What’s going on in defence logistics?
Logistics in Expeditionary Operations
NETHERLANDS DEFENSE ACADEMY
Research in the field of defence logistics
Armed forces all over the world over recognize that logistics has become a critical success factor for their combat operations. Developments in the modus operandi of the armed forces have brought along a change in the conceptualization of logistic support or combat service support.
As examples may serve the increase in asymmetric conflicts, more ‘joint’ and ‘combined’ operations, the necessity to improve efficiency in basic logistic support and the availability of a sophisticated logistics ICT. There is a need for transparent and responsive networks.
We provide an inventory of developments in defense logistics. Subsequently, we describe how the NLDA plans to direct its research in this field.
Defense logistics is a multi-faceted phenomenon. It concerns, for instance, personnel, materiel, non-durable goods and medical health care. Activities do not only take place in the operational area, but also in the home country. Defense logistics focuses on four major themes:
- Supply chain management is directed at the execution of processes to make goods and persons in the right place at the right moment in the right quantities and capacities available for the primary operational task.
- Systems logistics concerns the establishing of policy and its execution directed at the acquisition, disposition and maintenance of material resources required for operational units to carry out their tasks.
- Personnel logistics is directed at the (strategic) transport of troops to and within the area of operations and, eventually, back to the home country.
- Military health care concerns the support of medical processes both within the Netherlands and in mission areas.
Within the military logistics domain two other important concepts are in use: basic logistic support, also known as peace logistics, and operational logistics that is more focused on support in the operational area. The basic logistic support provides the basic conditions for operational logistics, which encompasses the logistic activities directly related to the operational execution of the mission task of the armed forces. In general, the two are an indication of the extent to which a direct relation with the operational execution of the task of the units exists.
Broadly speaking, the basic logistic support’s relation with operations is an indirect one, whereas operational logistics is much more directly related to the execution of the task of operational units. The transition from basic logistic support to operational logistics cannot always be clearly defined in practice, as the direct demand for support might sometimes penetrate deep upstream in the defense supply chain.
The right approach?
In his book ‘Van markententster tot logistiek netwerk’ professor Hugo Roos even concludes that military logistics is the source of all logistic organizational principles. Even today, numerous classes on supply points, warehouse management, transport, logistic planning and organization still make up the basis, not only in military, but also in civilian logistics. The question, however, is whether these assumptions are still in line with the present modus operandi of the armed forces. After the end of the Cold War the tasking for the Netherlands armed forces was changed. The scenario of an enemy attacking from the East, engaged by Dutch troops on the North German Plain, has been shelved.
Defense logistics was eminently geared to that task, but the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 made it obsolete.
Prior to 1990, conflicts were predominantly symmetric in nature. The opposing parties in the field used comparable resources and adhered to similar rules. What followed was an era of asymmetric conflict with Al Qaida’s attack in
America on 9/11 as its nadir. Asymmetric warfare is land-bound and is usually set in difficult and badly-accessible terrain, and increasingly also in urban areas. In Vietnam it was the sawahs, in the Balkans the mountains, in Afghanistan the desert and mountains, in Indonesia, at the time, the jungle and, today, in
Iraq, the downtown districts. Underground networks operate in small autonomous cells which carry out their actions extremely effectively. Some of these networks even have global dimensions; Bin Laden’s Al Qaida is only one example. Asymmetric warfare requires a different modus operandi for the armed forces. At the conference ‘The future of land-based operations’ in December 2004 it was concluded that the success of military operations was largely dependent on the way in which the armed forces can anticipate on actions of parties involved in the conflict. A major characteristic of these operation is their complexity. Not only can the intensity of operation change with lightning speed, but it can also be completely different for the various levels. A battalion can be involved in a peace operation, while simultaneously, geographically close by, a group is engaged in a combat mission. Apart from that, a conflict can involve a large number of parties, ranging from warring factions and the local population to international aid organizations and the media. The
Netherlands forces have become more expeditionary in orientation. Operating in this way brings along a large measure of uncertainty and, consequently, unpredictability. This forms a great challenge for the supporting logistics, which has to be reliable and responsive in all circumstances.The operations are also dominated by the employment of technologically complex weapon systems. This requires a delicate interplay of people, weapons, ammunition and command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR). It has spawned changes in the soldier’s personal equipment (Soldier Modernization Program), the vehicles, precision weapons and ammunition, sensors, platforms and information and communication technology (ICT) to support command and control.
