Industry integration – a new approach and attitude to Army logistics

This article was originally published in the Australian Defence Business Review ‘Land Forces 2018’ edition (September-October) and is posted here with permission. ADBR can be found at

By David Beaumont.

Logistics is the stored potential of a military force, and industry is the battery from which energy is drawn. For Army to be successful operationally, the integration of logistics and industry is vital.

One military theorist compared logistics to a bridge between the national economy and the battlefield, one where raw materials, goods and services are shaped through relationships and processes to achieve military outcomes. Industry is where logistics begins.

Yet there is a tendency to define the relationship between industry and Army (and Defence writ large) in terms of the introduction-into-service and sustainment of materiel, or in the provision of essential services that keeps an organisation of 45,000 soldiers ready.

The delivery of impressive new capabilities including combat and support vehicles, communications and information systems, and soldier combat equipment certainly focuses the attention of Army staff and their industry partners. This activity, though fundamentally important, reflects a portion of the relationship between Army and industry.

But we can’t forget that when Army deploys, industry contributes as a partner by supporting and resourcing Army’s logistics. This also means that when Army prepares for operations, defence industry should embark on its own activities to offer the surety that Army needs.

New Capability

Readers would likely be familiar with the Australian government’s policy direction relating to Defence and Industry.

The 2016 Defence White Paper and the supplemental Defence Industry Policy Statement continued the long tradition of following strategic intent with industry policy. Together, these documents extolled the self-evident role of industry as a fundamental input to capability (FIC),and sought to stimulate a closer collaboration between Defence and industry.

The relationship between Defence and industry may have initially been defined by the headline National Shipbuilding Plan, but there are now other projects which have the potential to capture the limelight.

Two of these, the LAND 121 program to deliver modern transport and the LAND 400 Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle, have brought the engagement between Army and industry to the fore. These programs have been linked to the idea of a ‘sovereign defence industry capability’, which simplified, is an industrial resource of such vital concern to the ADF that it must be maintained if not controlled for the purposes of national defence.

Army’s relationship with industry is not only measured by these two projects, or the many other programs to modernise the military that are currently underway. The way in which materiel is sustained and Army’s activities supported, is an equally important concern.

New Scenarios

This point was recently raised in a 2017 paper by the Australian National University’s Dr Stephan Fruhling who, in his ‘Sovereign Defence Industry Capabilities, Independent Operations and the Future of Australian Defence Strategy’, wrote of three key issues with the current paradigm of strategic thinking about industry.

Fruhling first notes that industry capabilities must relate to scenarios which apply to the force structure of the ADF, “not just consider industry as a collection of industry fundamental inputs into capability”. The relationship between industry and Army, as well as the industry options that are available and cost-effective can have a very significant bearing on force structure decisions.

This is especially the case with respect to logistics activities. For example, commercial activities might be leveraged to provide an operational effect. Army might ask whether it needs to invest in its own capabilities or arrange for stock or capability to be provided by industry ‘just-in-time’. How Army and industry prepares for this scenario is fundamentally important.

Secondly, and continuing from this point, Australia needs to look beyond a peacetime industry dependence on the US. While reliance was avoided because of the strategic policy orientation of self-reliance, he says “we must now also move to confront our dependence on US resupply in high-intensity operations”.

Global supply chains, now defined by producing commodities as they are required, can be extremely vulnerable to disruption or exhaustion, severely curtailing operations. We can be certain that if our strategic partner places a significant demand upon global commodities, the opportunity for a smaller military to resupply itself will be much less than we might hope. Industry must be ready.

Finally, Fruhling recognises that industry will be crucial to enable ADF operations in defence of Australia in the “era of long-range precision-strike”. This includes considering battle-damage capabilities in industry, as well as arrangements for “domestic base support”. In this case, Australian defence industry would have an incredibly important role in the repair and re-equipping the deployed force.

New Risks

These big strategic ideas about the industry contribution to future military operations are highly important. The devil is in the detail when ‘Sovereign Defence Capabilities’ are considered. There are, however, a few emerging questions with respect to the relationship between industry and militaries that should also be reflected upon by Army’s industry partners.

As alluded to above we are in an environment where supply chains supporting Army capability are global and complex, meaning many risks to sustainment can be hidden.

Army’s industry partners could help to reduce the opaque nature of these supply networks so we can better understand what is being produced and where. The digitisation of Army’s logistics systems, binding battlefield communications systems with modern enterprise resource planning, will come a long way to de-mystifying the supply chain. Industry might want to consider how it can innovatively contribute to solutions which give Army clarity.

Similarly, the ever-changing strategic environment will also require industry to seriously consider the scenarios in which Army, and the ADF, will approach it for support. Industry should think about its role in supporting an Army that must scale the size of its operations. Can production be increased, and can additional services be provided in the event of strategic surprise? Are there fundamental capacity issues or supply-chain problems in the sovereign defence industries that might curtail operations or limit how Army operates?

Furthermore, how can industry support in areas that Army does not have the capacity to provide itself, such as in specialist logistics, communications and other capabilities? There are real opportunities here for enterprise, where Army and industry can work together to overcome capability gaps.

Finally, there might also be a requirement to challenge the commercial notions of intellectual property, rights and propriety when it comes to a national crisis. If the maintaining of Army’s capabilities becomes financially non-viable to industry, it is essential that Army can repair and sustain its own equipment. This will be particularly important as equipment ages and nears the end of its life-cycle.

