Biggest distribution challenges: Access, basing, overflight
A panel of military and civilian experts discussed the difficulties of force projection and operational reach during an Association of the U.S. Army’s Hot Topic forum in June, held at the AUSA Conference and Event Center in Arlington, Virginia.
The austere locations and anti-access/area denial challenges that characterize many of the U.S. Army’s operating areas make it difficult for military forces to perform sustainment missions, which means it is more important than ever for the Army to globally manage visibility, commodities and munitions.
“Our biggest challenges with distribution are access, basing and overflight,” said Maj. Gen. Aundre Piggee, the director for logistics and engineering, U.S. Central Command.
He added that one important factor in logistics is redundancy, so that if one node in the supply chain becomes unavailable, the network can still operate.
Lt. Gen. Kathy Gainey, USA, Ret., senior vice president of logistics for Cypress International, agreed, saying, “Look at the other options on the routes: where else can you go to gain the same effect?”
Another issue is protection of the critical assets in transit, both physically and in the cyber domain.
“Whether it’s a munitions shipment or an IT system, you have to prioritize and look at what actions you need to take to protect it,” Gainey said.
Regarding commodity management, it is important to put the warfighter first.
This means listening to the boots on the ground, and understanding their differing needs based on their location and mission, said Rear Adm. Vincent L. Griffith.
Griffith, who serves as the director of logistics operations (J3) for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), emphasized the importance of senior leader engagement – staying “plugged in” to the needs of combatant commanders.
He added, “We have people assigned to different combatant commanders. Lt. Gen. Busch [director of the Defense Logistics Agency] is engaged with the commanders and services, as well as our field commanders in the AOR (area of responsibility).”
Flexible partnerships with the defense industry are also necessary, Griffith said, since “industry produces 99 percent of what the DLA, and probably most of our armed services, consumes. It’s the partnership that allows all of this to occur.”
As an example, Griffith pointed to the fight with ISIL in Iraq.
“We had a JP-8 [jet fuel] requirement increase eightfold, and we were still able to support that need. You’ve got to have strong contracts to make that happen.”