New logistic challenges
It is clear, the Defense organization is operating more and more in a world that is becoming smaller. There is the participation in peace operations, often in a multinational operational cooperation. Only recently, the NATO Response Force (NRF) was established. This rapid intervention force must be ready to be deployed in crisis areas all over the world, and sustain itself as a relatively small but well-trained and well-equipped force for about thirty days. The NRF combines land air and sea forces of NATO membership states, fourteen at present, including the
Netherlands. This smaller world implies operating in widely diverging circumstances in unfamiliar locations, and, necessarily, the transport of materiel and people to those locations, and the ensuing challenges to the transport organization. International operations also mean prolonged commitment of resources. Speed and combat power, therefore, are important targets, in the planning as well as the execution phases of operations (preparation, actual deployment, building down). All this must be achieved within reaction times of several days and with minimal supplies.The fall of the Berlin Wall threw a different light on defense logistics. Where its tasks during the Cold War had been characterized by a high degree of predictability, the new tasking brings along a great measure of uncertainty, and for outsiders it is usually almost incomprehensible. Vermunt states that traditional logistic concepts had to make way for thinking in terms of responsiveness and networks. The question therefore becomes: what is it that makes defense logistic networks winning? The increased employment of sophisticated weapon systems prompts questions such as: what does the changed modus operandi means for the sustainability of these weapon systems? But also: how can we employ the increased communication capabilities to improve our logistics?
Defense logistics Policy - Framework 2006
The Defense White paper 2000 initiated the development of a comprehensive policy framework for logistic support of military operations. The need for such a framework springs, amongst other things, from the fact that the armed forces are increasingly confronted with operations that involve several Services, ‘joint’, or more national armed forces, ‘combined’. Logistic support is no longer an exclusively national matter. Apart from that, logistics is also responsible for the efficient and effective execution of peace defense tasks in the
Netherlands, incidentally with shrinking budgets. Finally, there is the general ambition to work cost-effectively, where possible, and to make use of civilian capacity, also in the logistic support of operations. This brings along the question of how to realize these open logistic networks successfully. The basic assumptions for defense logistics testify of this changed environment. Some of the elements of the logistic policy framework, as laid down in the Logistics Policy Framework 2006, are:
- Operating from open logistic networks. ‘Open’ in this respect means cooperation between Services and national forces (internationally), but also civil-military cooperation (nationally, but also locally in the operational area in an expeditionary deployment).
- The employment of a generic supply chain. In an open network it is all about the realization of a logical linking of necessary logistic capacities into a supply chain that generates the required volume and quality of logistic support on the basis of cooperation. There is a generic thinking model for the supply chain that is applied throughout the defense organization. Prior to an actual deployment a mission-specific supply chain is designed, the criteria for which are derived from a combination of product and market characteristics (for instance, mission-critical goods and environmental factors). An integral fine-tuning across all chains: a fine-tuning directed at the operational process and planning and control of the entire operational chain, based on common frameworks for all chain participants, and geared at minimal stocks and guaranteed supplies.
- Realizing logistic networks requires transparent and ‘connectable’ information networks and the standardization of procedures and data on products and weapon systems. In that respect, the link-up with Network Enabled Capabilities (NEC) is a starting point. Projects such as Project Theater Independent Tactical Army and Airforce Network (TITAAN) and the implementation of ERP are basic conditions for this. A clear ordering of logistic responsibilities.
- The operational logistic concept, for instance, features central co-ordinating roles and controllers who are responsible for the integral control of the supply chain, the management of the logistics support and the setting of requirements and pre-conditions for the logistics support and the design of the supply chain.
Defense logistics research
So, logistics within the defense organization is going through major developments, to which the NLDA aims to make an innovative contribution. This is realized not only through research conducted by the cadets and midshipmen, but also through the institutes’ own scientific research program, which focuses on four central questions
- Winning logistic networks: how do networks for the deployment of military personnel and resources function in a situation of increasing responsiveness and decreasing certainty?
- Alliances: how can successful ‘open’ networks be realized?
- Intelligent logistic concepts: how can the armed forces use the increased communication capabilities for an improved deployment of military personnel and resources?
- Asset management control: what are the implications of the changed operational mode for sustainability of advanced weapon systems.
The research into these four themes is done in cooperation with civilian universities, at home and abroad, military academies, NLR and TNO.
