Burying the hero – how logistics and readiness changed war

By David Beaumont.

This is part two of a three-part series on logistics and logistics readiness.

In ‘The water in the well – how much logistics readiness is enough?’ I described the idea of logistics readiness as the ability of a military force to build up and sustain combat power at their full potential. Logistics, as a process, is the system of activities which begins in the economy and fills the ‘well’ with ‘water’. Through capability acquisition and integration with the national support base, through multiple Defence and military echelons, right to the battlefield; ineffective activities at any stage along this long line will compromise the logistics readiness of the force as a whole.

That’s the theory. In practice, however, attempts by militaries to develop logistics readiness have led to mixed results. Too few commanders have realised that logistics readiness underpins their strategies, or defines capabilities or the way their forces will fight. Some get it right, and base strategies on the capacity given to forces by their sustaining echelons, bases or auxiliary vessels. This article looks at how logistics readiness has shaped military success and failures, created the nature of operations, and most certainly the capacity of militaries to be viable as a force.

Well before petroleum and gunpowder, logistics grasped on armies and their expeditions. Donald Engels, in Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army, echoes the words of Major General J.F.C. Fuller in his biopic of Alexander; supply was the basis for operational – if not strategic – mobility.[1] Alexander’s approach to logistics readiness shaped strategy, and the design of a force that could achieve such a strategy.[2] Engels attributes the successes of the Macedonian advance through Asia due to a focus upon movements to and from sources of supply, a reduction in the number of horses on campaigns to reduce logistics requirements, insisting troops carried as much of their own equipment as possible, and eliminating the practice of soldiers deploying with family members accompanying.[3] It was an expeditionary army designed with logistics in mind.

Roman advances through Europe and Asia similarly show what logistically ready armies can achieve. Jonathon Roth in The logistics of the Roman Army at war (264 BC – AD 235) argued that the Roman’s success didn’t just come from military culture, training or weaponry. Rome’s ability to provision large armies and shift resources at continental distances was the preeminent factor in the projection of military power. It came from the organisation of servants, soldiers, infrastructure and an expansion based upon access to private markets. Logistics drove the strategy of the most powerful nation of the time. In fact the logistician might have been more important than the strategist given that ‘the necessities of military supplies influenced and often determined the decision of Roman commanders at war.’[4]

The military profession became more aware of the link between a new conception of logistics, readiness, organisation and force projection as our root theories of war were written. Clausewitz’s survey of history, as well as the Napoleonic Wars, led him to write that ‘[t]he end for which a soldier is recruited, clothed, armed and trained, the whole object of his sleeping is simply that he should fight at the right place and the right time’.[5] In his chapter describing the ‘problem of supply’ he articulated that the means of supply could change the ‘form and factor’ of operations.[6] What was possible was shaped by what was immediately practical.

Clausewitz’s contemporary, Jomini, articulated that logistics occupied a leading position in the organisation and execution of strategy and tactics, and that logistics was not just the purview of staff, but of generals. In getting ‘men and materials’ to the front, logistics was centrally concerned with how war was forced upon an enemy. For example, Napoleon’s ability to organise his Army on the basis of administrative necessity by dividing it to support local subsistence shows cognisance of logistics concerns in designing the French Army – at least until he seemingly ignored it all and nearly led his armies to their end.

The transformation in the way that war was being fuelled and fought was definitive in logistics moving from the margins to one of the most significant influences upon success. No longer could a commander assume that the soldier could survive by foraging off the land. Supply was no longer part of a Clausewitzian ‘paper war’ but shaped important strategic and tactical choices. Technology – from the rifle, steam engine, gun to the internal combusting engine had changed the ways armies operated. But military commanders were increasingly pressured with logistics constraints when commanding these soldiers on the battlefield. Technicians began to be required in readiness, and forces designed around their logistics echelon.

Somewhere on the Eastern and Western Fronts of the First World War technology and logistics, hand in hand, buried heroic ideas of the soldier under spent ammunition cases, sacks of fodder, and equipment requisition orders. Industrialised, globalised, warfare saw the supply lines increasingly become the ‘how’ which shaped the ‘what’. We remember the First World War for its ‘storm troops’, the guns, aircraft and tanks, and the doctrinal revolution which gave us early combined arms tactics and intellectual reform in some militaries. But it was also won by raw economic power transformed through military logistics processes into tangible combat potential and eventual military strength. Industry had always been inseparable from warfare, but now the importance of it being ready prior to the first shots of war was blatant.

Supply continually occupied the minds of planners. Initially low levels of logistics readiness prevented strategic responses, despite the arms race that had preceded the war. This cost lives as it was much quicker to deploy soldiers into the field than it was to arm them properly. Initial ammunition shortages limited the ability of the British and allies to crack the Germans front-line; once mobilisation drove industry to full production two years later the problem shifted to one of available distribution capability. It took three years for the British to get in place before the guns could truly be unleashed.

Martin Van Creveld’s Supplying War describes that it was the mobility afforded by motorisation which logistics to the fore in war. The moment fuel was fed into an engine, the motorised or mechanised force became an arm of its logistics capability. Stalin reflected on the Second World War summing it by stating ‘the war was decided by engines and octane.’[7] Churchill exclaimed ‘above all, petrol governed every movement’. Fleet Admiral Ernest King, in 1946 to the US Secretary of the Navy, noted the Second World War as ‘variously termed as a war of production and a war of machines,’ but, ‘whatever else it is … it is a war of logistics.

In a world of rockets and torpedoes, aircraft and submarines, where superpower interests went global, force posture, mobility and preparedness made the connection between war and logistics more obvious. Logistics readiness was reflected in the ability to move forces at transcontinental distances, or through well-supplied forward positions and propositioning fleets of ships. Manuel DeLanda went so far to assert ‘modern tactics and strategy would seem to have become a special branch of logistics’ in 1991.[8] His statement was timely; in the same year the world witnessed a US-led coalition taking six months to move the US military’s strategic reserve to the Gulf region to set an operation which could be won in 100 hours in motion.

Operational deception and airpower might have been important in winning the war. In reality it was seven million tons of supplies and 5.2 billion litres of fuel that gave the ‘left hook’ of Operation Desert Storm form. The supply of refined fuels to Operation Desert Storm was that large, and the speed it was required so fast, it was highly unlikely that the operation could have occurred anywhere else in the world. Logistics readiness was a product of lucky strategic timing in this case. American logistics resources were at their zenith in the waning years of the Cold War, and the US had yet to comprehensively draw down its positions and supplies to reflect a new ‘peace’. General William ‘Gus’ Pagonis, the US Army logistics architect, popularised this episode as ‘moving mountains’ in his best-selling book.[9]

Treading into a time where strategic manoeuvre and mobility was vaunted, Western militaries recognised that the real purpose of logistics was to bring as much power to bear at any one point. The greater the level of logistics readiness, the easier it was to mobilise forces, and the easier it was to deliver a decisive outcome. Unfortunately, logistics readiness could no longer be based on the luxury of heightened resourcing and with the benefits of the forward positions of the Cold War had provided. Western militaries had to be mobile and lean, as had Alexander the Great’s centuries earlier, with a sustainment infrastructure capable of impossible flexibility.

In the US a ‘revolution in military affairs’ not only set in but was matched by a ‘revolution of logistics’ which sought to replace mass with velocity, where the ‘iron mountains’ of Desert Storm were replaced by a belief that adaptive distribution systems could supply a force in the necessary time. Logistics transformation was about reducing the logistics footprint.[10] The 1990s were a time where deregulation saw military organisations embracing organisational reform to reduce the cost of their back of house functions.

New business methods, outsourcing of organic capability, better professional skills and new technology characterised an approach to logistics that was believed to be cost efficient, but would also improve the mobility of the operational force. Rather than logistics readiness being underpinned by copious quantities of war-stocks or believed to be ‘bloated’ support organisations, Western militaries leapt at the possibility for a logistics system that employed what we viewed as ‘best-business practice’ and delivered the right resources, to the right place, at the right time. Logistics readiness would be underpinned by distribution rather than supply; computer-powered information networks that could tell what needed to be where and when rather than inefficient dumps of supplies ordered in sequential echelons of support.

Ambition met reality south of Baghdad. In 2003 the US Army halted for an operational pause outside An Najaf.[11] Though the advance faltered in a desert storm of ‘biblical proportions’, such a pause was patently necessary as the combat force simply outran their supply lines. The promise of a logistics revolution gave way to the age-old impact of operational tempo without adequate supply. Some units lacked water, others food, certain commodities of ammunition had been all but consumed. There were insufficient vehicles to support the dispersed force, and the combination of a command desire to keep the force lean and a ‘just-in-time’ strategic approach to logistics flirted with disaster.

The communications systems essential for command decision-making on the priority and allocation of logistics resources were incoherently spread throughout the force in an abortive modernisation program. Had the wars intensity been maintained beyond the thirty-day mark, even the most powerful military might have run out of ammunition. The ability to project sustained military power over extended periods of time required quantities of the materiel of war that militaries had, ironically, fought so hard to keep from the theatre.