New Relationships

Of course, Army must also contribute to the relationship, and has its own obligations to industry. The relationship starts with clear and considerate language, realistic requirements and an appreciation of the commercial requirements that influence industrial capacity. Army must work persistently at all levels to effectively engage with industry partners.

Army has not always been a good partner. Some thirty years ago and in a time of the mass-outsourcing of Defence capability, Army was particularly combative in its relationship with industry. At times, its requirements can be so specific that competition and innovation in industry is stifled. This is not necessarily the case now, and industry engagement activities such as Land Forces 2018 support a renewed and active dialogue.

Army’s staff, and especially its logisticians of which a substantial portion of the service is comprised, must be trained to be able to meaningfully engage with industry and improve service delivery. We are increasingly seeing the integration of industry into Army’s daily life to the extent that commercial operations must be of a second nature to logisticians and others in Defence.

Army should continue to develop its institutional narrative and a plan that articulates its relationship with industry, and in doing so, helpfully define the future relationship. The partnership between Army and defence industry goes well beyond enduring the success of acquisition programs and product delivery. It is a partnership that is incredibly important for the success of Army in the operational environment.

As an idea, Sovereign defence industry capability should most certainly be expanded beyond its current definition to the sustainment of operations and the many other roles that defence industry performs to support an ‘Army in Motion’. Industry partners who are serious about their role in support Army’s operations and activities must consider some significant contemporary challenges.

However, Army must continue its aspiration to be a better partner with Industry; if it is not, there is little chance Army’s logistics requirements will be efficiently, and effectively, met.

David Beaumont is a serving Army officer and the thoughts here are his own. 

‘The furthest, the weakest’ – how logistics creates national power

By David Beaumont.

This article follows-up last week’s post on logistics in deterrence. 

The nature and characteristics of strategic competition has been given new life in recent months. Theorists, writers, military professionals and many others are looking for indicators of strategic activity, some obvious and some not so conspicuous. One of the more abstract ideas prevalent in this discussion is the concept of national power. The Lowy Institute recently described ‘power is a relational quantity’.[1] It gives a point of reference between two or more nations in their capacity to exert influence upon one another. It is unsurprising to see that military capability forms one of eight measures of power used in an outstanding statistical reference produced recently by the Lowy Institute – the Asia Power Index. The ability to apply military power to influence strategic decision making, if not through direct and forceful coercion, is an ultimate expression of national strength. In a time of persistent conflict and heightened competition between States, military power is becoming increasingly important – so much so that the US Joint Chiefs of Staff have developed a new concept defining its use in the competitive environment outside of armed conflict.

The importance of logistics, an internal military activity which raises and sustains forces operationally, to military power is self-evident. Its influence, however, is also highly understated. At the risk of sounding overly critical of Lowy’s impressive resource, the ability of an ‘armed force to deploy rapidly and for a sustained period’ probably deserves a greater weighting than 10% of total military capability. John Louth once wrote of a widespread tendency to misread the significance of lift and sustainment to operational scenarios.[2] In part one of a series of posts – Defining strategic competition – when logistics becomes a strategic weaponI outlined logistics factors are at the heart of military capability and power, if not military credibility. What use are sophisticated combat platforms when they cannot be sustained, replaced or repaired, deployed in an acceptable timeframe or readied for war? The threat of use of these capabilities as a means of coercion, or their actual use operationally, is compromised when logistics matters fall by the wayside. Approaching military capability and power from the basis of an understanding of likely sustained effectiveness rather than the potential of a platform is therefore the acme of military preparedness.

The Lowy Institute is certainly not alone in analysing the nature of military power. This article examines military power from the position of a theorist who saw geography and logistics as central to his vision of national power. Kenneth Boulding, in Conflict and defense, saw power ultimately defined by how it can be practically used; military power (or strength in Boulding’s own terms), in this case, is a function of the cost of transporting it to and from the conflict space or operational area.[3] Geography, naturally, plays a leading role in determining exactly how much of a nation’s military power can be brought to bear upon an adversary. The further one nation has to operate from its bases, the longer and more complex are its lines of communication, and the less strength it can put into the field.[4] In mapping the proximity and power relationship as the loss of strength gradient, Boulding also showed the dilemma that ‘expeditionary’ militaries face when they consider the relationship between force structure and posture. Either you forward position your troops to make the task of sustaining them easier, or you maintain a capable, logistically sustainable, expeditionary force. One of the most important strategic policy decisions for any military, therefore, is to rationalise (perhaps even cost) the trade-off between force posture and the development of rapidly deployable capabilities.

Boulding’s theory primarily looked at the relationship from the perspective of transportation capability counterbalanced against the capacity to deliver firepower from afar. He would later argue that the importance of forward basing was diminishing because the ‘cost’ of transportation, measured in speed and danger to deploying forces, was reducing and there had been ‘an enormous increase in the range of the deadly projectile’ through airpower and rocketry.[5] The closure of American and partner overseas military bases in the wake of the Cold War, the subsequent expansion of expeditionary forces in many militaries, and striking expeditionary successes by these forces since the 1991 Gulf War could be seen as part of this trend. That is, until the dramatic reversal of strategic fortune as the ‘cost’ of transportation increased with ‘anti-access, area-denial’ threats, and a competitive force posture approach of rising (or ‘re-rising’) military powers. Distance, once again, became important to the military mind. Western militaries now face a considerable reduction in their freedom for strategic manoeuvre, and the inevitable rebalancing between force posture and developing expeditionary capability accordingly. It is unsurprising that a recent USPACOM exercise highlights the vital importance of strategic and operational lift in this environment.

