USA — War Commanders Need Better Logistics Picture, General Says

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Ger­many — Com­man­ders fight­ing the bat­tles in Afghanistan and Iraq need a bet­ter “com­mon oper­at­ing pic­ture” for their sup­plies, con­tracts and oth­er logis­ti­cal require­ments, the Joint Staff’s logis­tics direc­tor said here this week.

Dur­ing a June 28–29 vis­it to the George C. Mar­shall Euro­pean Cen­ter for Secu­ri­ty Stud­ies, Army Lt. Gen. Kath­leen M. Gainey toured the facil­i­ty and pro­vid­ed the keynote speech for one of the Mar­shall Center’s grad­u­at­ing classes. 

Gainey said she pos­sess­es “no bud­get or author­i­ty,” but instead serves as a com­bat­ant commander’s strongest advo­cate in the Pen­ta­gon for logis­ti­cal efforts. She added that despite progress in mesh­ing mil­i­tary sup­ply and dis­tri­b­u­tion chains, work remains to be done break­ing down mil­i­tary cul­tur­al bar­ri­ers, inte­grat­ing data sys­tems and fix­ing old rules. 

“Some of the poli­cies were not con­ducive to get­ting sup­plies in quick­ly,” she said. “So, we had to work through pol­i­cy and reg­u­la­to­ry changes. Many of our reg­u­la­tions and much of our guid­ance was in the Cold War era. We had to work those deci­sions and put changes in process.” 

In her two years at the Joint Staff, Gainey said, progress has been made in Afghanistan. Instead of one sup­ply route, there are two: via Pak­istan and through the north. 

Multi­na­tion­al part­ner­ships have been vital to keep­ing troops fed and watered, as well as allow­ing com­bat­ant com­man­ders flex­i­bil­i­ty to do their jobs. 

“At the start of the war, we had just one route,” Gainey said. “That cre­ates a sin­gle point of fail­ure. That’s not a good posi­tion to be in. As you are try­ing to bring all this in, every­one is depend­ing on this one route. We need more than one way to bring in car­go so we can bring it in fast and allow our­selves options due to vol­ume or weath­er or oth­er issues.” 

Gainey also talked about issues with contracts. 

“We found out we were cre­at­ing bid­ding wars between our nation and oth­er nations that were there try­ing to give sup­port,” she said. “So we start­ed work­ing with those var­i­ous coun­tries to iden­ti­fy what con­tracts are already in place. What is the going price for grav­el or water? We don’t cre­ate those bid­ding wars, and where pos­si­ble, we want to lever­age oth­er nations’ exist­ing contracts.” 

She said some of those prob­lems have been solved by hav­ing the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force cre­ate one cen­ter for these needs. Cre­ation of the cen­ter, she said, goes toward the idea of the one com­mon oper­at­ing pic­ture that com­man­ders need. Still, Gainey said, a long road remains to be traveled. 

“If the ISAF or [the com­man­der of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand] asked for the logis­ti­cal pos­ture for … his abil­i­ty to fight some­thing in depth as well as his back­up plan, he would have to go to each of the ser­vices and each of the nations involved sep­a­rate­ly and drill all the way down,” Gainey said. 

The gen­er­al also addressed chal­lenges with infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy. “Many of our IT sys­tems are ’siloed.’ They do not talk well with one anoth­er,” she said. “Fur­ther, our sys­tems aren’t as flex­i­ble and agile as they need to be to give that pic­ture to com­man­ders. We’re work­ing hard to start cre­at­ing that. It won’t hap­pen today or tomor­row, but we can set the para­me­ters and then find the inter­im solution.” 

One of those solu­tions is the Glob­al Com­bat Sup­port Sys­tem Joint, a sys­tem of com­put­ers try­ing to tie togeth­er sup­ply and dis­tri­b­u­tion chains of the mil­i­tary ser­vices. She added the U.S. Trans­porta­tion Com­mand and the Defense Logis­tics Agency con­tin­ue to look for oth­er solutions. 

Indus­try, Gainey said, has also played an inte­gral role in the war effort. She summed up civil­ian indus­tri­al part­ners’ effect on the war with one word. 

“Huge,” she said. “We have a lot of capa­bil­i­ty with­in our com­mer­cial indus­try. If you have a short­fall of mil­i­tary man­pow­er — where maybe we don’t have enough because of the vol­ume of rota­tions and want­i­ng to give sol­diers that one year of down­time — you may be able to lever­age indus­try to pro­vide that capability.”

Gainey said the key to com­man­ders achiev­ing a com­mon oper­at­ing pic­ture as well as gains in both Iraq and Afghanistan depends upon inter­a­gency and multi­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion. She said both gov­ern­ment and non­govern­ment agen­cies, as well as indus­try, have made a dif­fer­ence in the com­bat the­ater and elsewhere. 

“If every­one knows the short­falls, they can then pro­vide ideas and options for solu­tions that we had­n’t even thought about,” the gen­er­al said. “Col­lec­tive­ly, [work­ing] those issues means you end up with a much bet­ter solution.” 

George C. Mar­shall Euro­pean Cen­ter for Secu­ri­ty Stud­ies
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Team GlobDef

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