At the time this was happening, the ADF and Defence as a whole, was emerging from its own catharsis. In fact, the organisation was reforming itself about logistics and command problems which emerged in its own operational experiences. Operation Stabilise / Warden in East Timor in 1999 required a rapid response, but the logistics organisation to underpin the deployment had been incapable of anything other than operating in a state of permanent crisis.

Twenty-year old assumptions about what constituted the readiness of the ADF’s logistics – assumptions that had driven force structure and preparedness choices right from the interface with industry to the tactical approach to logistics in the operational area – were challenged and widely reported. The preceding two decades of force rationalisation saw many of the capabilities which enabled a rapid response reduced to woefully inadequate dimensions for the ADF’s largest operation since the Second World War.

Two decades after this operation, the ADF is a very different organisation. Substantial capability gaps were overcome in the years after East Timor, and over the period the West moved its attention to operations in the Middle-east. Will it be enough to prepare the ADF for future operations, even war? It’s incredibly hard to predict whether it will be logistically ready for its next operation. As this article shows, readiness is a consequence of context and even the most adept military and Defence professionals can be surprised by an unpredictable world.

You might infer from this article that logistics readiness is so elusive a topic that it’s pointless trying to speculate how war might be like, or what aspects of the logistics ‘well’ we should work to make more resilient. Perhaps we should rely on our personal experience and judgement, and hope we can get it right? That’s arguably more risky an approach than attempting to predict the future and trying to design and resource a logistically ready force. An in-depth examination of any of the cases mentioned earlier would attest to this fact. It’s therefore critical to ask the question ‘how much logistics readiness is enough?’ while we’ve got the opportunity to do so.

In Part Three, I’ll articulate a framework to help us when we do.


This is an edited adaption of a presentation given at the Australian Defence Force conference ‘Rapid Force Projection’ in April 2019. It has been adjusted significantly to suit the format here.

The thoughts are those of the author alone.

 

[1] Engels, D., 1978, Alexander the Great and the logistics of the Macedonian Army, University of California Press, USA, p 1

[2] Ibid., see Chapter 1 ‘The Macedonian Army’ for a detailed description.

[3] Ibid., p 119

[4] Roth, J., 1999, The logistics of the Roman Army at war (264 BC – AD 235), Brill, USA, p 279

[5] Clausewitz, C. von, On War, edited by Howard, M. & Paret, P., 1976, Princeton University Press, USA, p95

[6] Ibid., p 330

[7] Cowen, D. The deadly life of logistics, University of Minnesota Press, USA, 2014, p29

[8] De Landa, M., 1991, War in the age of intelligent machines cited in Cowen, D. The deadly life of logistics, University of Minnesota Press, USA, 2014, p 30

[9] Pagonis, W., 1994, Moving mountains: lessons in leadership and logistics from the Gulf War, Harvard Business Review Press, USA

[10] Ransom, D., Logistics transformation – reducing the logistics footprint, Strategy Research Project, US Army War College, USA, 2002, pp 2-3 at https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a404441.pdf

[11] See Pelz, E., Halliday, J., Robbins, M. and Girardini, K., Sustainment of Army forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom: Battlefield logistics and effects on operations, RAND Corporation, 2005 at https://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG344.html

National support now – how Defence might prepare the national support base for a future war – Part Two

By David Beaumont.

Other than times of clear national emergency, the Australian population does not perceive national security as a ‘bread and butter’ issue … For its part, Defence generally persists in categorising its peacetime and contingency engagements with the civil infrastructure as discrete entities rather than only as variations of the level of support it requires.

Addendum to the Report of the Defence Efficiency Review, Chapter 8, p 172

In Part One of ‘A new narrative for the mobilisation of a nation’ I described the concept of national support, and the creation of an Australian Defence Force (ADF) agency responsible to deliver on the concept. National support gives the self-evident notion that the national support base is intrinsic to the conduct of military operations coherency. A national support concept was created in the 1990s to show how the ADF and Defence writ large would, in theory, see the national support base better integrated into the conduct of military operations. The Defence Reform Program of 1997 led to the creation of a Headquarters ADF National Support Division (NSD) to oversee national support and better posture the military, if not the nation, for a time of strategic uncertainty in which responsiveness and adaptability of strategic logistics processes and capabilities were vital. We are in a very similar time, and Defence has very similar needs. The concept of national support has a place in this period.

Here, in Part Two, a way forward is described.

The National Support Division (NSD) was folded three years after its establishment, and the national support concept it’s represented buried within a new organisational dynamic. The establishment of the Defence Materiel Organisation in 2001 saw the Division disbanded, and its functions reallocated across Defence. While assurances were given that the national support agenda would remain alive in successor organisations, there’s little hard evidence that a unitary concept for national support ever existed twenty years later.

One major problem faced by Defence in reconsidering national support comes with the fact that the accountabilities and responsibilities for delivering an output are dispersed within Defence. A directorate exists within a Joint Logistics Command’s Strategic Logistics Branch to deal with national support issues; with other tasks performed within the Strategic and Intelligence, and International Policy Divisions of the Department; Capability, Acquisition and Sustainment Group; and a variety of other across Defence. Although the ADF might have a well-defined ‘strategic J4’ to advise the Chief of the Defence Force on strategic logistics issues, and numerous senior leaders desire better national support for Defence activities and increased levels of preparedness throughout the national support base, the increasing impetus we see given to national support base coordination should be accelerated.

There is reason enough to have another look at the concept of national support, even without prompts from Defence senior leaders. The strategic order is in flux, Western nation’s previously unimpeded strategic freedom of action is under pressure, acquisition and sustainment processes are constipated, vulnerabilities and gaps within defence industries and national infrastructure are increasingly conspicuous – the list goes on. Strategic planning is now required to overcome these impediments to create a national support base and Defence enterprise that is responsive to rapidly changing strategic circumstances. As the national support base effectively extends beyond borders, this national endeavour must also include international force posture and logistics considerations. There is always a need for likeminded nations to optimise the logistics arrangements between one another, because not even the mightiest can sustain major combat operations alone. Furthermore, coordinated logistics cooperation with neighbours can be critical in shaping the security environment and assist greatly in ‘setting the theatre’ if competition and conflict are to come.

So where do we begin? As mentioned above, and a problem with the original formulation of national support, Defence and its partners need to settle on the litany of terms, doctrine and jargon that will inevitably shape later conversations. An acceptable, modern, definition of national support might also be accompanied by clarity with respect to terms such as ‘force scaling’, ‘force expansion’, ‘surety’, ‘preparedness’ and even ‘strategic logistics’.[1] Perhaps we might even want to ponder the implications of the current ADF definition of mobilisation before a concept of national support takes shape:

the process that provides the framework to generate military capabilities and marshal national resources to defend the nation and its interests. It encompasses activities associated with preparedness, the conduct of operations and force expansion. Mobilisation is a continuum of interrelated activities that occurs during the four phases: preparation, work-up, operations and reconstitution.’

This use of mutually acceptable terms will help to remove confusion in the interaction between agencies, partners and others. In doing so it will help in attempts to identify the right authorities to respond to each part of the collective problem. This understanding must also be accompanied with an acceptance that non-organic national support base capabilities are as vital to national security as Defence logistics and other military resources. This acceptance goes beyond the too narrow notion of industry as a ‘fundamental input into capability’.[2] Wars are won by whole-of-nation efforts, not military activity alone. Although Defence may begin as the stewards of the idea of national support, there will be a point where any resolution to this systemically national problem will have to driven by others.

Defence, inclusive of the ADF, has a great deal of internal work to undertake. It might start by reviewing what NSD tasks and functions should be afforded a second life. It will have to identify who is responsible for delivering these national outcomes. Secondly, to enable the national support base to respond to a crisis Defence must be armed by a range of mechanisms that enable ‘it’ to better define what operational requirements it is supporting. Perhaps the most important task will be the aligning of processes, and strategic logistics activities in particular, to collective needs. In other words, internal to Defence activities will need to be seen as not only as meeting capability and preparedness requirements, but as tools that can shape and mould the national support base to meet the unforeseen.

A rigorous, well-crafted and sensitive communication strategy will be required, as will cultural reform, because national support is a concept that can be influenced by Defence but not wholly owned. It is a national security issue. Finally, if Defence is serious about the need to consider topics such as force expansion, let alone mobilisation, it must understand the level of national capability which presently exists to support the Defence effort in a time of emergency. Once it defines the strengths and weaknesses, limitations and constraints, of the national support base it can be a proactive partner working with others to resolve them.

Why national support matters now

A variety of Defence leaders have challenged members of the ADF, the Department, and partners to think through the problems associated with how national security needs might require all to adapt to the unexpected. For example, the idea of ‘force-scaling’, as advocated in the Australian Army, has many connotations for those national support base partners who contribute to military success. [3] Defining what ‘force-scaling’ is the first step! It is, however, only one thought among many that needs to be properly integrated in a ‘big picture’ strategic idea; an idea that provides overarching principles and themes to guide planning and behaviour across the national support base. To that end Defence is armed with the benefits of corporate knowledge and a repository of information available within its own archives and captured in the diaspora of documentation that drives its daily business.

