Field Manual 100-5, Operations, defines logistics as "the process of planning and executing the sustainment of forces in support of military operations." Planning the logistics support of a major military operation involves the application of leadership, experience, and known logistics requirements. The logistician needs a clear understanding of the mission and the commander's intent. He must have a complete grasp of the tactical situation in order to anticipate requirements, integrate logistics concepts and operations, be responsive to the commander, provide continuous support, and improvise as required.
To provide the force with adequate resources and capabilities to accomplish the mission, a logistician needs a variety of tools in his operation planning tool box.
One such tool we want to explore with you in this
article is object-oriented programming (OOP) using a shell called
KAPPA PC, which operates on a desktop computer. The OOP language
enabled operations research analysts at the Army Logistics Management
College, Fort Lee, Virginia, to develop an expert system that
interacts with a logistics data base called Operations Logistics
Planner 1997 (OPLOGPLN-97).
Using an Automated Data Base
Timely information is key to planning a successful logistics operation. At any level of the operation (tactical, operational, or strategic), the logistician needs accurate information to meet the soldiers' needs as well as those of the mission. There is a vast amount of logistics planning information available from many sources, such as field manuals, technical manuals, and technical bulletins. However, it would be time consuming and inefficient to rely on those resources for accurate logistics planning information. Automation is the most efficient way to explore all of the possible courses of action in logistics planning. Automated data bases help organize information; still, it can take hours or days to sort through the information.
OPLOGPLN-97 is one such logistics data base. This
data base was designed to help logistics planners calculate supply-usage
estimates to support operations. It is used in several logistics
agencies and schools to help determine logistics requirements.
OPLOGPLN-97 is maintained by the Army Combined Arms Support Command
(CASCOM), Fort Lee, Virginia. It contains all published tables
of organization and equipment for company, battalion, and selected
higher echelon units. OPLOGPLN-97 contains information on 1,683
units and 1,276 line item numbers and is updated on a regular
basis. New users can obtain a complete 2-disk set by sending an
e-mail request to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the
CASCOM Force Development Division, Directorate of Combat Developments
for Combat Service Support, at (804) 765-0982 or DSN 539-0982.
How an Expert System Can Help
The purpose of an expert system is two-fold. First, it provides the user with a friendly interface in which a logistician can enter his requirements. Second, it organizes the needs of the logistician, queries the data base (in this case, OPLOGPLN-97), and provides an output on logistics requirements that is tailored according to the user input. KAPPA PC provides both services to the user and requires little maintenance to accommodate upgrades to the system.
We selected KAPPA PC as our expert system shell because of its versatility and its ability to interface with Dbase IV, a widely used data base program that stores, organizes, and sorts through large amounts of data. The marriage of expert and logistics systems enhances the purpose and role of logistics in the Army.
KAPPA PC allows planners to look at a variety of potential logistics planning configurations in a shorter period of time than required for traditional data base searches. The planning time is shorter because the user can address various logistics questions on different computer screens. We built these screens to address the many different scenarios supported by the data in OPLOGPLN-97. Since the expert system interfaces with the data base, the expert system is working with only the portion of the data base identified by the user through the input. The expert system, depending on the speed of the computer, accesses the data base as the user moves between screens and provides the data requested by the user from the data base.
We believe the KAPPA PC system enhances logistics planning by allowing the logistician to use the computer to look at and analyze more constraints. The object-oriented model of the logistics system, which we call the "U.S. Army Logistics Planner-Transportation," includes the design, development, acquisition, storage, movement, equipping, distribution, and evacuation functions of supply, field services, maintenance, health service support, personnel, and facilities.
At the tactical level, logistics focuses on the traditional combat service support (CSS) functions of arming, fueling, fixing, manning, moving, and sustaining the soldier and his equipment. All force projection operations require comprehensive logistics support from initial planning at the strategic level to effective support for the soldier in the foxhole. OOP enables a soldier to perform the CSS functions of logistics quickly and accurately. It also provides low-level maintenance of the program to ensure that current logistics concepts are incorporated into the model for the soldier.
Characteristics of the area of operations, weather, enemy strength, and enemy disposition also play a key role in planning logistics operations. The object-oriented logistics planning model provides logistics requirements to the user in an easy-to-use graphical interface. At the same time, the logistician can retrieve information for "what if" drills and for answering command questions.
The object-oriented logistics model aids the logistician by reading the information from the OPLOGPLN-97 and guiding him through a series of screens that address the logistics requirements of the soldier and the mission. The model provides only pertinent information that the logistician needs to create quick and accurate estimates to support possible courses of action.
Using the model, the logistician can analyze each course of action and outline specific details on how it impacts the sufficiency of area, maintenance, supply, and transportation and the overall logistics estimate for each. The model's capability to provide the logistician with the advantages and disadvantages of supporting each course of action and methods to overcome deficiencies is what makes the "U.S. Army Logistics Planner-Transportation" object-oriented model so important. The program is nearly complete and will be expanded with full functionality as more agencies and schools accept the model.
For more information about object-oriented programming
and the U.S. Army Logistics Planner-Transportation, call Dr. Bob
Simmonds at (804) 765-4607 or DSN 539-4607, or send e-mail to
Dr. Robert M. Simmonds is an associate professor
of operations research and systems analysis in the School of Acquisition
and Management at the Army Logistics Management College. His current
research efforts focus on object-oriented programming and data
base design. He received his doctor of education degree from the
College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Captain Garry W. McClendon is the Project Leader, Simulation of Logistics Systems, Directorate of Combat Developments for Combat Service Support, Army Combined Arms Support Command, Fort Lee, Virginia. He currently is working on a simulation project using artificial intelligence technology called the simulation of logistics systems (SIMULOGS). Captain McClendon has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Missouri Southern State College.