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The Joint Logistics Analysis Tool

The Army is developing a tool to make detailed logistics forecasts for several classes of supply. The Joint Logistics Analysis Tool will predict sustainment requirements and help logistics planners make better informed decisions.

“We just got word from headquarters to prepare for deployment for up to 1 year. We’ll be executing Operation Plan 1234. The time-phased force deployment data [TPFDD] is available from the Joint Operation Planning and Execution System [JOPES], but be advised that all units have not been selected yet. The G–3 is working on three courses of action (COAs) for a briefing to the commanding general in 48 hours. I need you to brief logistics supportability for those three COAs, and by the way, your briefing follows the G–3.”

The statement above could lead to many days (and all-nighters) of planning using spreadsheets and various independent applications to provide a credible briefing for the general. The task of developing a logistics supportability analysis has been half art and half science. Relying on years of field experience and an ocean of data, logisticians spend anywhere from a few days to several weeks determining whether or not a COA is supportable. To compensate for uncertainty, logisticians often send supplies in large quantities to an area of responsibility (AOR) as soon as an air or sea port of debarkation (APOD/SPOD) is established. Unfortunately, this practice creates “iron mountains” of excess supplies.

The Army has moved more than one iron mountain in the last century to further operational success. At one time, logistics requirements were measured in “days of supply” and were reported in the number of pounds of a particular commodity that would be used per day per Soldier. This was the most accurate process until recently. Now, with the proliferation of technology, we can sharpen our pencils and provide more precise forecasts.

The old proverb, “For want of a nail the shoe was lost,” is not lost on the logistics community. To be most useful to the planners who manage the supply chain, a forecast needs to produce a detailed list of requirements for all classes of supply. A logistics planner needs to answer these questions: What will be needed? Do I have enough on hand? When will it be needed?

The Joint Logistics Analysis Tool

Until the Joint Logistics Analysis Tool (JLAT) prototype was released for testing in June 2008, the Army did not have a comprehensive tool to make detailed logistics forecasts for several classes of supply. The original JLAT concept was developed using a Microsoft Access platform, but the large amount of data required to create a forecast quickly outpaced Access capabilities. The Army Materiel Command (AMC) G–3 employed the Software Engineering Center-
Belvoir (SEC–B) to manage the JLAT program. SEC–B expanded JLAT computer capabilities using an Oracle platform and stand-alone servers to sort gigabytes of data into useful reports.

The heart of JLAT is a robust data center that pulls historical data from the AMC Logistics Support Activity, equipment density data from program executive offices and project managers, usage data from the Operating and Support Management Information System, unit structure information from the Army Force Management Support Agency, and current national inventory positions from Total Asset Visibility (TAV).

JLAT is a classified, web-based, decision-support and forecasting tool that is capable of predicting Army sustainment requirements to the national stock number (NSN) level of detail. AMC is developing JLAT internally to support specific planning data requests during crisis action planning. JLAT will allow users to use force information, operating tempo (OPTEMPO) information, and logistics planning factors created specifically for JLAT to forecast logistics sustainment requirements to the NSN level of detail.

The planner at any level can define the force using a TPFDD from JOPES or build units and equipment lists for the forecast by standard requirements code (SRC), unit identification code (UIC), or unit type code. When planning begins, the planner may only know the types of units needed for the deployment. But as the plan matures, the planner can define some of the units by SRC and provide better equipment and personnel data for a forecast. Defining the force by UIC identifies specific, available units for deployment, equipment shortages, equipment compatibility with supporting and supported units, and modification table of organization and equipment personnel densities.

Forecasting Logistics Requirements With JLAT

JLAT focuses on Army operations and creates forecasts for classes I (subsistence), II (clothing and individual equipment), III (petroleum, oils, and lubricants), IV (construction and barrier materials), VI (personal demand items), VII (major end items), and IX (repair parts). Class V (ammunition) will be addressed in future iterations of JLAT.

For classes II and IX, planning factors in the Army Status of Resources and Training System (ASORTS) are based on past demand, equipment densities, and usage. These planning factors, when applied to unit equipment sets at OPTEMPO rates determined by the planner, generate forecasts that tell planners and item managers when to ship needed parts and how many to ship. This alleviates the burden on the strategic air fleet and allows a greater reliance on sealift assets to meet anticipated demands.

With greater confidence and reduced risk, deployed units can ship repair parts using a better mix of surface and airlift assets to reduce the iron mountain effect. Using JLAT reports, high-cost, lightweight items or high-technology items can be shipped by air throughout the deployment and low-cost, heavyweight items can be economically shipped by surface transportation. Planners will be able to make better informed supply chain management decisions using the wide variety of JLAT reports to prioritize requirements.

According to Niels Biamon, Deputy for Current Operations, G–3, at AMC headquarters—

The immediate benefits of JLAT are obvious: knowing how much of an item will be needed, when it will be needed, and whether we have enough to support an operation; but it’s the second and third order effects that will pay dividends during the deployment. By sending the sustainment stocks to the AOR only when needed, congestion at the PODs will be alleviated, improving supply throughput. The PODs become cross-docking stations or transportation nodes instead of storage areas resulting from the rapid and continued delivery of supplies. This should result in less logistical assets being required which will reduce our footprint in theater. It could also help us forecast repairable item retrograde and the expected throughput for forward repair facilities.