All of this aside, there is another reason the conceptualising, strategising and planning matters now. Western societies and their militaries are behind in their thinking about it. Concepts such as Chinese ‘civil-military’ fusion, a Government agenda which mandates dual-use civil and military technologies to be developed, reflect a mobilisation of the Chinese national support base. It is part of ‘setting the theatre’ by creating the conditions by which that nation can respond to its own crises or changes in the strategic environment. It shows evidence of a plan, or at the least, an approach to whole-of-nation efforts. Although the outcome may be demonstrably different, Defence and its partners should similarly work in a holistic national security endeavour to confirm the strategic logistics basis upon which it will draw the strength to protect Australia’s national interests. After all, it may just be that Australia is already within what is commonly known as ‘strategic warning time’. It will be too late to begin planning after any crisis carries the nation away.

David Beaumont can be found online @davidblogistics. The views here are his own.


[1] Australian Defence Force Publication 4 – Mobilisation and preparedness includes many of these terms but there are anomalies and contradictions within the definitions.

[2] Department of Defence 2016, Defence Industry Policy Statement, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, p 19

[3] See Australian Army, Chief of Army Strategic Guidance 2019, Commonwealth of Australia, 2019, p 15

5th-generation energy for 5th-generation air power

Editorial Note: On 11 April 2019, the Sir Richard Williams Foundation is holding a seminar examining high-intensity operations and sustaining self-reliance. The aim of the seminar, building on previous seminars and series looking at #jointstrike and #highintensitywar, is to establish a common understanding of the importance and challenges of sustaining a self-reliant Australian Defence Force in a challenging environment. In support of the seminar, The Central Blue and Logistics in War will be publishing a series of articles. In this article, Nicholas Parker examines fuel security and potential impacts on a 5th Generation Air Force.

By 2025 the Royal Australian Air Force will operate a fleet of technologically advanced 5th generation aircraft. However, in modernising the RAAF capability, an inadequate amount of attention has been afforded to the fuel and energy infrastructure that supports these assets. In order to ensure these 5th generation capabilities are employed to their fullest, Air Force must capitalise on new and emerging energy technologies that enhance the support provided by air bases.

Australia currently enjoys what it thinks to be a high degree of liquid fuel security. Reports released by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism assert that Australia’s market based approach, ready access to the global and regional markets for crude oil and petroleum products, and efficient supply management by industry, has delivered secure, reliable and adequate liquid fuel supplies. Australia’s guiding principle is that energy markets should be left to operate freely, without unnecessary government intervention. To date, this approach has met the current operational requirements of Air Force and those of the broader domestic economy.

Whilst there are economic benefits to this approach, it discounts current trends in competition for energy sources and market dominance, threats to supply infrastructure, the impact of natural disasters and geopolitical uncertainty (especially in the Indo-Pacific region). An inadequate appreciation of these trends has created complacency resulting in a ‘stove-piped’ Australian energy policy; policy that does not appreciate the complexity inherent in future energy infrastructure systems. Consequently, energy security and supply is viewed through a ‘singular lens’; whereby the focus has been on discrete energy types with discrete global supply chains that are disparate, separately managed, and (most significantly) vulnerable.

Consider the following statistic: Currently 90% of Australia’s fuel supplies are imported; 40% as crude oil and the remaining 60% as refined fuels. In contrast to other developed nations, Australia is alone in its total reliance on ‘market forces’ to ensure secure access to the global fuel supply chain. Furthermore, Australia has no Government-owned strategic oil or fuel reserves, and does not mandate minimum stock holding requirements for the fuel refining / importing industry. These oversights induce significant logistics and operational risks to the delivery of Air Force capability. Should a significant supply disruption occur within key sea lines of communication (SLOC) within the Indo-Pacific (e.g., natural disaster, accident, commercial failure, act of terror or war), Australia’s capacity to provide fuel for its 5th generation Air Force is immediately jeopardised.

The National Strategy for Energy Security, developed by the United States Energy Security Leadership Council, offers a range of recommendations to counter the challenges created as a result of the current global security environment. The National Strategy is the preeminent document on the topic of energy security and calls on the US government to fundamentally strengthen a combination of energy security measures (Energy Security Leadership Council, 2016), including:

a.                   Support, rather than hinder, innovation in energy technology;

b.                   Major reductions in crude oil consumption by increasing domestic energy production;

c.                   Reforms to energy-related regulations; and

d.                   Transform the domestic distribution section so that oil is no longer its primary fuel.

Australian energy policy makers must undertake policy reform that is reflective of the US approach, appreciating that the challenges and opportunities in energy security are global in nature, and remain cognisant of the significant implications an approximate policy approach has for Australia’s national security. To date, energy policy pundits have been relatively silent to the 2016 Defence White Paper’s acknowledgement of the strategic influence of energy supply chains and energy security on national defence. Whilst energy requirements and subsequent security has never been a key driver behind Australian defence policy, the Defence White Paper does raise the requirement to “improve Defence’s fuel resilience”. Further, when reviewing a critical infrastructure bill in March 2018, the Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security made the following recommendation: “The Department of Home Affairs in consultation with Defence and the Department of the Environment and Energy need to review and develop measures to ensure Australia has a continuous supply of fuel to meet national security priorities.”

Adequate, reliable and economically competitive energy to sustain Air Force 5th generation capabilities and infrastructure must be seen as shared responsibility between Government and the Australian energy industry. The importance of a strong Government-industry partnership in addressing energy security challenges in the long-term cannot be understated. In the interim, however, there are a number of practical measures that Air Force and the wider Australian Defence Force can undertake to fortify the energy requirements of a 5th generation Air Force. These include:

a.                   Advancing the development of energy technologies by integrating contractual efficiencies for their use in warehousing and distribution contracts. In particular, create incentives for the purchase and use of medium and heavy-rigid distribution vehicles that use advanced fuel sources[1].

b.                   Use an Air Force and energy industry partnership to create performance-based advanced fuel standards in order to reduce traditional fuels consumption. Accelerating the adoption of advanced fuel systems[2] into 5th generation aircraft and military vehicles will reduce the logistics and operational risks to Air Force capability associated with the use of traditional fuels.

c.                   Empower Estate and Infrastructure Group to pursue efficiencies in airbase energy infrastructure with a view to create completely self-reliant airbases through, for example, the use of solar and wind systems.[3]

d.                   To support the aforementioned recommendation, establish an Air Force ‘Energy Security Research Grant’ to fund research and development in advanced fuel technologies for use in 5th generation aircraft, military vehicles and airbases.

e.                   Build an international consensus amongst Australia’s coalition and regional partners on the importance of shared responsibility and coordinated action to deal with future energy security challenges.

Air Force cannot remain ignorant to the interdependency of energy and national security as long as it remains heavily dependent on traditional fuels to power its 5th generation aircraft, military vehicles, and airbases. Despite a current abundance of supply, such dependence introduces operational risks and critical vulnerabilities to 5th generation air power. While innovation in advanced fuel technologies will require years to mature, through the combination of measures proposed in this article, Australia will move toward being more energy secure, and more self-reliant.


Flight Lieutenant Nicholas Packer is a Logistics Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force. Nicholas is currently posted to RAAF Base East Sale as an instructor at the RAAF Officer Training School mentoring newly commissioned officers through their 17 week ab initio course. The views expressed are his alone and do not reflect the opinion of the Royal Australian Air Force, the Department of Defence, or the Australian Government.

[1] Advanced fuel sources are distinct from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power systems. Examples of advanced fuel sources include biodiesel, hydrogen cell, electric-hybrid, ethanol, natural gas and propane.

[2] Development of advanced fuel systems for use in motorsport has demonstrated high technical performance can be achieved from advanced fuel sources.

[3] There are a range of academic studies that have highlighted the value of hydrogen and pumped hydro-systems to store energy generated by solar and wind systems (Blackburn, Energy Security: Is there a problem?, 2018).

Logistics and the strangling of strategy

By David Beaumont.

Logistics has long been recognised as vital to a force, but when inefficient a constraint on that force’s freedom to manoeuvre. However, the impact of logistics on strategy is just as significant and ultimately more profound. The modern fixation on high-velocity, nominally ‘efficient’, and usually ‘globalised’ supply chains have introduced significant operational challenges that many strategists fail to fully realise. Indeed, it was recently argued that the Australian Defence Force has yet to fully understand the consequences of an approach to logistics that now permeates its methods of sustaining capabilities and operations. This is for two reasons. One, it is hard to ascertain where single points of failure are in global supply chains for the purposes of creating and sustaining combat capabilities. Two, the nature of these supply chains makes securing them increasingly more important to operational success than the defence of lines of communication has ever been.

