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Transforming U.S. Army Supply Chains: Strategies for Management Innovation. Greg H. Parlier, Business Expert Press, New York, 2011, 290 pages.

The genius of Internet marketplaces like Amazon and eBay is not the millions of products (the hardware) that they carry; the genius is the software—the management of those products. As we launch into the 21st century, the U.S. Army supply system—or "supply chains," to more accurately reflect the full spectrum of acquisition, distribution, and utilization—is desperately in need of a major overhaul. This task is vastly more complex and difficult than the management of an Internet-based marketplace.

Greg H. Parlier's Transforming U.S. Army Supply Chains: Strategies for Management Innovation provides the "software" that will enable and empower the Army to complete the task of bringing together an increasingly interconnected world of vast and disparate resources into a coherent, innovative, thriving, and successful package. The book outlines demonstrated concepts for "management innovation as a strategic technology" that can transform the Army's supply chain and save billions of dollars as we approach a period of defense budget cuts.

Knowledge of these realms is not gained overnight. Parlier's book is based on his 30-year Army career and additional private-sector experience. Parlier graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1974 and received extensive education and experience in leadership and management, operations research, and strategic planning during his career. A former assistant professor of operations research at West Point, he was named the Army's Operations Research Analyst of the Year in 1987. He later served as the chief of the Resource Plans and Analysis Division in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army and then as the deputy commander for transformation at the Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM). The final third of his career was focused on building, developing, and leading successively larger analytical teams confronting increasingly more demanding transformational challenges in large, complex commands.

After retiring from the Army, Parlier was a senior research scientist at the University of Alabama, developing a scientific approach for designing and implementing analytical architectures to improve public policy, operations management, and strategic planning in complex organizations and systems. His applied research focused on adapting supply chain theory and inventory management concepts to support Army logistics. Parlier then joined Science Applications International Corporation as a senior systems analyst, where he developed and applied "management innovation as a strategic technology."

His life's work in this field culminates in this book. Parlier begins by presenting a "practical approach for understanding the U.S. Army's extremely complex global logistics system." He moves on to a multistage conceptualized model used to "systematically analyze major organizational components of the supply chain, diagnose structural disorders, and prescribe solutions," using cost-benefit perspectives that incorporate the supply chain objectives of "efficiency, resilience, and effectiveness."

Next, he proposes an "analytical architecture" consisting of "four complementary modeling approaches," collectively referred to as "dynamic strategic logistics planning," in order to enable a coordinated, enterprise-wide approach for transformation. Parlier continues by pulling his theory together into a proposal for a "Center for Innovation in Logistics Systems" to accelerate and sustain continual improvement.

He also addresses strategic management challenges that he expects to arise with enterprise-wide integration and transformational change. He makes the point that "the fundamental issues and potential solutions [in his book] are broadly applicable to other large-scale military and industrial supply chains as well."

This is not some pie-in-the-sky academic theory. It is the product of a "multiyear, multiorganization research and development project" initiated by AMCOM shortly after 9/11. Beginning with an in-depth study, then a simplified research model, a research task group was organized in 2003 and proceeded to conduct demonstrations, experiments, and field tests.

The group was made up of personnel from the Army Materiel Command's Logistics Support Activity, the Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity, RAND Corporation, the Institute for Defense Analyses, and the Logistics Management Institute. Stanford University, the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Forum for Supply Chain Innovation, the Center for Transportation and Logistics, and the Lean Advancement Initiative provided additional academic expertise.

The concepts of this book have great potential to make enormous worldwide contributions to broad governmental and corporate realms. This is a powerful set of ideas that the corporate world will and must apply to fuel a worldwide revolution of innovation and transformation.

Dave Grossman is a retired Army lieutenant colonel and the author of numerous books, including On Combat and On Killing.

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