Winning logistic networks
The developments described above pose great challenges for the defense logistics. The armed forces must be ready at all times to carry out their tasks in expeditionary missions in a controlled manner. A lack of the right quantity of ammunition, food, medial care and spare parts in the right place at the right time in a conflict situation must be prevented. In order to respond to the increased uncertainty, research must point the way in defense logistic networks. As an example of a winning logistic network professor Jos Vermunt on a conference in November 2004 referred to Bin Laden and Al Quaida, who, in his view, represented the ideal logistic network by showing flexibility, responsiveness, innovation and great creativity. Logistic networks are also developing in the civilian sphere, with a focus on reacting adequately to the uncertainty of customer demand. Cranfield University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in particular are conducting intensive research into reacting to demand uncertainty, which has resulted in theories on logistic networks. Cooperation within logistic networks allows organizations to react flexibly, responsively and effectively to change. As the defense modus operandi differs in a number of aspects from the civilian sector, the organization must adjust insights and notions with regard to ‘civilian logistics’ in order to shape winning logistic networks. These networks must enable the armed forces to react adequately to uncertainty.
The objective of the research into winning logistic networks is the development of a model for designing and realizing logistic networks for expeditionary missions. This research is carried out in collaboration with the Department of Military Operational Sciences. Besides, a research program is being set up into the logistics of medical care, in particular, in cooperation with TNO and University of Groningen.
Defense logistic networks are open networks, which requires clearly thought out choices about insourcing or outsourcing, but also about operating ‘joint’ and ‘combined’. Increasingly this also involves using civilian capacity (national or local in the mission area, with independent purchase within the framework of civil-military cooperation). But there is also the using of capacities within, for instance, NAMSA (NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency), and the linking up with the multilateral materiel agency OCCAR for acquisition, supply, maintenance and technical training of personnel. Civilian supply and distribution strategies will be leading so that it becomes easier to use civilian capacities. Interoperability is the key phrase in all this, otherwise the network cannot be called ‘open’.
In the Defense White Paper the central idea is to outsource as much as possible the provision of services and materiel to civilian companies. The organization will keep on using resources on its own account when the use of civilian resources is more expensive or impossible. In case of a high level of violence, certain services or products cannot be deployed further than the periphery of the area of operations. In the framework of ‘Defense in competition’ a review framework is provided which allows the service supplies of the defense companies and civilian companies to be compared. The key phrase in this is competitive service provision, which encompasses a competition under equal conditions with business companies. Besides, the policy is directed at the contribution to the sustainability and bolstering of the national defense-technological and industrial basis. Within the defense organization this involves some 7,000 functions and a total budget of 400M euro, in particular for maintenance, transport, guarding and security. Competitive service provision realized savings of up to 30 per cent abroad, with some activities being contracted out and others kept within the defense organization.
In a conference in November 2004, Professor Ard-Pieter De Man indicated the success factors for alliances. The JSF-project yielded a number of lesson learned that could also be interesting for other alliances: The clearer the objectives and interests of the partners in the network, the better it functions. Set up a structure, leaving each organization responsible for its own field, and only discuss the common interest. The tension created by this mutual dependency prevents the network from becoming too internally oriented or lazy. Complementary consultative bodies simplify the governance of the network. A small-scale ‘linking pin’ function between the operational and the strategic level prevents the top management from becoming overtaxed with details and the companies involved from feeling powerless in the power play that takes place on the strategic level. A choice of partners on the ‘best value’ principle yields a better and more innovative cooperation than when it is based on the ‘low cost’ principle. Avoid the ‘forced collaboration’ as much as possible. Each of the organizations must also have a good internal organization in order to function effectively in the network.
The open logistic network necessary to realize winning logistic networks poses challenges for the defense organization, as the experience with Van den Nieuwenhuyzen’s RDM showed. Some questions are: How can the alliances with civilian companies be realized successfully? How can technological innovations be introduced successfully? Examples are defense projects such as Multisatcom, the replacement of the armored and reconnaissance vehicles such as the Boxer and the Fennek and the F-16. How can ICT be employed in the planning and control of the open logistic network? The objective of this research is the development of knowledge on the realization of successful alliances with the civilian sector for the Defense organization.