Logistic systems and supply chains, and the concepts that drive their formation, are as influential on strategy at least as much, if not more, than strategy should be in determining them. Writers in strategic theory have long known this, although few read works of military theory beyond the most appealing components. While military staff college students and university graduates world-wide know of Clausewitz’s ‘trinity’, or could debate ‘ad nauseum’ the meaning of ‘centre of gravity’, it is rare to see a reflection of his chapter on supplying war and its influence on strategy. Clausewitz, although not overwhelmingly interested in issues of ‘paper war’, knew the irrevocable relationship logistics had with strategy and tactics. In his later editions of On War, those that included his revelations on supply, Clausewitz regarded logistic matters to presage operational ones, if not strategy itself; “questions of supply can exert on the form and direction of operations, as well as the choice of a theatre of war and the line of communication.”[1] 

Modern war shows no evidence to support any contradiction of Clausewitz’s view. Instead, the view now seems beyond theory and stands as an enduring law. Major conflicts and battles have been fought over lines of communication or to secure new routes since war began, and we now look at access to distant regions of the world for national vitality, supply chain security, or lines of communication for potential enemies on the move. Now militaries possess capabilities, such as the incoming F-35 Joint strike Fighter, which are built from numerous suppliers (90 major suppliers with respect to the case in point) supported by production from around the globe. Such complexity conspires with other supply chain risks to create strategic weaknesses that can compromise the materiel, force posture and preparedness decisions of militaries.

Geographer Deborah Cowen’s recent book The Deadly Life of Logistics cites the rise ‘logistics cities’ from the FOB’s transitioned from military establishment in places such as Iraq, and the importance of logistic infrastructure and production as a determinant of war as well as the sustainment of forces far away. Strategic interests converge on these vital points, and logistics has truly regained its hold on strategy. Europe is now a stage for forward force posturing and build-up; re-emerging as a method to reduce the logistic risk for forces that would otherwise have to launch from homelands to prospective conflict zones. Elsewhere the supply chains themselves are the cause for concern. We increasingly fear the loss of access to the global commons, and the threat of contests in places such as the South China Sea, North Africa and the Middle-east against potential foes with increasing capability and desire to interdict what fuels war, reducing both strategic and logistic maneuverability and options. Logistic vulnerabilities expressed in movements and supply have arguably heralded an end to the post-Cold War ‘expeditionary age’ where Western forces could easily, and relatively rapidly, range the globe to combat emergent threats.

Supply-graphicstory

Supply routes to Afghanistan and Iraq, 2011. National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

In terms of operations, the vainglorious attempt to reduce the impact of logistics on strategy, operations and tactics seems to have created new, or morphed old, problems. This paradox was demonstrated throughout Western campaigning in Afghanistan, an operation where virtually every wont could be satisfied and austerity, at least it was believed, could be avoided. The unprecedented outsourcing of logistics functions was intended to enhance operational flexibility for offensive operations by allowing task relief for military logistic elements, achieve national development objectives so to promote local economic growth, but most importantly, reduce the scale of military logistic forces in theatre. Professor Derek Gregory claims this tremendous transfer of risk funded years of warlordism and corruption, where strategic convenience counter-productively drew away resources better employed directly in support of the deployed force. Furthermore, insurgent destruction of civilian contracted convoys and international disputes with Pakistan very quickly showed that even commercial supply chains needed to be protected and war didn’t agree with the planners view of logistics being out of sight, and out of mind.

As the nature of war changed, and the risk to transport convoys became increasingly concerning, new solutions were sought to sustain dispersed forces. Stockpiling was impossible, and remained undesirable. War is quite clearly ironic, as many of the alternatives on offer proved as ultimately inefficient as the ‘iron mountains’ they were designed to obviate. The nature of problems simply changed. From 2006 to 2011 the USAF record of airdrops in Afghanistan had increased from 3.5 million lbs to over 80 million lbs annually, with around 40% of FOBs supplied directly from air; air elements that were frightfully expensive to operate and sustain themselves. At the height of such operations, each gallon of fuel cost $400 USD to deliver. Furthermore, it could only be sustained because of the easily obtainable regional fuel resources. Gregory cites Captain Albaugh from the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron who aptly described these air operations, “we’re going to burn a lot of gas to drop a lot of gas”.

What does this mean for the people expected to develop future sustainment plans? School of Advanced Military Studies student, Major Martha Granger, in her 2003 analysis of three Afghanistan campaigns (pdf), noted logistics is never easy and there must be balance between ‘iron mountains’ and the lean force. This is a message that is often muted behind the effusion about modern forms of military logistics, even within the US military that has more reason than any other to understand the impact of logistics on operations. In analysing the US Navy concept of ‘seabasing’ the Congressional Budget Office outlined ideas from fleets of a dozen vessels per brigade of marines to airships providing sustainment to deployed forces; each idea addressing the problem of forward positioning logistics yet introducing significant operational challenges the US military, with its arsenal of ship to shore connectors, has yet to completely respond to. One wonders whether the idea that large logistics footprints, seen to be a constraint to tactical and operational manoeuvre, can ever be obviated by technology or conceptual solutions.

Preceding The Deadly Life of Logistics, and in another paper, Deborah Cowen wrote that we are moving to an era where ‘logistic space’ has been recast from an environment of economic and commercial costs to one which has significant implications for security. In a more visceral sense, in viewing logistics as a system of ‘adding value’ through the reduction of stock holdings or volume – counterpoised against an increasing demand for velocity – nations and the militaries that protect them are becoming increasingly vulnerable to anything that interferes with or interdicts this flow. This is occurring at the same time militaries are becoming greater consumers, and harder to keep combat effective in the field. For armed forces, the vulnerabilities created in this situation apply to both decision making in strategy and in the conduct of actual operations. Plans can be tweaked to better control and adjust the way logistics responds to these conditions, but planners must also be aware of the outcomes of doing so. Perhaps out desire to unshackle our dispersed operations from ‘iron mountains’, or other constraints of logistics, only leaves military planners with new challenges, some even greater, than what they were initially hoping to overcome.

This post is an updated and substantially edited version to the authors article at the Australian Army’s Land Power Forum. The original can be found at https://www.army.gov.au/our-future/blog/logistics/beyond-the-iron-mountain-the-paradox-of-efficient-logistics David Beaumont is editor of ‘Logistics In War’. The thoughts here are his own. He can be followed on Twitter @davidblogistics.

 

[1] Clausewitz, C., On War, Howard, M., & Paret, P. (translated and edited), Princeton, USA, 1976, p 338

Logistics and the strangling of strategy – from the LIWArchives

By David Beaumont, originally posted 22nd April 2017.

Logistics has long been recognised as vital to a force, but when inefficient a constraint on that force’s freedom to manoeuvre. However, the impact of logistics on strategy is just as significant and ultimately more profound. The modern fixation on high-velocity, nominally ‘efficient’, and usually ‘globalised’ supply chains have introduced significant operational challenges that many strategists fail to fully realise. Indeed, it was recently argued that the Australian Defence Force has yet to fully understand the consequences of an approach to logistics that now permeates its methods of sustaining capabilities and operations. This is for two reasons. One, it is hard to ascertain where single points of failure are in global supply chains for the purposes of creating and sustaining combat capabilities. Two, the nature of these supply chains makes securing them increasingly more important to operational success than the defence of lines of communication has ever been.

Logistic systems and supply chains, and the concepts that drive their formation, are as influential on strategy at least as much, if not more, than strategy should be in determining them. Writers in strategic theory have long known this, although few read works of military theory beyond the most appealing components. While military staff college students and university graduates world-wide know of Clausewitz’s ‘trinity’, or could debate ‘ad nauseum’ the meaning of ‘centre of gravity’, it is rare to see a reflection of his chapter on supplying war and its influence on strategy. Clausewitz, although not overwhelmingly interested in issues of ‘paper war’, knew the irrevocable relationship logistics had with strategy and tactics. In his later editions of On War, those that included his revelations on supply, Clausewitz regarded logistic matters to presage operational ones, if not strategy itself; “questions of supply can exert on the form and direction of operations, as well as the choice of a theatre of war and the line of communication.”[1] 

Modern war shows no evidence to support any contradiction of Clausewitz’s view. Instead, the view now seems beyond theory and stands as an enduring law. Major conflicts and battles have been fought over lines of communication or to secure new routes since war began, and we now look at access to distant regions of the world for national vitality, supply chain security, or lines of communication for potential enemies on the move. Now militaries possess capabilities, such as the incoming F-35 Joint strike Fighter, which are built from numerous suppliers (90 major suppliers with respect to the case in point) supported by production from around the globe. Such complexity conspires with other supply chain risks to create strategic weaknesses that can compromise the materiel, force posture and preparedness decisions of militaries.

Geographer Deborah Cowen’s recent book The Deadly Life of Logistics cites the rise ‘logistics cities’ from the FOB’s transitioned from military establishment in places such as Iraq, and the importance of logistic infrastructure and production as a determinant of war as well as the sustainment of forces far away. Strategic interests converge on these vital points, and logistics has truly regained its hold on strategy. Europe is now a stage for forward force posturing and build-up; re-emerging as a method to reduce the logistic risk for forces that would otherwise have to launch from homelands to prospective conflict zones. Elsewhere the supply chains themselves are the cause for concern. We increasingly fear the loss of access to the global commons, and the threat of contests in places such as the South China Sea, North Africa and the Middle-east against potential foes with increasing capability and desire to interdict what fuels war, reducing both strategic and logistic maneuverability and options. Logistic vulnerabilities expressed in movements and supply have arguably heralded an end to the post-Cold War ‘expeditionary age’ where Western forces could easily, and relatively rapidly, range the globe to combat emergent threats.

