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Adaptive Logistics Network guides USARAF operations

March 2, 2012

By Rich Bartell, U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs

VICENZA, Italy (March 2, 2012) -- U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) hosted a conference for logisticians and logistics partners in Entebbe, Uganda, February 2012 to collaborate on ways to improve efficiencies in mission support.

The main goal of the conference was to develop the initial formation of an Adaptive Logistics Network (ALN) to guide their work in Africa and also to create a group of involved partners who could pool resources and information to ensure choosing the best sustainment solutions. Logistic sections are broadly responsible for movement and maintenance of all forces and equipment.

U.S. Army Africa Logistics Director Colonel Mike Balser said, "Applied correctly, logistics is a science of planning and mission analysis. An ALN is a way of creating an accessible corporate memory by using information associated with previous work in a specific region. With ALN we can work smarter, saving time, money and increasing efficiencies as well," Balser said.

"I remember one exercise where we needed a life support area built in Africa. The only contractor who bid was from Germany. There was something too rigid, too stove-piped in our process, and there had to be a better way to get the word out so we could work better rates, with a better view of capability organic in Africa," Balser said. That better way is networking through ALN, he said.

According to Balser, the result of ALN could be a creation of a central database that captures logistics information about a specific geographical area. He explained how an ALN can be applied to a typical Army operation.

"In the case of setting up an operating base, we can recon a location, set up contracts, book vendors, establish quality controls and build a base camp. However, all that work may have been done in that location before. How we access that work and capitalize on those who have worked there before our current operation is the question."

"Adaptive Logistics Network creates and should sustain close collaboration, cooperation and mutual support between partners and other entities with common objectives. The intent is to save the work done before us, with intent to share among the AFRICOM partners."

"This database could be used by more than just U.S. organizations; perhaps other nations who work in Africa such as the United Kingdom. A central database with geographic logistics information could be used by other assistance organizations such as the U.S. Department of State and USAID as well as other nations," Balser said.

Balser offered an example of how ALN could be used in the future.

"For instance, the Government Services Office at an embassy has a list previously used contracts and contractors. Why not share this list as a possible template as we arrive in an operating environment? Additionally, other international armies operating in the area can add to the database," Balser said. In the near future, USARAF G-4 will assist in the development of an ALN.

"An ALN representative from AFRICOM will be working USARAF G-4 during upcoming missions. The representative will attend planning sessions for future exercises to capture data points which are later referenced in a checklist. The checklist helps planners on the ground find out whether they've asked the right, broader, holistic questions to get at all the capability within an operating environment. It will be a good start toward a more robust and defined ALN," Balser said.

He said an ALN should be in a dynamic system that would allow organizations to work in a positive and collaborative way.

"This database will be a living document and will feature previously executed contracts; airfield and seaport surveys; mortuary affairs capabilities; international agreements; and potential facilities available to use. Additionally, we will ensure that we follow a 'no harm' policy when dealing with host nations. For example, we won't enter into contracts that may disrupt the local environment or economy. We'll develop an over-watch of the program to ensure our operations don't skew local economies or create other problems," Balser said.

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