Continuing to regard logistics as the secondary “tail” to warfighter doctrine, training and armament will have unacceptable consequences in the 21st century battlespace resulting in decreased ability to achieve national security objectives and cost (DSB, 1998a).
The mission of the U.S. Army is “to fight and win our nation’s wars by providing prompt, sustained land dominance across the full range of military operations and spectrum of conflict in support of combatant commanders.”1 Accomplishing this mission rests on the ability of the Army to move its forces to the battle and sustain them while they are engaged. This is Army logistics.
At the end of the Second World War, the director of the Service, Supply, and Procurement Division of the War Department General Staff, after conducting logistics operations in that war, reported, “Wars cannot be won without logistics superiority.…Military effectiveness must govern, but logistics supportability is the first prerequisite” (CMH, 1993, p. 252). The director’s words echoed those of military commanders as far back as Alexander the Great and leaders who followed Alexander in the execution of warfare up through the present.
Typically, as wars end and the size of the armed forces is reduced, great emphasis is placed on increasing the tooth to tail ratio—that is, the number of personnel and resources involved in direct combat operations relative to that of those carrying out support functions. This is done under the assumption that improvements in technology can reduce the amount of support required and that logistics missions can be shifted from the active Army to reserve components or contractor organizations and called on to respond when they are needed. The post-Second World War report cited above pointed out, however, that “the logistic organization with which we will fight must be in being and capable of immediate expansion” (CMH, 1993, p. 252).
Technology has enabled military forces to become far more effective and lethal than ever, but these improvements have come at a cost. The price paid for this increased effectiveness and lethality is that much of the equipment is heavier and more complex than its predecessors and requires more support than the systems they replace. The pace of battle has dramatically accelerated and deployment times for the engaged forces have been reduced. The U.S. military must be prepared to fight anywhere on the globe and, in an era of coalition warfare, to frequently logistically support its allies. While aircraft can move large amounts of supplies, the vast majority must be carried on ocean-going vessels and unloaded at ports that may be at a great distance from the battlefield. As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown, the costs of convoying vast quantities of supplies is tallied not only in economic terms but also in terms of lives lost in the movement of the materiel.
There is also a significant history of soldier distrust in the logistics system. This manifests in the placing of multiple orders for the same item to ensure it is received, over-ordering of supplies to make sure something is on hand if needed, and the accumulation of “iron mountains” prior to the commencement of operations. Whether at the field Army level or the squad level, battlefield commanders do not want to commit forces unless they are convinced the resources required are available at the start of the battle and that they will be resupplied as needed during the course of the engagement. There must be absolute trust in the logistics system. Supplies and support must be there when they are needed.
The 1990-1991 war in the Middle East (Operation Desert Storm) was conducted within a limited time and under circumstances that permitted the U.S. forces to build up their logistics base prior commencing operations against the enemy. The air portion of the war lasted for 5 weeks and the ground portion for 100 hours. Upon the conclusion of the operation, U.S. forces returned to their stations in Europe, the United States, and other locations, and much of the materiel taken to the theater was retrograded the United States or Europe. The entire operation was essentially completed in 10 months. Because logistics facilities were relatively close to the battlefield, and friendly forces controlled the areas around supply routes, the logistics challenge, while difficult, was effectively managed.
U.S. support of peacekeeping operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina required the deployment of U.S. forces from Europe and the United States and initially logistics support by military elements. As it became obvious that the forces would remain in position for an extended period, contractors were brought on board to replace the military logistics providers and to provide the basic logistics functions for the peacekeeping elements under a program known as the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program. Both the mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina and its Logistics Civil Augmentation Program support continue to this day.