Strategists and logisticians alike need to be innovative at this time. Not only must they plan for the significant challenge of projecting force into a threat zone against a potentially highly-capable adversary, but they must do so at a time where heavier forces with greater sustainment burdens are make transportation more difficult. While reflecting on abstract measures of power, whether it be the Lowy Institute’s Index or Boulding’s theoretical model, we can’t forget that what really matters is not the size of a distant force, but the relative military power that can be generated against an adversary in a given period. Strategic mobility is therefore a major factor, but the ability to generate military strength in any location also depends on many other logistics inputs.

Transportation capacity, the ability to efficiently deliver materiel, the capacity to minimise sustainment requirements, the physical characteristics of equipment, and the ability to procure support locally ….. all are equally relevant to generating military power at a time and place of one’s choosing. One need only refer to Kenneth Privratsky’s Logistics in the Falklands War: A case study in expeditionary warfare to get a sense of the logistics factors at play. Logistics austerity is now an operational necessity, and the luxuries military forces are used to in many circumstances will simply compromise military strength operationally. Similarly, it is imperative that Western militaries seriously work at reducing their logistics bill or making strategic mobility a higher priority in capability decisions.

The mobilisation of logistics resources and the ability to sustain forces in a distant area is thus important to any conception of national military power. It is important that these concerns are not understated. When considering how wars might unfold, or how military forces might be used to coerce outside of armed conflict, perhaps it is best to start with a thorough logistics analysis of how such forces are to be sustained. Strategic concepts and policies that rely upon assessments of relative strengths between one’s own nation and a potential adversary would greatly benefit from the results. As will the generation of military capabilities that will be expected to provide the means of national military power; capabilities that will be expected to traverse the divide and go to war.

This article was originally published at LIW in early 2018.

David Beaumont is a serving Australian Army officer. The thoughts here are his own. The title is construed from Boulding’s book, Conflict and Defense, p 231.

[1] Lowy Institute, Asia Pacific Index 2018 Methodology,, p3 [accessed 15 May 18]

[2] Louth, J., ‘Logistics as a force enabler’ from RUSI Journal, June / July 2015, vol. 160, no. 3, Royal United Services Institute, UK, 2015, p 60

[3] Boulding, K., Conflict and defense, Harper & Brothers, USA, 1962, p 78

[4] Ibid., p 231.

[5] Cited in Webb, K., ‘The continued importance of geographic distance and Boulding’s loss of strength gradient’ from Comparative Strategy, University of Reading, UK, 2007, p 295. Strategic weapons such as those defined by the Lowy Institute as ‘signature weapons’ are a notable exclusion here – these include such things as nuclear weapons and the strategic use of cyber capability.

Is logistics the ultimate conventional deterrent?

By David Beaumont.

The Royal Australian Air Force, now armed with the fifth-generation fighter and other impressive air capabilities guided by a wholesale transformation strategy – Plan Jericho, has recently debated the need for a joint strike capability. This debate is being litigated through the Williams Foundation who are running a seminar on the topic during August 2018. 

‘The Central Blue’ – the Foundation’s online forum – has kindly published my contribution, an adaption of earlier work, on how logistics can act as a deterrent. I share it with you here as well. Don’t forget to follow ‘The Central Blue’ on all forms of social media.

Nations are naturally competitive, and one of the principle roles for standing militaries is to deter others from undertaking military action within this competition. Recently Western militaries have contended that adversaries, real and potential, do not always distinguish peace and war. In the recently released Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff argue that the ‘binary conception’ of peace and war is now obsolete, and a ‘competition continuum’ now applies.[1] Now these same Western militaries recognise they must act in times other than in armed c onflict, offsetting the strengths of other nations or groups who have a very different interpretation of what defines war. Deterrence, afforded by a range of military capabilities, is a core strategy taken within this offsetting. Although nuclear weapons may give an alternative, there is no deterrence, however, without logistics. This is because logistics, where military activity meets the national economy, leads strategy by making the intent to use force reality. Indeed, it is military logistics activity which truly defines a nations capacity to respond militarily to its challenges, and most certainly to deter adversaries – realistically – in a competitive environment.

Logistics and strategy are inseparable, each meaningless without the other. Logistics was ‘invented’ in war and has always had a ‘deadly life’.[2] The architecture of global supply chains, siphoning national wealth through geographic areas of immense strategic interest to nations and others, are focal points for national action. ‘Logistics cities’, major trade hubs and economic routes attract the interest of Governments and have become of immense strategic value. All arms of Government can be seen in action, using diplomatic, informational, military and economic means to shape how both commercial and military logistics might be applied to their favour. Supply chain security continues to occupy our minds as we intermingle our desire for national prosperity through global trade with our desire to prevent the loss of native capacity to build military capability, mobilise and sustain operations. Important military hardware such as the Joint Strike Fighter is underpinned by global arrangements, fragile supply chains and shared industrial capabilities that expose militaries to new areas of risk. In this environment it will take little effort for nations to exert influence or strangle the capacity of a nation to respond to threats militarily. War might begin and end with logistics.

