USA — Army Logistics Leaders Review Progress, Way Ahead

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2010 — A pan­el of senior Army logis­ti­cians this week praised advances they’ve seen in the field while stress­ing the need to retrain the force in mil­i­tary prop­er­ty man­age­ment.

The pan­el was part of the Asso­ci­a­tion of the U.S. Army’s annu­al meet­ing here.

Lt. Gen. Mitchell H. Steven­son, Army deputy chief of staff for logis­tics, said that while Army logis­ti­cians have done tremen­dous work sup­port­ing the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, chal­lenges remain in prepar­ing the force for full-spec­trum oper­a­tions.

Steven­son said an after-action review fol­low­ing suc­cess­ful relief oper­a­tions in Haiti revealed areas need­ing atten­tion. “What we learned is we have got­ten rusty in some of our skills,” he said. “When you deploy today to Iraq or Afghanistan, you know a year ahead of time. The whole insti­tu­tion is help­ing push you out the door. We know how to deploy forces.”

But in con­tin­gency oper­a­tions such as dis­as­ter relief efforts, he said, equip­ment that troops are used to “falling in on” in Iraq or Afghanistan has to be tak­en along. The force is now accus­tomed to hav­ing equip­ment pre-posi­tioned, the gen­er­al not­ed, and must retrain on how to account for and main­tain equip­ment on a unit basis.

“We have for­got­ten some of our basics,” Steven­son said. “We’ve got to get back to that.”

Steven­son said the force now is accus­tomed to coun­terin­sur­gency oper­a­tions, and needs to pre­pare logis­ti­cal­ly for full-spec­trum mis­sions.

“We’ve got to keep remem­ber­ing that this war we’ve been involved in since 2001 is a spe­cial kind of war,” he said. “It’s rel­a­tive­ly secure. … We can bring con­trac­tors in to sup­port us. We’ve got to keep remind­ing our­selves of that so we don’t design an Army, and an Army logis­tics sys­tem, that’s reliant on a benign envi­ron­ment where you oper­ate with rel­a­tive impuni­ty.

“If we get into a full-up, heavy fight with some­body else … we’re not going to have the lux­u­ry of secure sup­ply lines and con­trac­tors who can go where and when they please,” he added.

Lt. Gen. James H. Pills­bury, Army Materiel Command’s deputy com­mand­ing gen­er­al, said that as the Army looks ahead to reset­ting the force fol­low­ing the cur­rent con­flicts, lead­ers must stress prop­er­ty account­abil­i­ty.

“That’s a skill that we’re going to have to bring back to our Army,” he said, not­ing that Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Army chief of staff, has empha­sized the need for the service’s lead­ers to get back into a gar­ri­son lead­er­ship role.

“We have been out of that, because we’ve been deployed so much,” Pills­bury said. “Part of gar­ri­son lead­er­ship is prop­er­ty account­abil­i­ty, and get­ting that cul­ture back, ingrained in our sol­diers.”

Lt. Gen. William N. Phillips, prin­ci­pal mil­i­tary deputy to the assis­tant sec­re­tary of the Army for acqui­si­tion, logis­tics and tech­nol­o­gy, said con­tract­ed secu­ri­ty, vehi­cle main­te­nance and life-sup­port ser­vices such as food, hous­ing and util­i­ties have been cru­cial to suc­cess in the cur­rent con­flicts and have under­scored the impor­tant role Army con­tract­ing offi­cers play.

“You can nev­er sep­a­rate con­tract­ing from logis­tics,” he said. “It has to be linked.”

Con­tract­ing, logis­tics and com­bat spe­cial­ists have to inte­grate plan­ning, he said, or “bad things are going to hap­pen.”

“You waste tax­pay­er dol­lars, and at the end of the day a sol­dier needs some­thing, and you don’t give it to them. You have to be linked,” he said. “That con­tract­ing offi­cer has to sit with that bat­tal­ion com­man­der or that [logis­tics offi­cer] and under­stand what they’re doing. That is crit­i­cal – oper­a­tional­iz­ing how we exe­cute con­tracts is crit­i­cal.”

Phillips said in response to Casey’s request for train­ing to devel­op lead­ers’ under­stand­ing of con­tract­ing process­es, the Army is estab­lish­ing a con­tract­ing course for gen­er­al offi­cers and senior civil­ians.

“It’s going to be a short course ded­i­cat­ed to con­tract­ing, so our senior lead­ers across the Army that man­age con­tracts and deal with them every day can bet­ter under­stand how con­tracts are exe­cut­ed,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Jack O’Connor, direc­tor of logis­tics for 3rd Army, was the final pan­el mem­ber to speak. As U.S. Cen­tral Command’s Army com­po­nent, 3rd Army man­ages day-to-day oper­a­tions and plan­ning for Cent­com land forces.

O’Connor said the logis­tics chal­lenge involved in reduc­ing U.S. forces in Iraq while surg­ing troops to Afghanistan and sup­ply­ing coali­tion part­ners there had been phe­nom­e­nal. “You can only imag­ine the com­plex­i­ty of what’s going on out there,” he said.

U.S. bases in Iraq have been reduced from 412 to 90, forces have dropped from 136,000 to 52,000, and 58 per­cent of equip­ment on the bat­tle­field has been with­drawn, he said. Mean­while, 30,000 troops have been added in Afghanistan, and equip­ment there essen­tial­ly has dou­bled.

“We did that in under a year,” O’Connor said. “That’s what we’re there for — to work through the com­plex­i­ty, the syn­chro­niza­tion and inte­gra­tion. That’s what logis­ti­cians do every day.”

The effort involved trans­fer­ring not only peo­ple and equip­ment, but also the means to sus­tain them, he not­ed. That means con­tracts for secu­ri­ty, vehi­cle main­te­nance, hous­ing, food and util­i­ties in a com­bat envi­ron­ment.

“Five years ago when I was in Iraq lay­ing in a lot of these major con­tracts, I thought I’d nev­er see that again,” he said. “Five years lat­er, they all came due, and we had to go out there and resize, reshape, rescope all these con­tracts.

“We are doing things today that we nev­er thought we would be able to do with the infra­struc­ture and the tools that were in our kit bag,” O’Connor con­tin­ued. “Logis­ti­cians today are fig­ur­ing out new ways to do busi­ness.”

As the Army meets cur­rent mis­sions and resets the force for future mis­sions, he said, logis­ti­cians have to learn from each oth­er as they pre­pare to effec­tive­ly meet future acqui­si­tion, main­te­nance, dis­tri­b­u­tion and con­tract­ing needs.

“Sup­port­ing mis­sion, peo­ple, team­work,” he said. “We’ve got to be ready. … We know the call is com­ing. It’s right around the cor­ner. We’ll get this one just about right, and a new com­plex­i­ty will hit us right between the eyes. We’re going to be mov­ing out to the next objec­tive.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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