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American Forces Press Service

Military's Logistics System Found Wanting in Iraq War

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2004 - The military's logistics system needs to be further modernized to better serve today's war fighters, a senior Defense Department transformation official asserted here today.

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Arthur K. Cebrowski, director of the Pentagon's Office of Force Transformation, pointed out to attendees at a downtown digital communications conference that U.S. ground forces racing toward Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom had often outstripped their supply chain. That happened, the admiral noted, in part because logisticians use separate information and command and control systems apart from those that warfighters use.

"The fact of the matter is that there is dysfunction from both of those things, and that has to change," Cebrowski declared.

To effect logistics change, he explained, the people in the supply structure have to have common metrics with the warfighters they support.

The admiral acknowledged that the U.S. military's "just-in-time" supply delivery system is more efficient than the old-style, mass-based supply warehousing system. Yet, although "just-in-time" supply is efficient and predictable in many cases, Cebrowski emphasized that that system is "wholly irrelevant to what actually goes on at the pointy end of the spear, where you do not have predictability."

On the battlefield "you have chaos . this means that some (logistics-related) things are going to have to change," he maintained. In fact, the Army reportedly is studying logistics shortfalls in the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns, and has put out a white paper on the subject, according to an article in the Jan. 15 issue of Aviation Week's NetDefense.

The white paper, published in December, "aims to provide clear guidance where we want to take Army logistics in the next two years," Lt. Gen. Claude V. Christianson, the Army Staff's logistics chief, noted in the article.

Recommended white paper solutions cited in the article include integrating Army logistics into the joint satellite-based, network-centric communications system; improving timely, flexible delivery of supplies to war fighters; improving logistical support for forces first entering theater of operations; and integrating the supply chain to improve communication with commanders and distribution of supplies.

Modern battlefields, Christianson pointed out in the article, are fast-paced and "not linear."

"What we have now is a rigid (logistics) support system that does not work well in a flexible, changing environment," the general noted.

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