Logistics might be at the heart of strategy and competition, but its role in deterrence is understated. John Roth’s work on the logistics of the Roman Empire saw military success a factor of the capacity to provision over long distances, and not just because of military culture and training.[3] Having the ability to sustain forces effectively was both a tactical and strategic weapon. Highly potent legions armed with modern weaponry gave the Romans victory in battles, but logistics gave them Empire. The ability to project forces throughout Europe and Asia was recognised by others, and conflict sometimes avoided as a consequence. Two thousand years later the same concept applies; beyond nuclear weapons it is the capacity of the mighty US military to project and sustain itself on a global scale that deters potential adversaries, and it is why Cold War exercises such as REFORGER and the contemporary alternatives such as Operation Atlantic Resolve are vital at a time of increasing competition. Core to deterrence are the capabilities most military women and men enjoy talking about; strike aircraft, long range artillery and naval task groups. But it is logistics that determines the circumstances of their use; the time it takes for arming, when and where refuelling may occur, and how quickly the detritus of battle can be repaired. And so, amid the force posturing and acquisition programs, most Western militaries are now devoting attention to how their military logistics organisations sustaining these capabilities perform.

The proximity of forces also works to deter, if only because it reduces the logistics ‘cost’ of supporting operations. Economist Kenneth E. Boulding proposed the ‘loss of strength gradient’, in Conflict and Defense: a general theory, as a theory to define the relationship between geography and military power for the purpose of conflict and deterrence. [4]  Boulding’s theory primarily looked at the relationship from the perspective of transportation capability counterbalanced against the capacity to deliver firepower through strike capabilities from afar. He later argued that the importance of forward basing was diminishing because the ‘cost’ of transportation, measured in speed and danger to deploying forces, was reducing and there had been ‘an enormous increase in the range of the deadly projectile’ through airpower and rocketry.[5] Strike capabilities, especially those emanating from the then 3rd-generation air domain, led him to this revelation.

The non-nuclear deterrence of the late twentieth century came from mobility and long-distance firepower. The closure of American and partner overseas military bases in the wake of the Cold War, the subsequent expansion of expeditionary forces and long-distance strike capabilities in many militaries, and startling tactical successes by these forces since the 1991 Gulf War reflect this trend. That is, until the dramatic reversal of strategic fortune as the ‘cost’ of transportation increased with ‘anti-access, area-denial’ threats, and a competitive force posture approach of rising (or ‘re-rising’) military powers. Distance, once again, became important to the military mind. As did the cost of maintaining the expensive, modern, strike capabilities procured to pierce the enemies operational shield. Western militaries now face a considerable reduction in their freedom for strategic manoeuvre, and the inevitable rebalancing between force posture and developing expeditionary and strike capability accordingly.

Beyond the unequivocal nature of logistics in force posture or capability development there are the most important logistics factors in strategic competition of all. Though the degree may differ given the circumstances, nations are always mobilised. The manner by which the logistics process can translate national economic power into tactical combat potential is a reflection of a national capacity to compete, deter, and to demonstrate an ability to militarily respond. Industry policy and the organisation of strategic logistics capability, the appointment of commanders to oversee sustainment and the presence of mobilisation plans and doctrine, reveal much about the quality of any military offset.  If you don’t believe that these comprise the ultimate joint strike weapon, it is impossible to argue that they aren’t essential to those strike capabilities that you do. These are not areas we typically look at when we consider deterrence, but they will discriminate between the successful and unsuccessful in the earliest stages of conflict when it comes.

For these reasons we will see competition and military deterrence play out in different ways, and for reasons that are often logistical in nature. One nation might build an island where there was none before, while another will procure air mobility platforms or ships for afloat support to support their strike capabilities. Others will examine force posture from first principles, while another will establish arrangements and agreements that might support a friendly force at short notice. Militaries might be restructured so that the acquisition and sustainment of capability improves preparedness, or eventual operational performance, more effectively. Just as there will be an unending competition in the development offensive and defensive capabilities between nations, so too will there be unending shifts in the way opposing military forces will offset one another through logistics means. It will not always be about new aircraft, tanks and ships. It will always be about how these strike and other combat capabilities are sustained.

Effective deterrence requires effective logistics. The threat of armed conflict is always a factor in strategic competition, but logistics capacity and capability are an important, if understated, part of the calculus. This must be kept in mind by those procuring the next generation of equipment that ostensibly serves as a deterrent to others. If we are to have a military deterrent, underpinned by impressive strike capabilities, it must also be underpinned by a logistics system that can support them. It may be easy to see the beginning of conflict in national economic systems, but it can also be seen in the seriousness given to shoring the gaps with respects to military logistics and more specifically, the sustainment of capabilities. Strategy has been rapidly becoming an appendix of logistics, if it hasn’t been so all along, and logistics activities can be profoundly important well before the ‘conflict continuum’ approaches its zenith in armed conflict.  This applies to deterrence where logistics, and potential logistics capacity, can sway the mind of a potential adversary. And when armed conflict does eventuate, it will be as much about the fight to supply – the defence of the supply chain and the efficiency of the logistics process – as it is about winning on the battlefield.

[1] US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint concept for integrated campaigning, March 2018,, p 4, 7

[2] See Cowen, D., The deadly life of logistics, University of Minnesota Press, USA, 2014

[3] Roth, J., The logistics of the Roman Army at war, BRILL, USA, p 279

[4] Boulding, K.E. Conflict and defense: a general theory, Harper and Brothers, USA, 1962, pp 260-262

[5] Cited in Webb, K., ‘The continued importance of geographic distance and Boulding’s loss of strength gradient’ from Comparative Strategy, University of Reading, UK, 2007, p 295. Strategic weapons such as those defined by the Lowy Institute as ‘signature weapons’ are a notable exclusion here – these include such things as nuclear weapons and the strategic use of cyber capability.

