There are countless advantages to streamlining our logistics support structure and systems. The simplified command and modular structure of the JTSC is flexible by design, which allows for joint logistics operations that are focused, efficient, and effective. A senior logistician at the Naval War College recently stated, "Joint theater logistics commands provide the best alternative for effectively supporting the war fighter and bringing efficiencies in reduced organizational structures and required assets." Incorporating the five logistics characteristics improves the capability of the JTSC support forces because of the resulting unity of command and effort. Logistics support priorities, total asset visibility, theater movement control, and management of critical resources are simplified through a centralized, joint, and combined theater command and control structure that incorporates decentralized execution. Healthy competition can continue to exist among the logistics organizations of individual Services, but the JTSC can resolve issues quickly in the theater based on guidance received from the warfighting commander.
Disadvantages of Streamlining
There are several disadvantages that must be addressed when revising operational logistics doctrine for logistics support structure and systems. A theater-level logistics support structure can evolve into a rather large, although modular, organization, thereby creating problems, such as a large battlefield signature and difficulties in command and control. It also may not be possible to establish a single combined command with foreign allied or coalition forces in a multinational force environment for political, economic, or military reasons. Politically sensitive issues must be addressed in a modification of Title 10 of the United States Code before the doctrinal changes I propose can be accomplished. The individual Service components also may feel threatened in the current environment of constrained resources and force reductions. However, I believe that all of these challenges can be overcome by a truly joint and combined vision at all levels of our military command structure.
Focused joint and combined logistics is one of the four pillars of Joint Vision 2010, which demands that logistics support and systems "enable joint forces of the future to be more mobile, versatile, and projectable from anywhere in the world." Professor Milan Vego of the Naval War College recently observed that, "Logistics is a critical element of combat power that assumes even greater importance at the operational level." FM 100-5 states that, "Joint integration of logistics is crucial to unity of effort. The concept of joint logistics cannot be fully realized until accountability and acquisition procedures are completely integrated." After an in-depth study of combined operations conducted during the Cold War, Lieutenant General Joseph Heiser concluded, "Logistics procedures must be standardized and harmonized to provide flexibility between nations."
Clearly, several factors are fostering change to current logistics operational doctrine. The large, cumbersome forces of the Cold War are being replaced with smaller, more agile, and more lethal forces that require a modern logistics infrastructure that can provide efficient and effective support. The current and foreseeable resource environment will continue to be constrained, with all of our forces being required to do more with less. Technological advances of the Information Age are providing excellent opportunities for increasing productivity and efficiency. The possibilities for improving our operational logistics structure are limited only by our imagination.
A truly joint theater support command that can operate efficiently in a combined environment is critical to the battlefield success of our future military forces. We no longer can afford a fragmented and compartmentalized logistics support structure that duplicates effort and generates waste. Logistics doctrine for current, effectively functioning systems should be changed only by demand based on customer support requirements. Evolving military forces and our commitment to our citizens are demanding this change. In meeting this demand, a JTSC will provide a versatile and flexible organizational command and control structure that gives our tailored operational support forces the capability to execute any mission with outstanding results. ALOG
Lieutenant Colonel Gary R. Engel is a strategic analyst in the Office of Strategic Analysis, Office of the Chief, U.S. Army Reserve, in Atlanta, Georgia. He has a B.A. degree in history from the University of South Alabama and an M.A. degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College. He is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College and the Army Logistics Management College's Logistics Executive Development Course.