Since 2001, the United States has been engaged in warfare in the Middle East and Southwest Asia that has shifted the operational focus from quickly winning a battle to initially defeating a hostile enemy and then restoring peace to two nations caught in the middle of sectarian and ethnic violence. The initial combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom were followed by over 7 years of small and large military operations that sought to bring peace to the diverse population of Iraq. The longer U.S. forces remained in the country, the larger the logistics footprint became as demands increased and expeditionary base camps were expanded to approach the size of installations in the United States. Accordingly, logistics resupply convoys became targets for the enemy. Although in the early days of operations in Afghanistan the logistics footprint was relatively small, when troop levels were increased beginning in 2009, the logistics situation in Afghanistan began to parallel the situation that had developed in Iraq. Unfortunately, because of the distances involved in the ever-changing relationship with Pakistan, ground supply lines were and remain very hazardous. It became apparent that the greater the amount of materiel that had to be delivered to the front, the more people would be wounded or killed doing so. Reducing logistics demand became imperative as a way to save lives. During the operations in both countries, logistics was provided by a combination of military forces and support from contractors, with larger bases being operated by contractor elements. At one point there were 160,000 contractors providing logistics support in Iraq and Afghanistan (U.S. Army, 2007).
During Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and the numerous smaller combat and humanitarian military operations that have taken place in recent history, contractors have provided high-level technical logistical support for some weapons systems, replacing military elements that in the past would have provided the support. The nation’s reserve components have also been called up to provide essential support in selected mission areas.
With the end of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the nation has begun to define what its military posture will be in the future. According to the Department of Defense (DoD) 2014 Quadrennial Review, as the nation moves through the immediate future,
The U.S. Armed Forces will be capable of simultaneously defending the homeland; conducting sustained, distributed counterterrorist operations; and in multiple regions, deterring aggression and assuring allies through forward presence and engagement. If deterrence fails at any given time, U.S. forces will be capable of defeating a regional adversary in a large-scale multi-phased campaign, and denying the objectives of—or imposing unacceptable costs on—a second aggressor in another region. (DoD, 2014, p. VI)
The review also directs a rebalancing of U.S. forces to the Asia-Pacific region in order to preserve peace and regional stability. Such a rebalancing significantly increases the distances involved in deploying and sustaining Army forces that might be required to operate in that region, introducing significant challenges into the logistics picture.2
In carrying out its operations, the U.S. military must project and sustain military presence despite an increasingly capable adversary who will employ weapons or other technologies that can be used to deny access to, or freedom of action within, an operational area. Emerging trends in the operating environment and enemy adoption of anti-access and area-denial strategies pose challenges to ensuring access. This challenge has already been under consideration for a while. The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review stated that U.S. forces must be able to project power into regions with anti-access challenges in order to “deter, defend against, and defeat aggression by potentially hostile nation states” (DoD, 2010, p. 31). Anti-access refers to actions and capabilities, usually employed at long range, that are designed to prevent access to an operational area. Area denial refers to actions and capabilities, usually employed at shorter range, that are meant not to prevent access to an operational area, but rather to limit freedom of action within such an area. In the Joint Operational Access Concept, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff proposes a concept for how Joint forces will be employed to achieve operational access in the face of armed opposition (DoD, 2012a). This document defines operational access as “the ability to project military force into an operational area with sufficient freedom of action to accomplish the mission” (DoD, 2012a, p. i). The basic premise of the Joint Operational Access Concept is that Joint forces will leverage cross-domain synergy to provide freedom of action and a greater degree of integration, in particular at lower echelons, in order to exploit fleeting opportunities for disrupting the enemy (DoD, 2012a).3
This vision of future military posture and the challenges facing future military operations is being articulated and grappled with at a time of deep cuts in defense spending, with the Army being hit especially hard. As troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan, the Army is resetting its structure to deal with future missions and a probable significant reduction in force size. Yet, the Army must be prepared to engage in a wide range of future conflicts, ranging from contingency operations against proxy groups engaging in asymmetric warfare to a conflict against a peer state that possesses weapons of mass destruction and/or technologically advanced anti-access and area-denial capabilities. The new Army operational concept envisions conducting expeditionary operations by initially deploying multiple small
2 According to the Defense Strategic Guidance 2012, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, “U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities” (DoD, 2012b). The U.S. military will continue contributions to rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region to preserve peace and stability, which will include maintaining a robust footprint in Northeast Asia, enhancing a presence in Southeast Asia, investing in long-term strategic partnership, and expanding coordination with emerging partners throughout the region.
