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Where Are We Going? The Future of Joint Logistics

Numerous reports from many organizations have discussed the inefficiency of the military
logistics system. In response to these reports, the Department of Defense (DOD) has
undertaken many initiatives to create a logistics system that is both more responsive and more effective in supporting a joint force commander. Creating such a system will become more important in the future since we can expect a decrease in DOD funding to 3.5 percent of the gross domestic product.1 A discussion among professional logisticians about these initiatives is needed in order to identify possible solutions.

I believe that achieving the goal of a joint logistics system requires the establishment of a new functional command. To accomplish this, the current supply system will have to be overhauled and service parochialism will have to be overcome. Some would say that this will violate Title 10 of the U.S. Code, which establishes the roles and missions of the Armed Forces. However, the new functional command would be paid for by each military service for the service (supply chain management) provided.

Confusion Over Defining Terms

After receiving a briefing on the draft Joint Supply Joint Integrating Concept from the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), I understand the requirement to create one supply process owner for DOD.2 This requirement is in line with the best business practices of the private sector and is the linchpin in creating a factory-to-foxhole supply chain.3

The executive summary of Joint Publication (JP) 4−0, Joint Logistics, states, “Supply chain management synchronizes the processes, resources, and efforts of key global providers to meet CCDR [combatant commander] requirements.”4 This appears to be in conflict with the September 2003 designation of the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) as the distribution process owner for DOD. On its website, TRANSCOM states that it is to serve “as the single entity to direct and supervise execution of the strategic distribution system” in order to “improve the overall efficiency and interoperability of distribution related activities—deployment, sustainment and redeployment support during peace and war.” The “sustainment” portion of this is at least a part of supply chain management.

This becomes very confusing when the definitions of distribution and supply chain management are put together. DOD defines distribution as the “operational process of synchronizing all elements of the logistic system to deliver the ‘right things’ to the ‘right place’ at the ‘right time’ to support the geographic combatant commander.”5 DOD defines supply chain management as “a cross-functional approach to procuring, producing, and delivering products and services to customers. The broad management scope includes sub-suppliers, suppliers, internal information, and funds flow.”6 Thus distribution and supply chain management both share the concept of delivering supplies to someone.

It appears that DOD is looking for a supply chain supported by a distribution system to sustain joint force commanders. For the purpose of this article, I will modify the DOD supply chain management definition as follows: Supply chain management is a cross-functional approach to procuring, producing, and delivering the right things to the right place at the right time to customers. The broad management scope includes subsuppliers, suppliers, internal information, and funds flow.7
This definition addresses the goal of trying to achieve the “perfect order.”8 It also deletes “delivering services” because that term implies tasks more associated with force structure than with delivering a commodity.

A Supply Process Owner: USLOGCOM

Defining the DOD supply system as a supply chain leads to the assumption that there should be one supply chain manager in order to conform to the best business practices. So, a four-star organization should be responsible for leading supply chain management. This joint organization should have a formal, approved structure with representatives from each service and not be a bureau or board of the Joint Staff. It should oversee all aspects of equipment and supplies, from development through disposal.

The establishment of a U.S. Logistics Command (USLOGCOM) is one approach to this organization. (See chart above.) This would be a functional command and part of the Unified Command Plan. USLOGCOM’s mission would be to control the business practices and life-cycle management of the services and to direct distribution of all supplies to the services and the combatant commanders. USLOGCOM would have two major components: TRANSCOM, which would be a sub-unified command, responsible for distribution as defined in JP 1−02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, and integrated life-cycle managers (ILMs), who would provide the supplies for TRANSCOM to deliver what is needed rather than what is on hand.

The ILMs could be organized into functional groups (ground, air, sea, and C4ISR [command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance]) rather than by component (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force) to gain efficiencies in management and oversight as well as provide a structure that would result in increased interoperability across the services. For instance, if all command and control and automated systems were developed in one organization, that organization could provide a common architecture and common components that would assist in networking and maintenance operations.

USLOGCOM would receive input from a service when that service had identified a materiel shortfall. The service would pass the requirements, whether new or existing, to USLOGCOM, which then would develop the materiel solution and provide the cost to the service. The service then would have to seek or provide funding in order to continue with the development and production of the equipment. If the materiel solution existed, the ILMs would identify the source of supply and provide it to the service for a fee. The ILMs would be required to manage the entire life-cycle of the equipment, including the procurement and management of repair parts. This would create a single interface between suppliers and customers.

As the single interface, the ILMs would be the supply chain managers for their commodities, analyzing demands from across DOD and then programming replenishment or replacement from suppliers. The ILMs would need the ability to shift DOD stocks as needed to meet requirements. This would require an accurate common operational picture (COP) so the ILMs could make accurate decisions on sourcing solutions. The COP would have to extend from the suppliers’ sources of supply down to the end users in order to anticipate requirements and shortfalls.