Supply-graphicstory
Supply routes to Afghanistan and Iraq, 2011. National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

In terms of operations, the vainglorious attempt to reduce the impact of logistics on strategy, operations and tactics seems to have created new, or morphed old, problems. This paradox was demonstrated throughout Western campaigning in Afghanistan, an operation where virtually every wont could be satisfied and austerity, at least it was believed, could be avoided. The unprecedented outsourcing of logistics functions was intended to enhance operational flexibility for offensive operations by allowing task relief for military logistic elements, achieve national development objectives so to promote local economic growth, but most importantly, reduce the scale of military logistic forces in theatre. Professor Derek Gregory claims this tremendous transfer of risk funded years of warlordism and corruption, where strategic convenience counter-productively drew away resources better employed directly in support of the deployed force. Furthermore, insurgent destruction of civilian contracted convoys and international disputes with Pakistan very quickly showed that even commercial supply chains needed to be protected and war didn’t agree with the planners view of logistics being out of sight, and out of mind.

As the nature of war changed, and the risk to transport convoys became increasingly concerning, new solutions were sought to sustain dispersed forces. Stockpiling was impossible, and remained undesirable. War is quite clearly ironic, as many of the alternatives on offer proved as ultimately inefficient as the ‘iron mountains’ they were designed to obviate. The nature of problems simply changed. From 2006 to 2011 the USAF record of airdrops in Afghanistan had increased from 3.5 million lbs to over 80 million lbs annually, with around 40% of FOBs supplied directly from air; air elements that were frightfully expensive to operate and sustain themselves. At the height of such operations, each gallon of fuel cost $400 USD to deliver. Furthermore, it could only be sustained because of the easily obtainable regional fuel resources. Gregory cites Captain Albaugh from the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron who aptly described these air operations, “we’re going to burn a lot of gas to drop a lot of gas”.

What does this mean for the people expected to develop future sustainment plans? School of Advanced Military Studies student, Major Martha Granger, in her 2003 analysis of three Afghanistan campaigns (pdf), noted logistics is never easy and there must be balance between ‘iron mountains’ and the lean force. This is a message that is often muted behind the effusion about modern forms of military logistics, even within the US military that has more reason than any other to understand the impact of logistics on operations. In analysing the US Navy concept of ‘seabasing’ the Congressional Budget Office outlined ideas from fleets of a dozen vessels per brigade of marines to airships providing sustainment to deployed forces; each idea addressing the problem of forward positioning logistics yet introducing significant operational challenges the US military, with its arsenal of ship to shore connectors, has yet to completely respond to. One wonders whether the idea that large logistics footprints, seen to be a constraint to tactical and operational manoeuvre, can ever be obviated by technology or conceptual solutions.

Preceding The Deadly Life of Logistics, and in another paper, Deborah Cowen wrote that we are moving to an era where ‘logistic space’ has been recast from an environment of economic and commercial costs to one which has significant implications for security. In a more visceral sense, in viewing logistics as a system of ‘adding value’ through the reduction of stock holdings or volume – counterpoised against an increasing demand for velocity – nations and the militaries that protect them are becoming increasingly vulnerable to anything that interferes with or interdicts this flow. This is occurring at the same time militaries are becoming greater consumers, and harder to keep combat effective in the field. For armed forces, the vulnerabilities created in this situation apply to both decision making in strategy and in the conduct of actual operations. Plans can be tweaked to better control and adjust the way logistics responds to these conditions, but planners must also be aware of the outcomes of doing so. Perhaps out desire to unshackle our dispersed operations from ‘iron mountains’, or other constraints of logistics, only leaves military planners with new challenges, some even greater, than what they were initially hoping to overcome.

This post is an updated and substantially edited version to the authors article made on the Australian Army’s Land Power Forum. The original can be found at https://www.army.gov.au/our-future/blog/logistics/beyond-the-iron-mountain-the-paradox-of-efficient-logistics David Beaumont is a serving Australian Army officer, logistician and Managing Editor of ‘Logistics In War’. The thoughts here are his own. He can be followed on Twitter @davidblogistics.

[1] Clausewitz, C., On War, Howard, M., & Paret, P. (translated and edited), Princeton, USA, 1976, p 338

Huston’s sixteen principles: assessing operational performance during Op Desert Storm

By Chris Paparone.

This article is interesting not only for its historical value, but in the way Chris Paparone utilised the sixteen principles of logistics derived from the classic American history of Army logistics, Dr James Huston’s The Sinews of War: Army Logistics 1775-1953. The book was written soon after the conclusion of the Korean War (Huston was the US Army’s official historian) and the principles were subsequently adapted into US Army doctrine. The principles described are worth comparing against recent doctrine, and offer logisticians a good set of criteria to review events.

This article was originally published in US ‘Army Logistician’ (preceding ‘Army Sustainment’) soon after the lessons of Desert Storm starting spilling into the public domain. Following this operation there was a major shift in the way supply was conducted from a classic ‘push’ approach to a demand and distribution-based ‘pull’ method as applied in Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom in 2002 and 2003. In any case the lessons, and the method by which the problems of Desert Storm were examined, remain pertinent today. Editor.

In the Persian Gulf War, the XVIII Airborne Corps experienced the full spectrum of logistics, from deployment in an austere contingency environment, through the painstaking development of a mature, 126,000-soldier corps, to participation in a theater logistics structure that combined U.S. and host nation support systems. During the war’s ground offensive in February 1991, this support structure permitted the corps to maneuver over record distances and achieve operational and tactical objectives with great speed.

Looking back at the war, our logistics supremacy is clear. However, hindsight also allows us to measure our performance against time-tested tenets of logistics success: the 16 Principles of Logistics defined in the Army Strategic Logistic Systems Plan (which are derived from the principles described by Dr. James A. Huston in his historical study, The Sinews of War: Army Logistics 1775-1953). Using the 16 principles as our guide, I would like to share some observations my colleagues and I made while we served as staffers in the XVIII Airborne Corps during the Gulf War. The insights gained from this exercise may encourage logisticians to use the principles in planning and executing logistics support operations in future conflicts.

As a test of our logistics systems, the Gulf War ground offensive was very short. The real “logistics war” was fought during the 6 months of buildup that preceded the ground campaign. Our logistics offensive plans had to be executed several months before “G-Day;” preparations for Desert Storm had to be made during Desert Shield. For these reasons, I use the Principles of Logistics to look at our performance in a logistics continuum, without regard to the distinction often made between Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Equivalence

The United States took a deliberate risk, and violated the principle of equivalence, by deciding to deploy combat forces before building a satisfactory logistics support structure at either the corps or theater level. Our operational reach and our ability to conduct a mobile defense during the first 120 days after the President decided to send troops to Southwest Asia were hampered by our lack of combat service support (CSS) units and adequate supply stocks. More significant as a sign of the lack of equivalence, the XVIII Airborne Corps decided it was not prepared to mount an early, one-corps offensive, even when pressured by theater commanders to plan for such action.

The late arrival of critical corps CSS units demonstrated that our initial defensive strategy was governed more by deterrence and deception than sustainability. To distribute the limited supplies of fuel, ammunition, and subsistence, the corps used the limited number of available host nation trucks and a system of supply point distribution. Distributing supplies was complicated by the simultaneous need to defend a huge area: the eastern portion of Saudi Arabia, where the corps area of operations was 175 kilometers wide and 300 kilometers deep.

However, the principle of equivalence was not ignored when planning for the Desert Storm offensive campaign began. By that time, logistics and tactical considerations were on an equal footing in developing maneuver options and determining the feasibility of each course of action. Great care was taken to ensure that the mix of CSS elements was in proportion to the rest of the corps. And logistics factors were weighed carefully by the corps and the Army Central Command (ARCENT) commanders when they selected the best alternative for the attack.

An important aspect of the equivalence principle is the need to maintain a comparable grade structure between logistics commands and other commands. Equivalence of rank is found at division level: the commander of a division support command (DISCOM) is a colonel—the same rank as the commander of the divisional maneuver brigade the DISCOM supports. In the Persian Gulf War, the 1st Corps Support Command (COSCOM)—then the largest major subordinate command of the XVIII Airborne Corps, with over 22,000 assigned or attached soldiers—was commanded by a full colonel. (Fortunately, the Army has since recognized that the complexity and importance of the COSCOM warrants a commander of brigadier general rank. I believe that a COSCOM commander actually should be a major general, equivalent to a division commander.) In contrast, the commander of the theater-level 22d Support Command (SUPCOM), Major General (later Lieutenant General) William Pagonis, held a rank more appropriate for the commander of a corps-sized unit.

Materiel Precedence

This principle was clearly violated. Many units arrived in country weeks before their equipment, and CSS equipment was deployed as the last priority at all levels. Most difficult to overcome were the distribution problems created by a lack of medium trucks to sustain the corps while it was dispersed in defensive sectors.