Intelligent logistic concepts
The developments in the political-military field with regard to character, time, scale and space have created a need for a better information processing capacity in order to facilitate the ever-increasing information flows and demand for real-time information in support of decision making. In this respect the past decades has shown an enormous technological progress. Computer components have become faster, smaller and more robust, giving them a wider applicability. Computers are used more in networks with faster connections, allowing an increase in information processing capability. More and better satellites make a global, wireless communication network possible. The emergence of small, networked RFID tags ‘intelligent agents’ and Network Centric Warfare (NCW) are telling examples of this. NCW supports the pace of decision making; the translation of information supremacy into actions. All this serves the final objective of an increased operational pace, heightened responsiveness, less risk, lower costs and extremely effective operations. The success of military operations has become more dependent on information superiority, i.e. the extent to which information can be gathered and processed faster than an opponent can. The application of ICT offers the possibility to integrate command elements, sensors and weapons systems in one network. The military capabilities that enable this are known as ‘Network Enabled Capabilities’ (NEC) and ‘Military Capability Packages’ (MCP). NEC applications also generate new possibilities for logistics. The emergence of sophisticated ICT allows efficient and effective action and offers opportunities for improving management. These developments are based on the ability to switch quickly and thus a much greater logistic flexibility; precision-guided logistics. In the literature there is frequent mention of the concept of Sense and Respond Logistics. The underlying intelligent logistic concepts are innovative high-value concepts, whose increased chain transparency creates possibilities for improvement of efficiency and effectiveness of the logistic processes crossing the company-borders. Self-organization, synchronization and pro-activeness are key words in these concepts, at the core of which lies the application of intelligent agents-based software components An important research question is whether the principle of ‘demand-driving’, and the ensuing re-activeness, is still valid.
What will be investigated is the value of an increased situational awareness and the application of intelligent agents and intelligent logistic concepts for, for instance, transport, supply, maintenance, medical care and troop shipment.
Asset Management Control
Asset Management Control (AMC) is often called weapon system management in military parlance. The use of new technologies strongly enhancing the operational possibilities in support of armed forces operations has a high priority. Operational success is dependent upon reliable weapon systems.
The operational profile of the armed forces, however, is changing. Smaller, military capability packages (MCPs) become more flexible and they are deployed on shorter notice to locations far away from the classic areas of operations. The systems logistic organization tries to keep up with the developments in the support of operational units deployed there and in that manner. It is assumed that the maintenance requirements for technical systems in mission locations differ considerably from those in the regular training program. Those differences can be found in, amongst others, in the physiological circumstances, loads during use, the organization of the maintenance process and a shift of priority of efficiency requirements to effective operations when an operation changes from non-war to war. In practice there is insufficient anticipation on the effect of a change of user profile on the maintenance organization. This is also the case with the maintenance concept that is determined in the design phase. The result is too much, too little, or wrong maintenance, which has direct consequences for availability and the life span costs of the system or platform involved. There is a need for a chameleon-like maintenance organization that can anticipate quickly and adequately on the operational requirements of the armed forces. Apart from that, the preparation of the maintenance organization for a changed user profile must be improved. The (im)possibility of employing specialized civilian personnel during military deployment has an impact on the changed maintenance organization on the spot. The consequence is that the wrong kind of maintenance is done and as a result of that the cost effectiveness and employability of the technical system are in fact sub-optimal.
The question is whether there is any influencing of the use of military technical systems on the maintenance organization of these systems, and if so, what its nature is and whether it can be influenced. Apart from that, there is research into the significance of new concepts, such as ‘Autonomous Logistics Support’ (ALS), ‘Health and Usage Monitoring Systems’ (HUMS) and ‘Prognostic Health Management and Monitoring’ (PHM). The objectives of this research pertain to the development of knowledge and understanding of the realization of a systems logistic organization that anticipates in a dynamic manner on changes in the use of technical systems. This knowledge is subsequently used in order to generate integral improvement of the employability and cost-effectiveness of technical systems across the armed forces.
Innovation in defense logistic The developments in armed forces operations described above will instigate a change in the thinking about logistic support: the increase of asymmetric conflicts, with a large measure of logistic uncertainty and unpredictability; more frequent global ‘joint’ actions of the armed forces/Services and ‘combined’ with other NATO and UN member states, in ad hoc coalitions as well as more permanent alliances, along with a more intensive collaboration with civilian aid organizations; the need for effectiveness improvement prompted by shrinking defense budgets; the development and implementation of robust and affordable ICT for planning and management of logistic processes. The defense logistics, based on predictability, with its fixed structures, must be superseded by network thinking, in particular transparent and responsive networks.
The NLDA has the ambition to educate logistic officers who understand the operational context and who lead logistic operations that support the actions of operational commanders not only effectively but also efficiently. This requires a thorough education, research, integrating logistic innovations in the curriculum and an éducation permanente for the commanders involved. It goes without saying that this should be done in close concert with the clients within the defense organization.