This article is an adaption of ‘Defining-strategic competition – when logistics becomes a strategic weapon’ posted April 2018. The views are the authors alone.



Decision-forcing cases for logistics: practicing logisticians to overcome ‘wicked problems’

By Bruce Gudmundsson.

Ed. note: on occasion, LIW examines the art of training and educating logisticians. LIW is privileged to have Dr Bruce Gudmundson, USMC University, discuss a teaching method very relevant to training leaders in ways to overcome ‘wicked problems’ in war. A link to his site can be found here.

A military logistician is a study in contrasts.  On the one hand, he is a custodian of public property.  As such, his cardinal virtues are thrift and efficiency.  On the other hand, he takes part in the waging of war, the most wasteful of all human activities.  Sometimes he must think like the manager of a large business.  At other times, he must look at the world through the eyes of a warrior.

A military logistician can easily find ways to plumb particular portions of his paradoxical profession.  The shelves groan, after all, under the weight of books about business management and military operations.  Board games on both subjects abound.  And, when his eyes grow tired, a logistician can profit from any one of a growing array of podcasts on martial and commercial topics.  The one thing that the military logistician cannot so easily do is find activities that help him engage the whole of his métier.

 The great exception to this rule is provided by the decision-forcing case.  Also known known as a ‘historical immersion problem,’ a decision-forcing case is an exercise in which participants take on the role of an actual person who, at some point in the past, was faced by a particularly challenging problem.  In that role, participants compose, and, if called upon by the facilitator, propose practical solutions to that problem.  This leads to a discussion (known as a ‘Socratic conversation’) in which participants critique, refine, and build upon those proposals. 

 One such decision-forcing case, ‘The Road to Habbaniya’, places participants in the shoes of Brigadier John Joseph Kingstone of the British Army, an officer who, in the spring of 1941, was charged with leading a heavily reinforced brigade to link up with the beleaguered garrison of a Royal Air Force base in Iraq.  The first problem set before the participants is a calculation of the number of 3-ton trucks needed to carry the food, water, fuel, and ammunition needed to move the column for a distance of more than 900 kilometers.

 This problem is not as straightforward as it might seem.  In addition to making allowances for maintenance, breakdowns, and security, the participants playing the role of Brigadier Kingstone must factor in the supplies needed by the trucks that carry the supplies for the column, as well as the supplies needed by the additional trucks that carry the supplies for the trucks, and so on.  As might be expected, participants rarely achieve consensus on the number of 3-ton trucks needed to get Brigadier Kingstone’s column to its objective.  Indeed, each time this decision-forcing case is taught, the solutions offered by participants differ considerably, with the largest estimate reliably exceeding the smallest by a factor of two or even three.

Once the participants have shared their calculations with each other, the facilitator of ‘The Road to Habbaniya’ provides them with a detailed description of the solution arrived at by the historical protagonist.  This ‘historical solution’, which includes a reconstruction of Brigadier Kingstone’s calculations, allows participants to compare their own thinking with that of ‘the man on the spot’.  In particular, it gives participants an opportunity to identify the assumptions that support their plans. 

‘The Road to Habbaniya’ is a two-problem exercise.  That is, the presentation of Brigadier Kingstone’s calculations is followed by a surprise, a development that requires the complete recasting of both the original plan of operations and the logistical scheme for supporting it.  Thus, participants enjoy a second opportunity to work through the cycle of devising, describing, and defending courses of action, followed by a second historical solution.  (As several fine books have been written about the operation in question, this sometimes takes the form of an invitation to visit the library.) 

A decision-forcing case drawn from the annals of the South Atlantic War of 1982, one called ‘Commando Logistics Regiment’, presents participants with a comparable conundrum.  This problem puts them in the boots of Lieutenant Colonel Ivor Hellberg, officer commanding the unit charged with providing material support to the landing force sent to the Falkland Islands at the start of that conflict, the 3rd Commando Brigade of the Royal Marines.  Optimized for service in northern Norway, the Commando Logistics Regiment was organized in a way that made extensive use of both motor transport and reservists.  However, as the shipping available to transport the 3rd Commando Brigade had little space for trucks and the government of the United Kingdom had decided to refrain from calling up reservists, Lieutenant Colonel Hellberg found himself engaged in a great deal of design work.  In particular, he had but a few hours to decide which elements of his command he would take with him on his 13,000-kilometer journey to the other side of the world, and which he would have to leave behind. 

A third decision-forcing, ‘The Hunt for Geronimo’, involves no motor transport at all.  Set in 1885, it asks participants to make a plan for supporting an ad hoc unit charged with a delicate diplomatic mission.  Composed of units of the United States Cavalry, companies of Apache Scouts, and civilian contractors, the improvised battalion will have to cross an international border, make a journey of some 800-kilometers through the mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental, and, quite possibly, provide both aid and protection to a group of indigenous people who are being hunted by mercenaries in the service of the Mexican state of Chihuahua.  To further complicate matters, there will be little in the way of host nation support and few opportunities to acquire fodder for cavalry horses along the way. 

