Future Logistics Themes: Discovering Innovative Solutions to Army Logistics Processes for Moving and Sustaining Combat Power

May 1, 2006

Shaping a long-term vision for Army logistics requires that one identify and prepare to leverage critical research advancements that will profoundly affect Army logistics in future joint operational environments. Knowledge of anticipated developments in scientific, engineering and technology disciplines will generate innovative solutions to logistical challenges. Today, scientists and engineers are expanding the limits of understanding of what is possible. The world is on the verge of reaching what some futurists call an “inflection point” in history, such that the speed of advance and the convergence of several scientific and engineering disciplines will fundamentally change every aspect of human endeavor. The synergistic effect of artificial intelligence, autonomous computing, biotechnology, nanoscale technology, information systems, cognitive research and other areas accelerates the pace of innovative breakthroughs. Insights gained and products developed from advances in the application of knowledge, energy and materials science will provide significant benefits to Army and joint logistics in the decades to come. Logisticians must be ready to apply the results of this research. If unprepared, U.S. military forces and logistics processes risk years of underperformance.

Through a disciplined and rigorous program of discovery and innovation, likely advances in relevant technologies can be predicted and their benefits to operational effects and logistics processes projected. These predicted technological advancements can then be incorporated into Army logistics sooner rather than later. The U.S. Army Logistics Transformation Agency has identified and appraised five themes for future logistics innovation: Prediction & Cooperation, Telepresence, Energy-on-Demand, Designer Materials and Quantum Computation & Communication. These themes describe imaginable and plausible future advancements in technology, organization and/ or business processes that may significantly improve logistics effectiveness. Each theme is a set of future conditions brought about through imaginable (deep) future advancements in technology or business processes that provide the means by which logistics functions will be significantly improved and requirements radically reduced. By proactively probing into the future, they bring an advanced look at potential improvements to Army logistics, for which the logistics community can start preparing now.

Technological advancements alone do not equal transformation. Only when the advancements are applied to processes and systems does the Army truly transform. The themes presented here, along with the application of their anticipated technological advancements, will offer some of the greatest potential for future Army logistics. Together, they translate into improved capabilities for deployment and sustainment and offer the widest range of prospective solutions to the challenges facing logisticians in the future.