With few exceptions, XVIII Airborne Corps combat units were equipped by mid-February 1991 with the newest and best materiel available. This was due to Herculean, though last-minute, materiel fielding efforts. Many CSS units, however, went to war either short of their authorized equipment, at a low authorized level of organization, or without the latest available technology.

Use of pre-positioned cargo ships from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean was obviously a success story. These ships provided the first real sustainment package to the corps until shipments from the United States and Europe could be completed.

Forward Impetus

During its initial rapid deployment, with the exception of limited pre-positioned war reserves on the ships from Diego Garcia, the XVIII Airborne Corps received very little supply automatically pushed from wholesale depots. The “pull system” had to be employed in combination with pushes of preplanned sustainment supplies from the corps’ home station accounts at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The initial preplanned supply shipments (IPSS) mentioned in the corps’ Southwest Asia war plans never materialized.

Automatic resupply of fuel, rations, and ammunition was planned for the ground offensive. That the ground campaign was brief (only 100 hours) was fortunate, because most of the bulk fuel and common-user land transportation (CULT) cargo trucks were sent forward with the attacking forces as “rolling warehouses.” The corps’ general support (GS) base was virtually absent and unable to provide timely follow-on resupply. Also, supported units were slow in returning trucks, which caused much nail biting in the logistics community. At one point, to compensate for the truck shortages, we resorted to sending Saudi Arabian commercial fuel trucks over the Iraqi border to build sustainment forward, at great potential political and physical risk to host nation assets and civilian personnel.

Mobility

Most of the medium truck companies deployed to Southwest Asia were equipped with M915 commercial-style tractor trucks and M872 40-foot semitrailers. Although these vehicles were appropriate for hard-surfaced roads, their inability to operate over land severely constrained the corps’ ability to resupply ammunition as planned. This lack of cross-country-capable trucks forced tactical planners to clear the only hard-surfaced road in the corps sector (Main Supply Route Texas), which also was the road most heavily defended by the Iraqi forces.

To gain a cross-country capability, the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) elected to trade M932 tractors from supporting nondivisional POL (petroleum, oils, and lubricants) truck companies for vehicles capable of hauling M872 ammunition trailers over land. The division judged that not having sufficient fuel delivered forward
was a lesser risk than not having enough ammunition forward. For the duration of the 100-hour ground offensive, a reported thirty 5,000-gallon tanker semitrailers remained unemployed because of the lack of cross-country-capable prime movers.

We also had too few organic heavy equipment transporters (HET’s) and lowboys to efficiently move the corps into position across long distances. The corps needed to make 1,508 moves with HET’s and 721 with lowboys to shift from its defensive positions to offensive tactical assembly areas (TAA’s), but it was equipped with less than 100 HET’s and even fewer lowboys. Fortunately, host nation and allied forces pitched in to assist our efforts to move the corps. This made the desired timing of the ground attack feasible.

For the offensive, many divisional internal supplies and equipment had to be moved west by CULT trucks. This was less the case with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and more so with the 82d Airborne Division and the mechanized forces of the 24th Infantry Division and the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment. For example, the 82d Airborne Division required over 500 tactical cargo trucks to motorize 3 brigades of infantry. These trucks were provided from theater and 1st COSCOM assets. (They were replaced by less mobile and less reliable commercial 5-ton-equivalent trucks. Interestingly, these replacements were mostly Mercedes trucks, which were colorfully painted and nicknamed “circus trucks.”) The effect was to reduce the corps’ ability to stockpile supplies inland and provide off-road-capable resupply during offensive operations.

Dispersion

Late in the XVIII Airborne Corps’ preparation for defensive operations, several support areas were established with stocks of ammunition, fuel, water, and food. These areas were well dispersed and were placed logically to assume successive fallback positions if necessary.

In contrast, a degree of risk was accepted in placing large quantities of supplies forward in relatively small areas at unprotected corps and theater logistics bases to support offensive operations. The loss or denial of one of these log bases could have significantly impaired the offensive capability of ARCENT and Marine Central Command ground forces. Fortunately, our intelligence estimates correctly viewed enemy disruption of these bases as unlikely, especially in light of our overwhelming air superiority.

Economy

During the strategic deployment of the XVIII Airborne Corps, we found that our heaviest element, the 24th Infantry Division, closed in Saudi Arabia earlier than our lightest force, the 82d Airborne Division. This disparity occurred because the 24th Infantry Division made economical use of fast sealift, rather than piecemeal airlifting of its troops and equipment, and because the 82d Airborne Division had never planned on deploying by sea. We concluded that fast roll-on-roll-off ships were worth their weight in gold, but there weren’t enough of them.

During defensive preparations, we observed that many units stockpiled supplies to the point of hoarding. When we shifted west to prepare for the offensive, units abandoned or destroyed supplies while still in their defensive positions because they lacked transportation to move them. Waste made for an uneconomical transition to offense. We specified that priority of movement went to building up stocks forward as the corps moved to offensive TAA’s.

Arguably, we were not economical in using our limited number of CULT trucks when we started to move. Such a massive and rapid operational displacement of a large force had never been accomplished before; unfortunately, we did not make optimal use of our limited cargo-hauling capability. Three factors were primarily responsible for this failure—

· Unit cargoes were more than the minimum necessary to accomplish the mission. For example, units carried portable latrines and showers and containers of bottled, rather than bulk, water.

· Divisions were not as mobile as envisioned in doctrinal publications.

· We lacked the organization and long-distance communications needed to control the use of our CULT assets.

Feasibility

While we planned for defense and attempted to monitor the buildup of logistics assets and their employment, we lacked detailed logistics estimates at all levels. This deficiency was mostly due to the unknown disposition and arrival dates of major CSS units. By the time the 1st COSCOM closed in country, we already were planning and preparing detailed logistics estimates for the offensive campaign. As a result, estimates for the defense were neither fully completed nor properly documented in the XVIII Airborne Corps.

The logistics estimates prepared for the offensive campaign relied heavily upon the intelligence and operations estimates for obtaining realistic ammunition and fuel consumption forecasts, as well as data on capabilities and expected shortfalls in distribution. In most cases, ammunition and fuel consumption estimates were overstated, resulting in the commitment of too many corps assets to follow advancing maneuver elements. This error delayed sustaining resupply scheduled in support of future operations.

The corps’ logistics estimates showed a potential  deficit of 100 bulk fuel tractor-trailers to support the depth of operations expected. The actual fuel distribution shortfall came close to that forecast. We concluded that our carrying capacity was sufficient, but that we probably misallocated tanker assets that were with maneuver units. If the war had been longer, the additional tankers would have been needed to reduce risks in achieving operational reach.

The Army needs a faster and more accurate method for developing logistics estimates. FM 101-10-1, Staff Officers’ Field Manual—Organizational, Technical, and Logistical Data, does not provide data on time, distance, and consumption rates needed to develop realistic logistics requirements. Because of the lack of supply asset visibility—the result of a general ineffectiveness of logistics automated systems—we lacked current information needed for making supply and transportation estimates.

Flexibility

One of the XVIII Airborne Corps’ greatest strengths was the support provided by Air Force intratheater air assets. We used C-130 transports to move thousands of soldiers, many tons of rolling stock, and repair parts in preparation for the offensive. During our displacement from defensive positions to offensive TAA’s, 2,703 wheeled vehicles, 15,848 passengers, and 116 pallets were moved into place in just 14 days. In addition, we received outstanding aerial bulk fuel delivery service, which gave the corps significant operational flexibility.

Each day, the Air Force delivered from 100,000 to more than 120,000 gallons of fuel to Log Base Charlie, using a field landing strip constructed from a two-lane paved road by Army engineers . This remarkable capability—enough to sustain the daily minimal combat operations of the 101st Airborne Division—would have shifted forward into Iraq if the war had lasted longer. Ironically, we learned too late that the 101st DISCOM did not have the proper equipment and trained personnel to extract fuel at a forward air strip. Only the 101st Corps Support Group had that capability, and they were still located in Saudi Arabia at Log Base Charlie.

We have noted already our lack of flexibility in moving GS support and cross-country-capable distribution assets. Such assets were needed to support the follow-on offensive exploitation and pursuit operations that were planned.

Relativity

Synchronizing logistics efforts at each level of support, from theater down to separate-brigade-sized units, was the single most difficult planning challenge. Written plans detailing the time and location of required support tasks had to be prepared and staffed at each level. Formal, documented plans were not available from echelons above corps (EAC). Most of our theater logistics plans were on Harvard Graphics slide presentations that changed from week to week. As a result, misunderstandings surfaced during the execution of SUPCOM commitments for transportation, fuel, and ammunition in support of the corps. Our corps commander had to go “toe-to-toe” with the SUPCOM commander more than once.