3 Cross-domain synergy is defined as “the complementary vice merely additive employment of capabilities across domains in time and space” (JCS, 2012, p. 7).
Army combat units to dispersed locations and having them conduct interdependent operations to facilitate the arrival of follow-on forces. The Army must also be in a position to support Special Operations Forces (SOF) operating in the same areas as Army forces, to function in an environment of increasingly Joint operations with its sister Services, and to operate effectively with international coalition partners. Moreover, the Army must be prepared to support this broad range of possibilities logistically. In an effort to ensure that the Army is able to provide the combat forces that will be required, the size of the logistics force is under scrutiny at the same time as the demand for highly responsive logistics support is increasing.
This study is focused in on determining what emerging technologies and operational capabilities might enable the U.S. Army, operating as part of a multiservice or coalition armed force and tasked to provide support to others, to reduce its logistics demands and logistics force structure.
Military logistics is a well-studied subject. After each conflict, after-action reports are developed, submitted to the appropriate authorities, and considered in actions that are planned, and sometimes carried out, to restructure forces to deal with future conflicts. The post-Second World War review of logistics identified actions that needed to be taken to improve the efficiency of the logistics effort. Some of these actions were accomplished. Many were not and had to be resurrected at the start of the Korean War. Lessons from the Korean War provided the basis for initial logistics operations during the Vietnam War, but because of the length of the Vietnam War, combat logistic s were replaced by base-focused logistics structures and sustainment demands that reflected a standard of living that soldiers would expect on and around bases outside the theater of operations. By the end of the war in Vietnam, a significant part of the effort involved operations and security of the bases that had been established. Many lessons were later learned in Desert Storm and the buildup to it, Desert Shield, and transmitted to those who were structuring the Army of the future. A constant emphasis in all of the logistics reports resulting from these experiences was the need for increased efficiency, asset visibility, and demand reduction—that is, reducing the weight and volume of supplies needed within the theater.
In 1997, the Department of the Army asked the National Research Council (NRC) to conduct a multidisciplinary study of long-term Army science and technology investments that would have the greatest impact on reducing the logistics burden for the future Army, known at that time as the “Army After Next” (NRC, 1999). In its 1999 report, the NRC study committee determined that the logistics burdens of fuel and ammunition would overshadow all other logistics demands and recommended that effort be focused on
Reducing fuel demand; increasing fuel energy density; improving energy systems and energy management; reducing the weight of vehicles and ammunition; reducing the number of rounds per target; increasing system reliability; lightening soldier systems and increasing soldier effectiveness; and optimizing system designs. (NRC, 1999, p. 2)
The report also recommended that the Army should
Develop the necessary modeling and simulation tools for conducting logistics trade-off analyses at all levels of design, from small-scale components to fully integrated systems. (NRC, 1999, p. 13)
The committee found that
Reliability considerations (including reliability, availability, maintainability, and durability) have been routinely sacrificed for other performance characteristics and that to reduce logistics demand reliability must be treated on an equal basis with lethality, survivability, and mobility in the design process. (NRC, 1999, p. 161)
While the 1999 NRC committee was conducting its review, the Defense Science Board conducted a summer study of logistics and services and reported that
Transformation of the military logistics system is not deterred by knowledge of what to do, not primarily a structural issue, nor is it limited by lack of people, technology or resources. Instead, the most significant barrier to logistics change to meet 21st century needs is the lack of an overall business and information systems architecture focal point—a “champion” in the Arthurian sense. (DSB, 1998b)
The Committee on Force Multiplying Technologies for Logistics Support to Military Operations was formed in November 2013. The committee was tasked with conducting a multidisciplinary study to explore capabilities and technologies that can be used to perform distributed operations and meet sustainment requirements in the Army through 2020 and beyond in support of the Joint Force Commander. It was also to describe systems and operational concepts that will reduce the need for logistics support by exploring technologies that reduce or eliminate the challenges of storing, transporting, maintaining, distributing, or returning sustainment and transforming or reducing waste in forward areas or in mature base camps. The committee was asked to
• Explore options that could enable support to units operating in a global, complex environment in response to emerging anti-access and area-denial security challenges with a focus on the Asia and Pacific as well as support to dispersed special operations units.