Like many of the classroom exercises used in the training of military logisticians, all three of these decision-forcing cases ask participants to do a great deal of arithmetic.  They are, to borrow a phrase from American Marines of the twentieth century, “stubby pencil drills.”  At the same time, they require those taking part to make sense of a unique situation and, having done so, design a solution that is custom-tailored to the peculiarities of the problem being faced.  In other words, these three decision-forcing cases require logisticians to engage some of the many contradictions at the heart of their particular art.

Bruce’s work can be found here, a portal to resources for any military professional seeking to document and used decision-forcing cases (case method studies) in education.

Bruce Gudmundsson served as a truck driver, logistics clerk, and logistics officer in the United States Marine Corps.  Currently working as an historian and case teacher in Quantico, Virginia, he is the author of, among many other things, Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 4:  Logistics.  Between 2007 and 2017, Dr. Gudmundsson held the Case Method Chair at the Marine Corps University.

Realising the sustainable joint land force

By David Beaumont.

Two decades ago, as Western militaries confronted a new strategic paradigm with declarations that a ‘revolution in military affairs’ was underway, the US Army Chief of Staff General Reimers declared:

‘There will not be a revolution in military affairs unless there is a revolution in military logistics’ (1996)

This view, since paraphrased or made contemporary by Reimer’s successors and many others, reflects a truism in military transformation. If militaries are neglectful of the logistics process, or fail to adequately invest or adapt their logistics capabilities, they are likely to fail in their preparations for war. This is because logistics is vital in establishing the potential of a force, but also ultimately contributes the means by which firepower and shock is delivered to critical places at the right time to meet strategic and tactical objectives.[1]

I was fortunate to be invited to present on the Australian Army’s approach to logistics transformation and development at a recent Australian Army Research Centre (AARC) Seminar. The paper ‘Transforming Australian Army Logistics to support the Joint Land Force’ provides a history of logistics transformation, and describes several imperatives that will influence how the joint land force might be sustained in the future. This paper, however, could not cover all concerns. The AARC seminar introduces a fifth imperative to the discussion, the cost of logistics – sustainment – must be reduced, so that logistics resources can be redirected to other areas that require attention and repair.

Transformation occurs every day in Army through many overt and unseen efforts. In recently issued Commander’s Statement titled ‘An Army in Motion’, the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Burr writes that Army must ‘be ready now, while concurrently becoming future ready’ and that Army must also ‘transform’ to capture future opportunities. It will be important that logisticians articulate what problems need resolving, aggregate the efforts being undertaken under a binding narrative, and devote effort to this objective. However, if we are serious about transformation – and we should be – the effort must be shared by all in Army with organisational and operational reforms pursued.

The AARC Seminar, Realising the sustainable joint land force, concludes with a proposed strategy for the transformation of Army logistics. I believe that the question to be answered is ‘how does the joint land force improve its logistics capability and capacity at a lower cost?’ Pursuing this question on overall productivity is not about seeing logistics efficiencies as a ‘bill payer’; when we have done so in the past we have found savings tend to be less than anticipated, and that there are always unintended operational consequences of change. Instead, we should seek efficiencies to enable the redirection of our efforts to areas that need reinforcement or as described above, repair.

The three core outcomes of my proposed strategy are to ‘reduce the footprint’, ‘improve logistics readiness’ and to ‘reduce the cost of logistics’. I outline these areas of effort in the Seminar. While a strategy to proceed with change is advocated to unify effort and prepare Army for the transformative influences of technology and other factors, it is also important that we increasingly accept change is a positive influence and adapt organisational culture as a consequence.

A video recording of the Seminar can be found here.

The slide deck with full details of the proposed strategy can be found here or on request.

David Beaumont is a serving Australian Army officer. The thoughts here are his own.

[1] Huston, James A., Sinews of War: Army Logistics, 1775-1953, University Press of the Pacific, USA, 2004, 2nd edition, p 655

A ‘Logistics in War’ primer: Logistics and the art of command

By David Beaumont.

For commanders, the objective and purpose of logistics is to establish and subsequently sustain the combat effectiveness of forces. Logistics shapes strategic and tactical decision making, and is an influence on the conduct of the operational art. However, commanders, and the ‘command climate’ they generate, can also have a profound influence of the efficiency of logistics. Through the authority we afford military leaders, the actions and decisions of commanders give logistics structure and control the human behaviours which contribute to inefficient logistics. Their attitudes are powerful influences on the preparedness of the logistics system. Trust, the ‘under-planning, over-planning’ response and other factors are raised as challenging phenomenon that must be addressed in war.

The second ‘Logistics in War’ primer, Logistics and the art of command, aims to challenge misconceptions we may have about logistics, and its relevance to commanders and their decisions.

‘Logistics is about winning battles and wars by assuring the existence of combat power, therefore underpinning much of what a commander must do, and what decision he or she must make. The responsibility for efficient logistics lies with the commander – at whatever level from the junior leader to the field marshal – who prioritises and allocates resources to create the situation which gives her or him the greatest combat potential and freedom of action. This component of the operational art postures the combat force in such a way that tactical objectives are actually achievable.’ 

You can find the primer here.

David Beaumont is a serving Australian Army officer. The thoughts here are is own. 

Originally published February, 2018.

What we need to be. Building the Defence logistician – Part Two

By David Beaumont.

This transcript is the final half of a speech given at the 2018 Australian and New Zealand Defence Logistics Conference. The session was titled ‘The Future Logistician’.