The corps faced the logistics challenges of planning and executing support for a major ground offensive while simultaneously conducting major materiel fieldings, supporting movement operations, securing logistics areas, maintaining aviation and wheeled assets, building and maintaining a usable road network, supporting multiple field landing strips and airports, and creating forward stocks of fuel (5.8 million gallons), ammunition (35,000 tons), and rations (more than 2 million meals and 1 million gallons of purified water). All in all, these activities were accomplished at the right time and place so the ground attack could proceed on schedule.

Continuity

A significant lack of continuity existed when the 1st COSCOM was put together in theater during the Desert Shield buildup. Peacetime command and control arrangements were inadequate to handle a force structure comprising a host of active and reserve component units from all over Forces Command. Most of these units had never trained or been associated with what were now their wartime higher headquarters until they arrived in country. It is understandable that the 1st COSCOM commanders and staff experienced great difficulty in directing an organization that grew to four times its peacetime size. The ad hoc nature of the corps’ logistics organization led to numerous problems in standardizing standing operating procedures and in centrally managing critical assets.

Similar continuity problems arose with the ad hoc theater SUPCOM, later designated the 22d SUPCOM. This organization began as a small group of hand-picked officers from the continental United States (CONUS), augmented by soldiers from the U.S. Army Military Training Mission, Saudi Arabia. As time progressed, hundreds of soldiers flowed into Saudi Arabia from all over CONUS to form the improvised SUPCOM.

Although there were numerous examples of supply and maintenance training deficiencies that made the transition to war difficult, the most glaring problem was implementing procedures for organizational clothing and individual equipment (OCIE). Units traditionally obtained OCIE support from their installation central issue facilities, and they were ill-prepared to establish unit OCIE operations in the field.

Our ability to support mortuary affairs services was limited by the lack of trained personnel and equipment  available from both the active and reserve components. Although we processed only 21 remains, we felt we would have been unprepared to support the estimated 950 remains anticipated in corps plans.

Timeliness

There has been speculation that the United States could have forced Iraq from Kuwait earlier if we had possessed the increased strategic mobility needed to move our forces more rapidly into the theater. What we do know is that the 6 months we needed to move a two-corps army into position allowed Iraq the same amount of time to fortify its positions.

Shipments of desert camouflage uniforms (DCU’s) and other desert individual clothing and equipment were not accomplished fast enough to keep pace with the buildup or to replace items lost through normal wear and tear. Many XVIII Airborne Corps soldiers went for months without more than two sets of DCU’s. We observed that VII Corps troops never had enough DCU’s during the offensive operation—most wore the green battle dress uniform.

Responsibility

We mistrusted the reporting of logistics status at all levels during both Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In fact, we suspected that some units distorted or misrepresented their logistics status on purpose in order to gain an advantage in the corps’ allocation of scarce resources. The aberrant reporting probably stemmed from a lack of confidence in the supply system, which was instilled in units when they received neither corps nor EAC support in the first 120 days. Abuse of the high-priority designator system for supply requisitioning also indicated lack of confidence and discipline in the supply system.

Another aspect of fixing logistics responsibility is forming a well-developed logistics concept of operation and a list of tasks specified by phase of the operation. Logisticians must painstakingly cross walk these tasks with the other battlefield operating systems and ensure that vertical coordination is conducted with staff planners at both higher and lower levels. We found execution at lower levels of support was much better than implementation at higher levels, which we attributed to a lack of adherence to specified tasks at higher levels and an ability to perform implied tasks at lower levels.

We found that responsibility was better fixed at lower levels of command because of the performance-oriented nature of the organizations and the sound doctrine that they had practiced at the combat training centers. Higher level oral, as opposed to written, commitments for support were subject to misinterpretation and were limited to what those involved could remember.

Unity of Command

One of our most frustrating experiences involved the command and control of CULT truck assets during the XVIII Airborne Corps’ displacement west. Emerging doctrine, practiced in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, calls for placing CULT trucks forward in corps support groups, while controlling their use from the corps movement control center (MCC). In effect, this doctrine calls for decentralized command and centralized control—not a very effective combination when attempting a large-scale operational maneuver.

Once they received mission taskings for trucks from the MCC, truck unit commanders could not control soldiers or equipment well because of the fragmentation of their organizations and the loss of unit integrity. Under the Army’s old doctrine, which called for placing CULT trucks under a transportation brigade, better command and control can be maintained and better use can be made of limited transportation assets. This point was brought home when we observed how the French forces’ HET’s were employed as a company element rather than piecemeal. While making multiple trips, including moving XVIII Airborne Corps assets, the French HET unit never missed a scheduled pickup or experienced a breakdown.

Another insight gained from our large-scale movement was that the corps MCC probably should be a major subordinate command of the corps headquarters and not the COSCOM. The functions of the MCC overlap greatly with other battlefield operating systems, and setting priorities for using CULT assets and making road movements must be supervised from the corps command post to ensure unity of command. The MCC commander should wear two hats: commander, when in the movement control and traffic management business, and corps transportation officer, when in a policy and planning role. The concept is similar to that already employed by other battlefield operating systems, such as the corps engineer acting as commander of the engineer brigade, the corps surgeon commanding the medical brigade, and the corps fire support officer commanding the corps artillery.

Information

Good logistics results from good information. In the Gulf War, logisticians at all levels had to work very hard to communicate up and down the echelons of support. Fortunately, we were generally well supported by the signal community, which provided access to the multichannel and high-frequency systems we needed to pass logistics information at the division and support group levels.

The XVIII Airborne Corps required units to submit a daily logistics status report through materiel management center channels. The purpose of the report was  to provide each echelon of materiel management centers with the current status of supply, maintenance, transportation, and services at their supply support activities and direct support and GS units. The intent was that action would be taken at the appropriate level to correct deficiencies or assist units in obtaining required support. The report format was quite lengthy—the resulting corps compilation was 30 to 40 pages long—and we experienced erratic compliance. The overall system was unreliable and probably more of a bureaucratic nightmare than a useful tool.

The Army must develop a timely and reliable way to collect status information without creating a heavy burden on all concerned, as was the case in the Gulf. The method must be flexible enough to provide a varying scope of information that can be adjusted according to the tactical situation. For example, we needed less information during actual ground offensive operations than we did during the deployment and buildup of Desert Shield.

Related to the reporting problems was the inherent lack of compatible computer systems employed at materiel management centers. We constantly sought equipment density information, but because of property book variations, we had to use unreliable offline reporting. Requisitioning systems also varied, and older systems could not perform lateral searches for materiel or provide rollup data with the newer systems. The Standard Army Ammunition System was too slow to account for rapid issue of combat-configured loads (the same lesson learned from Operation Just Cause in Panama). Lack of dedicated communications data links contributed to the ineffectiveness of the automated systems.

Quality

The overall quality of the weapon systems, such as the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, Patriot missile system, M1A1 Abrams tank, and M2/3 Bradley fighting vehicle, and the ammunition employed by the corps was excellent. There were few, if any, “white elephants” in the inventory. The employment of Army Materiel Command logistics assistance officers throughout the theater and corps was essential to the quality of our steady-state maintenance and materiel fielding efforts.

Simplicity

We found that our logistics system is far from simple. The reason is the multitude and complexity of the weapon systems being supported on the battlefield. The great array of support units and automated systems required to support a corps with both light and heavy divisions creates an almost untenable structure for support. We found few uncomplicated processes that supported units could use to obtain relief. Logistics staffs were unquestionably the busiest staff elements in the theater. Of all the battlefield operating systems, CSS planning and execution required the most elaborate staff supervision.

We learned that to keep things simple, logisticians must focus on the most critical supply and distribution aspects of combat logistics; namely, fuel, ammunition, rations, repair parts, and movement control. Once these activities are under control, others can be tackled. The list of logistics issues is never wholly resolved but merely rolls on, as one issue after another surfaces. Simplicity is achieved when logisticians find an effective means of prioritizing the issues confronting them and then concentrate on finding solutions.

Proud as we are of the logistics accomplishments of the Gulf War, an evaluation of our logistics planning and performance measured against the Principles of Logistics may allow us to make smart changes in anticipation of future conflicts. Two major conclusions may be derived from this analysis. First, had Iraq attacked early in our buildup, our lack of sustainment might have become the reason for our defeat. Balancing the flow of sustainment with the strategic deployment of combat power—in other words, equivalence—would have been the lesson learned in that case.

Second, had the ground war exceeded 100 hours, the XVIII Airborne Corps (and hence the coalition forces) would have needed an unplanned operational pause to allow logistics to catch up to the combat advance. The immediate problem would have been the cycle time for GS fuel haulers: they could not travel long distances, back and forth, fast enough to maintain the momentum of our attacking forces. In reflection, this was clearly a risk; only the shortness of the ground war made offensive logistics support “feasible.”

Chris Paparone, COL, US Army retired, served 29 years as a logistician and since 2002 has been involved in the US Army military education system. He has a PhD from Penn State University. At the time this article was written, Chris was a Lieutenant Colonel  Quartermaster officer assigned as commander of the 47th Support Battalion (Forward), 2d Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division in Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of Operation Joint Guard. 