• Describe technology and advanced systems solutions that: reduce drivers for logistics requirements, particularly power and energy, maintenance, fuel and water by fundamentally changing the demand characteristics of the force and increasing capabilities that will allow demand to be satisfied at the point of need; improve intra-theater mobility and distribution; improve near real time visibility of logistics information. Identify S&T initiatives to predict and resolve equipment faults and failures to reduce life cycle sustainment costs.
• Describe solutions to logistics challenges that contribute to the integration and execution of Army logistics capabilities that improve responsiveness, agility, flexibility, and precision within a Joint concept of employment, to include optimization of SOF and conventional force interdependence within the areas of strategy, policy and concepts.
• Recommend a logistics-centric R&D investment strategy that includes a framework, specific research objectives and a roadmap to achieve the previously-described objectives.
• Develop 2-3 illustrative examples to support and validate the concepts described in the committee’s report; the examples shall provide an operationally-focused assessment of the military value provided through solutions addressed in the concepts.
See Appendix C for the statement of task and the sponsor-provided context that guided the committee’s approach to this study.
The committee began its activity on November 12, 2013, when it met at the Pentagon with the study sponsor, LTG Raymond V. Mason, Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G4/Logistics. During its first meeting, the committee had the opportunity to meet with G4 staff and representatives of Army and DoD agencies involved in logistics. The committee held two additional data-gathering meetings, which
included sessions in Washington, D.C.; Aberdeen, Maryland; Fort Lee, Virginia; and Fort Belvoir, Virginia, as well as several teleconferences with experts afield. A fourth meeting was held in Irvine, California, to deliberate and conduct report drafting activities. A fifth and final meeting was held in May 2014 in Washington, D.C., to continue the writing of the report.
During the conduct of the study the committee met with representatives of the Department of the Army and other defense agencies. Members of the committee also contacted individuals and agencies doing research in their fields of interest. A complete list of individuals and organizations contacted is found in Appendix A. Following is a list of the organizations contacted by the committee.
- 404th Army Field Support Brigade
- Army Enterprise Systems Integration Program
- Army Materiel Command
- Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology
- Center for Army Analysis
- Combined Arms Support Command
- Construction Engineering Research Lab, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center
- G-4 staff
- Program Executive Office Ammunition
- Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems
- Rapid Equipping Force
- U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center
- U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center
- U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command
- U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center
- U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center
- U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center
- U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff G-3-5-7
- U.S. Army Logistics Innovation Agency
- U.S. Army Logistics University
- U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence
- U.S. Army Materiel Command
- U.S. Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity
- U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center
- U.S. Army Pacific Command
- U.S. Army Public Health Command
- U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command
- U.S. Army Reserve Command
- U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command
- U.S. Army Sustainment Command
- U.S. Army Sustainment Center of Excellence (Watercraft)
- U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center
- U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Analysis Center – Fort Lee
- U.S. Army Transportation School
Other DoD organizations:
- Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs
- Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Tactical Technology Office
- Defense Logistics Agency
- Joint Munitions Command
- Joint Munitions and Lethality Life Cycle Command
- National Defense University
- Naval Postgraduate School
- U.S. Marine Corps
- U.S. Special Operations Command
- U.S. Transportation Command
- Advanced Turbine Engine Company, LLC
- Coca Cola
- Draper Labs
- DynCorp International, LLC
- Fluor Corporation
- Liedos, Inc.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- North Carolina State University
- Quantum Research International
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
- SAS Federal
The study effort was guided by the parameters of the tasks defined by the study sponsor. In this regard, the committee focused its efforts on identifying both technology approaches that would assist in reducing battlefield logistics demands and organizational and operational process improvements whose implementation would improve the efficiency and effectiveness of logistics.