The first half can be found here.

What we need to be

The fundamental nature of logistics and the complicated organisational history of Australian Defence conspire against the development of logisticians. They are reasons that none of us will ever truly master logistics. None of us can be trained to the depth we require; the attempts that Defence has made over the last thirty years of effort have achieved the best that could be expected, but we all know that it is still not enough. As a Chief Instructor of a training institution, I can vouch that we are doing as much as is practically possible with the resources we have to prepare logisticians for the future.

Looking into the future, there are four key traits I believe are highly relevant to our future successes.

Firstly, and as I am sure you all expect, our logisticians must have a wide variety of experiences across the logistics enterprise. Of course, we must accept that even our most general officers and public servants will have some areas of expertise. Without experience we fail to appreciate context and nuance, and remain technical specialists of an important, but ultimately niche, function.

Secondly, logisticians must be able to analyse the system in both operational planning and in program development. We are in a paradigm that seeks to replace inventories with information – stock on hand versus a supply-chain responsiveness enabled by knowledge management. Technologies such as enterprise resource planners, machine learning and AI offer us considerable opportunities. But we must not forgo the capacity for systemic thinking to machines or make information management so specialist a function it is no longer possible to provide advice based on judgement and set by the context.

Thirdly, because effective logistics requires collective effort, logisticians must be consensus builders. This applies to the interactions among ourselves as well as with those we support. This has proven difficult to achieve in environments and times where authorities have been spread throughout the organisation, and where priorities and emphasis in responsibility have not been given.

Finally, logisticians must accept their professional, intellectual, responsibilities. We must own our own problems, be responsible for our solutions and proactive in intellectual leadership and engagement. There are many instances where we have not and have paid the price accordingly. Passion and courage of conviction are essential to preserve, if not enhance, capability.

I would also like to offer a few more qualified thoughts on professional requirements. Lieutenant General William Tuttle, a former US Army G4 during the ‘revolution of military logistics’, describes five principles for the professional development of logisticians in his book Defense logistics for the 21st century:

  1. Accountability. Logisticians must understand logistics deeply and be held to be account. This the basis of a professional approach. Accountability should not be feared as it is an opportunity to take ownership of a problem that might otherwise have been confounded by complex inter-organisational relationships.
  2. Continuously shared knowledge. We should be clamouring for shared knowledge and should be equipped and trained to make the most of technology and efficient processes. Yet, and as I have stated earlier, we must also ensure that we remain capable of being systemic thinkers, to be prepared through experience and education that enables us to rely upon an insight or a ‘hunch’.
  3. Know commercial business practices. This should be self-evident to any logistician conscious of the dramatic changes in acquisition and sustainment. I propose that training needs to be less idiosyncratic, and well-designed in its own ‘professional continuum’. Logisticians don’t just need a procurement course; they need a PME environment which informs them about issues such as industry policy and requirements, national support, acquisition and sustainment, different types of commercial relationships, relationship building and management.
  4. Exploit comparative advantage through coalition logistics, but also through working with one another. Logistics is, as I have argued, a shared endeavour.
  5. Simplicity. This should follow from all other professional development experiences, all of which should contribute to simplify management, command and control and funding arrangements. Whatever we do, we must focus on simplification because if the logistics process we are responsible for is complex, it will become inefficient and ineffective.

What we might become

Although a ‘professionalisation’ agenda is not new to logisticians, with training, education and professional standards a topic for logistics leadership within Services, Groups and the Joint domain, there have been several reasons we have been unable to capitalise on a gaining momentum and interest in logistics. Insufficiency of resources is an obvious factor and the priority of effort in Defence significant influences our capacity to deliver outcomes for the benefit of Defence capability. However, just as there are desired behavioural attributes for the future logistician, so too are their potential areas of risk which might impede change and development.

Firstly, we have routinely resorted to organisational change and discussing the profession without reshaping processes to suit the proposed new order. This allows sources of power to be maintained, ultimately leading to a reversion in behaviour. There have been circumstances where we have sought to reshape processes and create efficiencies without changing the organisation or profession enough.

This leads onto my second point. If we are going to use technology to improve our performance or enable efficient processes, we must be prepared to change organisational culture. Workarounds rarely create efficiencies. For example, abortive attempts to introduce logistics information systems technology and tracking in the past have resulted from choices made by logisticians based on our own comfort. One wonders if the same will happen when new enterprise resource planning software is brought into use.

Thirdly, we might choose not to invest the considerable time and effort required to support a nascent approach to joint PME, or support reform in individual training conducted throughout the organisation. It is easy to generate a framework to support professional development; it is much harder to sustain the conduct of courses. Without doing so, however, training will be largely idiosyncratic, and we will maintain an over-reliance on experience and career management to solve professionalisation issues.

Fourthly, without a shared and consistent approach on major issues affecting logistics we are likely to see a deterioration of capability. There are few opportunities to intervene in strategic decision making, and for the benefit of ADF capability, when logisticians are engaged, they must ensure that the engagement is made meaningful.

Finally, and perhaps because of these risks, we may simply remain unmoved as the rest of the world changes. What is the point of any attempts to better position the future logistician if we don’t consider the future? What is the environment we are going to operate in? What does the future combat force look like, and what is the consequence of this outlook on logistics performance and requirements?

