Military logistics support extends from the strategic level in the national industrial base to the tactical level, where "beans, bullets and black oil" are delivered on time, at the right place — and in the right quantity.
There is a pressing need to develop a framework for joint logistics management at the operational level to enhance the synchronization and effectiveness of logistics support. This framework must be based on a set of imperatives and enablers that, when considered and properly established and used, offers the greatest possible freedom of action for the joint force commander (JFC) as well as our interagency and multinational partners.
This need has intensified with the broad array of military operations that is driving significant changes in the way we train, fight and execute missions — from humanitarian assistance to major combat. In turn, those changes require a fundamental revaluation of the way we deploy, support and sustain those operations.
Operational-level logistics link strategic resources with tactical units, enabling force closure, sustainment, reconstitution and redeployment of forces. The challenge of moving operating forces in the war on terror requires extensive integration of strategic and operational deployment and distribution efforts to provide effective operational and tactical sustainment.
These complex processes are increasingly intertwined, combining the services, national providers, coalition partners and a wide range of commercial capabilities — from domestic to international sources.
Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, along with past campaigns, highlight logistics efforts fraught with inefficiency, redundancy and process gaps. Our success was often dependent on heroic efforts and battlefield ingenuity by military logisticians and the overwhelming capacity of our industrial base to provide virtually limitless support. We cannot depend on this in the future, nor should we.
This article highlights a set of joint logistics imperatives and enablers that facilitate the integration of joint operational-level logistics management. It also presents several joint (operational-level) logistics management options and briefly covers Department of Defense actions now under way to enhance joint logistics capabilities.
Closing the gaps to resource sharing
We, Joint Logistics, J9 (Joint Concept Development and Experimentation Directorate) of U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM), working closely with the Strategic Logistics Directorate for Logistics, Joint Staff J-4, focus on the operational level because we believe this is where enhancements to joint logistics offer the greatest opportunity for the JFC; choosing the best management structure for a given mission is a critical component of the overall logistics effort.
Current logistics operations are executed to a large extent through a combination of various capabilities in stovepiped processes that offer significant room for improvement. We believe that future operations are likely to be globally distributed and conducted rapidly and simultaneously across multiple joint operation areas within a single theater, or across the boundaries of more than one geographic combatant commander.
It is also becoming clear that the stovepiped processes in use today are not optimizing the delivery of logistics capabilities in accordance with the priorities of the combatant commander and do not embed economy as an element of execution.
Consequently, logisticians must establish and execute a global distribution concept of support that responds with speed, precision and economy to the changing needs of the joint force. Today's warfighter must view future-oriented concepts with new, more integrated transformational ideas.
As stated by Army Lt. Gen. C.V. Christianson, the Joint Staff J-4, "Joint logistics is the deliberate or improvised sh