Logistics in War and national resilience – join the final series!

By David Beaumont.

Logistics in War began 2020 by announcing that it would focus on preparedness and national resilience. This approach reflected the interests of the principle author and editor, but also a fairly robust conversation about the idea of ‘national resilience’ and the role of the military within it. The topic was being discussed freely in Australia, communicated in articles on topics ranging from national fuel supplies, to the increasing securitisation of geoeconomics, to the posture of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), and so on. The idea of national resilience as it applies to natural disasters has been a government interest since 2011; the concept was formally addressed by the Federal Department of Home Affairs and has since resulted in partnered planning across a broad church of government and non-government agencies including Defence.

Amid a catastrophic bushfire season, a climate-change influenced disaster that saw the Australian Governor-General ‘call-out’ the ADF’s reservists in a ‘peacetime’ first, national resilience became immediately topical. This unforeseen event revealed societal ‘unreadiness’ to severe events, just as it prompted questions about how and for what the ADF was prepared for.

National resilience became much, much more than a side-bar conversation in March. The coronavirus pandemic morphed very rapidly from ‘just’ a global health crisis to a matching global economic cataclysm. As nations closed for business, shut their factories and prevented all travel, the vulnerability of modern-day prosperity – at least from a Western perspective – was revealed. The topic of national resilience also morphed into something new; cries for national self-sufficiency now confounded political leaders seeking a return to a familiar path to prosperity.

The situation should be causing military minds some nervousness as the very same fragility affecting commercial goods is also a problem for military forces who are dependant upon these supply lines to be prepared. There has always been a profound entanglement between war and trade.

Enough has been said about the link between logistics and preparedness here to know that national resilience matters.  It matters because military success hinges on the reliable access to products, services and people, mobilised from within the resources of the national economy. Established properly, sources of national resilience can create situations of considerable strategic advantage or even serve ‘strategic offset’.

Reliable national supply gives opportunities for national security decision makers, and in the military context ensures that personnel and materiel are in the condition that their nation expects them to be. A resilient nation can speedily and efficiently direct resources to military operations if the government desires. This effect can also be achieved in partnership with other militaries and nations, sharing such resources to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. In other words, a nation and its military with reliable access to what it needs can respond quicker to a broader range of events and sustain its operations for longer.

Over the next six months, Logistics in War will finish with a series examining this fitting topic and its importance to the military aspects of national power. By December this year Logistics in War will have contributed over one hundred and twenty articles concerning the influence of logistics on warfare. Many of these articles have sought to show how logistics, the bridge from the economy to the battlefield, wields its power over military decisions, preparedness, strategy and tactics. The idea of national resilience is, of course, becomes vitally important to militaries by virtue of its connection with preparedness and warfare through logistics.

Now is your opportunity to contribute to an important discussion – whether it be writing from an Australian perspective or from that of a partnering nation. If your not so inclined to write about logistics, well that’s fine too! The topic is important, so get in contact at logisticsinwar@outlook.com of you would like to join in.

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