Making the future Defence logistician 

We must accept that overinvesting in one group is not the answer. Talent management is undoubtedly important to any organisation. But our efforts in mentoring, leadership and our training and education regime must not be focussed on the select few. A few, brave, logistics heroes will not overcome problems caused or perpetuated by an undertrained and underprepared workforce. One of the leading factors in operational underperformance – if not the expansion in the number of logistics personnel required on operations – is that the workforce lacks the skills to perform their tasks as efficiently as they can.

It is unsurprising that I might advocate that a synchronised approach to PME is essential. Joint courses, at the very least, offer an opportunity for logisticians of different backgrounds to learn to work together. There is momentum gathering with respect to joint education and training for logisticians; we should support this endeavour as it is a real opportunity to do something beneficial for the future.

Any approach must focus on setting behaviours, and providing experience, training and education. Mentorship must be offered, and leadership given. Technology should be embraced, but we must also provide the skills and approach to use it appropriately. It must emphasise collective effort, for the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Finally, it must all staff to be mobile, but also well prepared for different roles within a incredibly broad logistics enterprise.

We have a bright future, and it is always a good time for us to consider how we can shape it for our own benefit, and those that follow on from us. In this venture it is not important for us all to be the same. Different proficiencies, different subjects of professional mastery, different expertise; these bring with them a distinct perspective that is relevant in finding the best ways to solve problems. What really matters is how we make the most of these differences from a professional perspective. Logisticians must bring together the technical experts, synthesise their efforts, and guide their tasks to completion.

The logistician

‘In each of the functional categories there is an extensive technical literature. In each, the technical staff specialist is essential. However, there is a subtle distinction. The technical specialist is chiefly interested in perfecting the importance of that particular speciality in which he makes his professional career. On the other hand, the commander and logistics officer must always be thinking of how a variety of specialised functions can be most effectively combined in accomplishing the mission of the command. It is not a question of exclusiveness in thinking, it is rather a question of relative emphasis and primary responsibility.’

               – Rear Admiral Henry Eccles, Logistics in the National Defense, pp 55-56

Being a logistician is difficult. As logisticians we have faced innumerable organisational pressures and felt the brunt of decades of rationalisation and cost cutting. As logisticians we deal with an immensely challenging pan-organisational and operational problem that can only be dealt with through trust and competency. As logisticians we know we need to invest in training and education but are faced with too many choices about where our attention (and the little resources available) should be directed. We are told how volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous the contemporary operating and enterprise environment is, yet an approach to adequately prepare seems elusive or impossible. The problem seems so vast, the prospect of success so small, or the future for logisticians believed to be so bleak and unappealing, that the effort to progress might simply be viewed as a waste of time in our already busy lives.

Being a logistician is difficult. Yet we can make it easier for ourselves, and as leaders we are obliged to make being a logistician easier for those that follow us. If you cut the hyperbole, this is what the professionalisation ‘journey’ is about. Just as effective logistics is a shared endeavour, so should our approach to professionalisation – the creation of the future logistician – be a collective effort. Common language, concepts and ideas will be vital. Leadership will be vital.

As we think about the future, and our role within it, I ask you to consider a few things.

It is of vital importance to us to understand that regardless of how logistics functions are assigned or divided, or categorised by naming conventions in doctrine, they remain logistics functions and they must be performed by qualified personnel. These functions must be supervised and coordinated by senior officers and Defence logisticians who not only understand the full implications of their responsibilities, but also the relationships involved therein. For those with leadership responsibilities within logistics, you must not be exclusive in your thinking, and be willing to give emphasis and primary functions to those elements within the logistics process that need it. To do this requires a broad experience of the enterprise and a capacity for systems thinking, but also self-development and a desire to learn about the organisation. It requires our logisticians to be consensus-builders, and while we may not always agree with one another, we should do so respectfully and accept the reasons why we think differently from one another.

Secondly, I fundamentally believe we are in an environment of considerable opportunity. Logisticians are being listened to, and logistics issues are being addressed with greater seriousness than ever before. This has not always been the case. Two decades ago, logistics was certainly discussed – but it was in terms of rationalisation and unhealthy levels of commercialisation, and it was not necessarily because logisticians were driving the agenda. Similarly, Defence logisticians have long discussed professionalisation, training and education but had either been un-resourced or had difficulties in leading and implementing change. Sources of leadership were disempowered by organisational confusion and change on a level that surpasses what we are experiencing today. We are much better prepared to engage with military commands, partners from other areas of Government or industry given nearly twenty years of continued operational experience which has improved Defence-level awareness of logistics issues.

So, we must be more than professional stewards. We must be professional leaders. This requires us to distinguish what being a logistician is versus what a technocrat might be. It requires us to assess and understand the environment in which we exist so that our knowledge can be applied. It requires us to adapt the professional standard to meet the environment, but also those we support. Finally, it requires us to align our professional development systems to produce experts with the right experience at the right time.

In answering the question ‘how we got here’, I hoped to inculcate a sense that now is the time to act on those issues we know need fixing. There is time available to think through what we need to prepare ourselves as Defence logisticians. We shouldn’t squander this operational pause and relative organisational calm. It is an exciting time, the future is promising, and we should treat it as such! Apply the effort now to meaningfully advance on issues relating to collective professionalisation, training and education. Make the most of the step-change in capability that will come with new tools and technology. I have no doubt that if this opportunity is not taken, the moment will prove fleeting and any transformation we intend will ultimately be compromised.

David Beaumont is a serving Australian Army officer. The thoughts here are his own.