TRANSCOM would be responsible for delivering supplies through the supply chain to the services and supported commanders. Realistically, this responsibility would not extend to the “foxhole.” It is unrealistic to hold USLOGCOM and TRANSCOM responsible for delivering directly to the foxhole without giving them the capability to control the organic distribution of assets at all echelons. This is a topic that should be addressed separately, though it is realistic to expect the joint force commander to designate a location where the transfer of responsibility and accountability occurs as far forward as possible.

TRANSCOM and the supported commanders would be required to establish in-transit visibility all the way to the foxhole. This would enable USLOGCOM and the ILMs to “see” where supplies were located en route so they could make accurate decisions about where to direct shipments as priorities and requirements change. This would feed the ILMs’ COP.

Improving Logistics Infrastructure

DOD should continue to upgrade the logistics automation infrastructure. The upgrade of DLA national-level systems and the introduction of a joint, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force Global Combat Support System (GCSS) would benefit all logisticians at all levels. This would give the services and item managers the ability to maintain visibility of supplies more efficiently and effectively. While program manager briefings and websites discuss the projected capabilities of GCSS, one thing must happen in order to create a supply chain: All systems must be able to communicate and share data so the ILMs can have visibility from the factory to the foxhole.

For USLOGCOM to have the ability to direct the transfer of equipment and supplies among organizations and services, financial management systems must be integrated into GCSS. When a requisition is placed into the supply system, the best source of supply must be identified. For example, if an Air Force engineer unit operating in theater orders a part for a high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle, the item manager must be able to direct that a colocated Army, Marine Corps, or Navy supply support activity fill the request automatically (based on the establishment of support relationships and a referral system based on a joint concept of support).

Can We Overcome Parochialism?

To be able to implement change, DOD must be a learning organization and overcome service and functional parochialism. It will be hard for a commander at most, if not all, levels to trust another organization to provide supply chain management and allow it to move supplies within and from his organization. It will take time for the supported organizations to trust and truly embrace supply chain management. It will also take leaders who understand that this change will allow us to more efficiently use our resources, which will become constrained in the future.

To achieve this trust more quickly, we must look at the professional development of the individuals charged with operating a global supply chain. I believe that logisticians from across the services must be grounded in the doctrine that supports their force. All logisticians should train in joint operations and joint logistics during their company-grade professional military education. For the Army, this would give logisticians operating in the echelons above brigade an understanding of how and why they support joint forces.

An additional step toward giving the supported commanders confidence in this process is to create supply chain manager career professional positions within DOD. This could be done as simply as creating an additional skill identifier or a separate functional area. These logisticians should be required to earn an advanced degree in supply chain management and achieve accredited status with a professional supply chain management organization, such as the Institute for Supply Management or SOLE—The International Society of Logistics. Certification must be required to ensure that the correct person is placed in supply chain manager positions. This would enable USLOGCOM to maintain the best business practices and realize the greatest efficiencies.

DOD must be prepared to adopt better practices in supporting the warfighter as we face a future with reduced budgets and constrained resources. A reorganization to create a supply process owner supported by a distribution process owner would incur a short-term cost, but it would achieve an increase in effectiveness and efficiency over the long term by following best business practices. The creation of a unified command that supports the services and the joint force commander would not require an act of Congress and could be done by overcoming service cultures. Driven from the top, this change would be accepted across DOD and would be beneficial for all.

Major Robert P. Mann is an organizational integrator in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G−3/5/7, Department of the Army. He wrote this article while attending the Army Command and General Staff College. He is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course, and the Logistics Executive Development Course.

1. Current DOD funding is approximately 4.8 percent. Davis S. Welch, Director of Investment for the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Budget, Army Command and General Staff College Futures Day Panel, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 29 October 2009.
2. Colonel Martin Binder, Defense Logistics Agency J−314, Joint Supply Joint Integrating Concept Presentation to Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 22 October 2009.
3. Supply chain: 1) starting with unprocessed raw materials and ending with the final customer using the finished goods, the supply chain links many companies together. 2) the material and informational interchanges in the logistical process stretching from acquisition of raw materials to delivery of finished products to the end user. All vendors, service providers, and customers are links in the supply chain. Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, Glossary of Terms, http://cscmp.org/digital/
, accessed 23 October 2009.
4. Introduction to JP 4−0, Joint Logistics, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, DC, 18 July 2008, p. x.
5. JP 1−02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, DC, 12 April 2001, as amended through 31 October 2009, p. 167.
6. Ibid., p. 524.
7. This definition is in line with the definition of supply chain management (SCM) by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals: “Supply Chain Management encompasses the planning and management of all activities involved in sourcing and procurement, conversion, and all logistics management activities. Importantly, it also includes coordination and collaboration with channel partners, which can be suppliers, intermediaries, third-party service providers, and customers. In essence, supply chain management integrates supply and demand management within and across companies. Supply Chain Management is an integrating function with primary responsibility for linking major business functions and business processes within and across companies into a cohesive and high-performing business model. It includes all of the logistics management activities noted above, as well as manufacturing operations, and it drives coordination of processes and activities with and across marketing, sales, product design, finance and information technology.” Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, Glossary of Terms, http://cscmp.org/digital/glossary/glossary.asp, accessed 23 October 2009.
8. Binder, 22 October 2009.

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