For all classes of supply except II and IX, planners create forecasts based on mission, personnel densities, and equipment densities. For example, before a deployment begins, the TPFDD will provide personnel densities and flow rates to determine the number of meals ready-to-eat and unitized group rations the Army will need to procure to support the operation as it matures. Personnel densities also shape the class VI stockage design. Estimates regarding things like the projected number of enemy prisoners of war, troop camp requirements, and supply storage facilities drive the class IV requirements at the macrolevel.

JLAT provides planners with default OPTEMPO values and planning factors to run forecasts immediately. But if planners, based on experience or direction from higher headquarters, want to change OPTEMPO values, they can make modifications before the scenario is forecasted. Forecasts for a particular operation plan may be based on several COAs. Within each scenario-driven COA, planners can alter the phases of the operation (such as mission staging, offense, defense, and stability operations), OPTEMPO, equipment densities in theater, units supporting the operation, and arrival dates.

Planners can use more than one way to get the job done. A planner can generate multiple COAs and run them overnight to leave more time for analyzing the results. Planners can also look at forecasts by specific NSNs or by types of supply items (like engines or tires) to help prioritize their distribution in the AOR.

Why Is JLAT important?

The benefit of JLAT is the ability to use the forecasts to determine how much of a particular NSN a unit needs for its deployment and whether or not sufficient stocks are on hand to support the deployment. JLAT alerts item managers at AMC’s life cycle management commands to potential shortages so they can ramp up their acquisition cycle to ensure their supply will meet or exceed demand from the field. Logistics planners at the combatant command and service component levels will also benefit from the ability to see the forecasted distribution of secondary items throughout the deployment period. This will allow them to determine the most cost-effective and prudent methods of transportation for sustainment supplies and to prioritize limited resources.

For example, if JLAT forecasts a need for 100 of a specific item to be distributed to the force during a 219-day deployment, the service component, item manager, or U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) manager can make decisions regarding the most effective use of strategic lift assets. In this case, the plan may dictate that an APOD will be secure for deliveries within 5 days and an SPOD will receive deliveries within 30 days. So delivering high-priority parts by air for the first 30 days and by sea thereafter will facilitate distribution to the AOR. Logisticians can make plans to load ships based on the forecast so they can move the iron mountain one rock at a time instead of all at once.

JLAT is not an execution system. It does not order sustainment supplies for a deploying unit; that is still the responsibility of a logistician. JLAT tells the logistician what is needed, when it is needed, and if there is enough on hand at the time of the forecast to complete the deployment. Logisticians, being typically resourceful in their day-to-day business, can use the forecast output to develop operational policies and sustainment plans that compensate for projected demands and shortages. Factors like secondary item cost and reparability can be gleaned from the stockage or cost reports. Low-density, low-demand, highly critical secondary items can also be identified so that success is not hampered “for want of a nail.”

The Future of JLAT
JLAT 1.0 is a prototype. Its utility and accuracy will continue to improve through extensive user cooperation and testing. AMC’s life cycle management commands will be among the first to evaluate JLAT’s functionality, accuracy, and user-friendliness. In addition to adjustments made based on user testing and feedback, JLAT 2.0 will—

  • Improve user interface and functionality.
  • Include remaining ASORTS and high-priority non-ASORTS systems in the class IX forecast.
  • Develop frequent feeds from enterprise databases to update JLAT federated database tables.
  • Integrate JLAT output into TRANSCOM’s distribution planning models.
  • Expand JLAT’s forecasting ability to include all supply items except class VIII (medical materiel) items.
  • Create report templates that provide planners with the information they see as most critical.

In the future, JLAT will be tested by using a forecast and comparing that forecast to actual sustainment data for comparison and analysis. Many factors affect the actual outcome of an operation, but JLAT contributes more science to the art of sustainment planning. Even a less detailed forecast will provide a good starting point because of the level of detail JLAT offers.

Provide a detailed brief to the commanding general in 48 hours on the sustainment plan for three COAs? With JLAT, it will take little effort to quickly produce three or more forecasts for all classes of supply. JLAT 2.0 is in development with a release date goal of June 2010. The Army, as the executive agent for land-based logistics in the AOR, is leading the way for JLAT. With the adaptive planning and execution process as the paradigm for deliberate and crisis action planning, JLAT gives the planner the ability to develop multiple baseline COAs, assess their supportability, and make changes as the plan matures—all without having to burden a staff with days of data gathering and analysis. Bringing in the requirements from sister services is the next step to ensuring that resources are properly planned for, prioritized, and budgeted.

Peter J. Cloutier works in the Software Engineering Center of the Army Communications and Electronics Command Life Cycle Management Command. He has an M.S. degree in information systems from George Mason University and is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic and Advanced Courses and the Combined Arms and Services Staff School.

Brian K. Frank is a retired Army ordnance officer and is currently employed by Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. He is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Advanced Course, the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, and the Army Command and General Staff College.