In carrying out the study, the committee did not emphasize logistics issues dealing with the individual soldier because the 2013 NRC report Making the Soldier Decisive on Future Battlefields (NRC, 2013) had already addressed the individual soldier in depth, nor did the committee review the logistics organization of the DoD and its combatant commands level unless they directly affected Army logistics activities. Moreover, several recent Defense Science Board studies have examined logistics issues at the higher levels. This study focuses on those areas where the committee believes the most progress can be made and only briefly touches on activities that were seen to have marginal potential. While the committee gathered a large amount of information, the report does not discuss all of the programs and initiatives the committee learned about. Rather, it focuses on how the Army can proceed from the current baseline. The committee did not develop a logistics investment strategy as called for in the statement of task. The assumption was that the G-4 had a current strategy that could be used as a basis for the committee to develop one that would include potential new investments. Part way through data gathering the committee learned that such a strategy does not exist. The programs that impact logistics are spread across the Army in many programs, many of which are outside the purview of the G-4. For example, the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology) has a 30-year strategic research and development (R&D) plan that includes programs that will impact logistics, and would be an important part of developing a logistics R&D strategy. Developing a credible strategy will require careful coordination with other staff elements and Program Executive Offices that have
responsibility for programs that have impact logistics, and for significant analysis of these programs. The committee was not structured to carry out such an analysis and was not given access to information concerning potential force structuring and contingency scenarios or other data with the level of resolution required for such an analysis. To best assist the G-4 in developing a strategy, the committee focused on identifying areas of greatest payoff for the Army and in offering advice as to how such a strategy should be developed (a roadmap, in Tables S-2 and 9-1).
The report is organized into three basic parts. The first part, Chapter 2, provides background information on logistics operations; the interface between the Army, the SOF, and the other Services and Joint activities. The second part, Chapters 3-8, describes methods for reducing demand through potential technological and process improvements in logistics operations and support that would enable logistics activities to be more efficient and effective. The report concludes with Chapters 9-11, the third part. Chapter 9 offers a strategy that identifies investments that the committee believes should be made in programs that would improve logistics efficiency or reduce the demand for logistics. In Chapter 10 the committee discusses three scenarios that illustrate what might take place should the committee’s recommendations and approaches be accepted, and in Chapter 11 the committee summarizes its findings and recommendations. The committee’s general priorities are laid out in two places. The committee’s opinions on priorities for R&D investments are given in Tables S-2 and 9-1. The committee’s broader priorities are set out in the Key Findings and Recommendations, in the Summary and in Chapter 11.
CMH (U.S. Army Center of Military History). 1993. Logistics in World War II Final Report of the Army Service Forces. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History.
DoD (Department of Defense). 2010. Quadrennial Defense Review 2010. Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense.
DoD. 2012a. Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC). Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense.
DoD. 2012b. Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense. Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense.
DoD. 2014. Quadrennial Defense Review 2014. Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense.
DSB (Defense Science Board). 1998a. DoD Logistics Transformation, Volume II, Panel Reports. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense or Acquisition and Technology.
DSB. 1998b. DoD Logistics Transformation, Volume I, Final Report. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense or Acquisition & Technology.
JCS (Joint Chiefs of Staff). 2012. Capstone Concepts for Joint Operations: Joint Force 2020. http://acc.dau.mil/adl/en-US/347752/file/48933/CCJO%20Joint%20Force%202020%2010%20Sept%2012.pdf.
NRC (National Research Council). 1999. Reducing the Logistics Burden for the Army After Next: Doing More with Less. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
NRC. 2013. Making the Soldier Decisive on Future Battlefields. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.
U.S. Army. 2007. Urgent Reform Required: Army Expeditionary Contracting. Report of the Commission on Army Acquisition and Program Management in Expeditionary Operations. 2007. http://www.army.mil/docs/Gansler_Commission_Report_Final_071031.pdf.