Organising logistics for Multi-Domain Battle: Making a Complex Problem Even More Complex

This article was prepared as part of a collaboration with ‘Over The Horizon: Multi-domain operations and strategies’, a blog which asks the question, ‘what comes after the Joint and inter-agency constructs?’ The article can also be found here

If you haven’t followed OTH via their main website, or on Facebook, you are missing a great source of forward-thinking articles on warfare and security-related issues. The blog originates from the USAF Air Command and Staff College’s Multi-Domain Operations Strategist program.

By David Beaumont.

‘It is no great matter to change tactical plans in a hurry and to send troops off in new directions. But adjusting supply plans to the altered tactical scheme is far more difficult’

General Walter Bedell Smith, Chief of Staff to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force from 1944-1945

It is unsurprising that sustainment has become one of the key hurdles for planners to overcome as they experiment, exercise, and explore the concept of ‘multi-domain battle’ (MDB). Sustaining operations in the hypothesised dispersed and deadly conflict zones of the present and future creates especially acute problems for land forces. For decades, the combat power of most modern-Western land forces has been underwritten by a surplus of supply, massed sufficiently to eliminate logistic constraints as a tactical concern. This approach, however, brings increasing risk when facing opponents who can find, fix, and destroy vulnerable logistic nodes and supporting infrastructure. Austerity will become the norm in these future battlefields as projecting large logistic trains into theatre becomes progressively difficult. Logistic forces on the battlefield will be fewer in number, support likely intermittent, and the prioritisation and allocation of sustainment capability will become a central determinant of operational success.

But the problems presented by this new threat environment are not unique to land forces. The Army to which I belong describes the emerging security landscape as “lethal, collective and converging,” a description forces of all operational domains would recognise as salient. Similarly, each of these forces shares the need to significantly change the tactics required to succeed in war. Although we have yet to see much discussion on how air operations will be sustained outside of ‘A2AD’ debates of a few years ago, there has been recent discussion on the sustainment of naval forces in the context of ‘distributed lethality’ and naval manoeuvre warfare. The traditional ‘domain owners’ will undoubtedly progress these discussions as concepts move closer and closer to operational reality. This vital discussion is particularly critical for forces like the Australian Defence Force, or geographical US Combatant Commands such as PACOM, where operations in littoral environments have always been joint in nature.

As with the current MDB discourse, much of which has been led by land forces, the need for dispersal and sustaining under continuous threat has typically been described in terms of land operations. As an aid to the author who comes from a land force background, so too will this article. However, the principles that will be discussed here are applicable to all forces; they are in fact based upon the writings of a senior USN officer, Rear Admiral Henry Eccles and are largely based on his personal experience during the Second World War and research of naval strategy and logistics. Sustainment in MDB will depend – more than ever – on the management of priorities, the allocation of logistic capability and supplies, and the methods by which this is supported.

The need to disperse sustainment capacity, whether land-based logistics, air-refuelling or replenishment-at-sea, has long been a staple of military doctrine. However, this challenge is magnified when logistic forces are few or degraded in capability – as is predicted for the future battlefield. Kenneth Macksey, in For Want of a Nail, describes how the ever-increasing killing power available to the soldier operating in the defence has led to the depopulation of the battlefield, as have the destructive power of air forces, missiles and artillery, and at its most extreme, nuclear weaponry. The need to spread forces thinly for their own safety, combat and logistic forces alike, introduces serious problems to movements (of forces) and distribution (their sustainment), and tests the limited logistics management systems that will be available to control them. Furthermore, it tests logisticians who will be frustrated by how thinly their capabilities are stretched, and commanders who must determine how such capabilities might be prioritised and allocated.

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There have been a wide range of methods employed in the past to overcome this problem, and to effectively utilise generally insufficient logistics forces. One way – the traditional approach as applied by current Australian Army doctrine in an arguably outdated way to some – is the use of logistic ‘battlefield geometry’ such as ‘lines’ or ‘levels’ of support. This approach to logistics system making sees sustainment achieved through a succession of steps from the national support base to the front line. At the tactical level, these methods allow for the concentration of logistic capabilities and supplies with sufficient depth while being dispersed enough to prevent their destruction by artillery, bombs, and counter attack. One of the reasons this approach is losing its appeal is that it is typically associated with the establishment of large logistic ‘nodes,’ and is manpower intensive.

A second method is to apply an alternate command and control logic to the problem. Apportioning logistic support by its function or by priority of effort places sustainment as a time-dependant activity, one that allocates resources to a commander based on their prioritisation and operation demands. This method suits operations where logistic austerity is the norm, and commanders must make tough decisions as to who gets fed, and who doesn’t. This may seem stark, but it is an all-too-common lesson of major conflicts and wars that militaries tend to forget. This approach is gaining increasing traction in the Australian Army, as evinced in its inclusion in early drafts of a 2017 rewrite of Army logistic doctrine.

This approach can be seen in the force design of Western armies which have typically centralised mass movement or technical activities, and decentralised those capabilities which operate at lesser volume as localised activity. An illustrative example of this logic is found in transportation where it is routinely applied: point-to-point and inter-theatre transportation is centralised at a higher level than local or intra-theatre transportation. This enables the concentration of logistic mass which, properly enabled by a responsive logistic management system, provides the greatest possible effect at a decisive point on a battlefield. Conversely those functions central to immediate tactical flexibility, or for those day-to-day tasks, remain available to subordinate commanders. The challenge with implementing this approach to logistics is that the massing of capability direct to the commander’s main effort presents an enticing target to an enemy with the means to detect and strike a preparing sustainment force. How we concentrate dispersed logistic forces, hoping to avoid detection and fire, to create sufficient logistic mass when it is required must be a hot topic amongst contemporary logisticians (see Survive First, Sustain Later and Thinking Small).

A third approach involves combining both methods. This includes ideas such as ‘area logistics’ where protected forward operating bases or mobile logistics elements, supported by a range of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, anti-air and other defences, are assigned areas of responsibility for the sustainment of nearby combat forces. Ideas such as the USMC’s ‘Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations’ (EABO), as promoted by Centre for Budgetary and Strategic Assessments in this 2016 paper and subject to some contention, epitomise this concept. In this example, once operational manoeuvre allows for a force to be ‘injected’ into a contested environment, the EAB establishes a defensible node that can sustain combat operations. In area logistics, the question is less about drawing sustainment from a familiar logistic force, let alone a force from the same Service; instead the question for the dispersed combat force is ‘what logistic force is nearby, and how do I access it?’ This may mean we cross Service lines to share logistic problems, and become more comfortable with giving support to forces whom we never expected to support – even in a joint force.

No one method is suited to all occasions, as sustainment is a matter of context. Operations in different domains, geographies and against different threats, will always require doctrine to be questioned, and new methods of sustainment considered. This means that until we see a real technological revolution that fundamentally changes the way in which forces are sustained, militaries will have to be adaptable in their approach to sustaining in the field, in the air or at sea. Combat forces will have to be logistically disciplined, especially when austerity is paramount or after combat severely disrupts support, and commanders will have to devote considerable effort to controlling their logistic support. Supporting forces in dispersed environments brings the art of prioritisation to the forefront, and requires the commander and his or her staff to be cognisant of the condition and state of their own forces, as well as the desired objective so that the right sustainment capabilities are allocated when required.

As much as we might like to see technology as the solution to sustaining MDB, in the short term we must recognise one of the unwritten ‘laws’ of logistics – it is a command problem. Being a command problem, effective performance in logistics also relates to the capacity of logisticians and leaders to make timely and appropriate decisions on prioritisation and allocation. They and their logistic staff must be empowered and enabled by access to information which allows them to make the best quality decision they can as limited logistic forces are directed to support dispersed combat elements. Future logistics information systems will be key in this process. If logisticians aren’t able to make decisions based upon efficiency, success in battle will be dependent upon the wasteful practice of over-allocating logistic resources. Over-allocation results in excessive stocks or logistic capabilities being held, increasing the logistic footprint.  Even if the over-accumulation of supplies and logistic resources occurs without becoming a targetable vulnerability, wasteful behaviour with respect to sustainment always erodes the flexibility of the force. This limits the resources, indeed options, available to exploit successes or prevent failures, or the redirecting of usually limited supplies and capabilities to the places where they are most needed.

There are no easy answers to sustaining MDB, although there have never been easy answers to sustaining combat operations in general. The effectiveness of logistic supports depends upon a range of contextual factors at the best of times. However, the scenarios painted in the MDB concepts suggest forces will have to operate in environments of greater austerity than they are used to, and the efficient use of logistic capabilities will be increasingly critical to success. The prioritisation and allocation of sustainment effort is just as relevant for air and naval forces as it is to land forces, as they consider the wars of the future. While they do consider the methods of sustaining MDB or joint operational concepts, it is also worthwhile to ask how each can better support one another in a joint fashion, thereby alleviating some of the burden of austerity, and making the prioritisation and allocation decisions easier for operational commanders. It certainly seems that if we thought logistic operations in recent wars might have been complex enough, there does not appear to be any relief over the horizon.

David Beaumont is a serving Australian Army officer, logistician and Senior Editor of ‘Logistics In War’. He can be followed on Twitter @davidblogistics.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army or the Australian government.