Commentary

The Logistics Corps

by Major Gerhard Schröter

As the Army moves into the 21st century, it is changing the way it does business. A Revolution in Military Affairs is preparing the Army for the dynamic, yet unknown, challenges it will face in the new millennium. At the same time, the logistics community is going through the Revolution in Military Logistics. This revolution introduces new concepts and structures that must operate in a completely new environment and that, in my opinion, are possible only if we merge the functional logistics branches into a Logistics Corps.

The New Environment

The Army of Excellence (AOE) that helped bring about the end of the Cold War is changing through a series of emerging operational concepts that are embodied in Force XXI, Joint Vision (JV) 2010, and the Army After Next (AAN). The main concept within all three visions is a military made up of small, agile forces that, according to JV 2010, "are adept at conducting sustained, synchronized operations from dispersed locations." These forces will operate in a joint environment and are not expected to have the luxury of a long deployment buildup and train-up time window. Rather, these forces will be required to deploy on short notice (measured in hours and days), arrive in theater ready to fight, win quickly, and redeploy rapidly.

In terms of logistics support, this dynamic new environment demands focused logistics that is, according to JV 2010, "responsive, flexible, and precise. Focused logistics will be the fusion of information, logistics, and transportation technologies to provide rapid crisis response, to track and shift assets even while en route, and to deliver tailored logistics packages and sustainment directly at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of operations."

The Army trains logistics officers to be multifunctional, multicapable, and joint-oriented. I would argue that, in reality, we are not as multifunctional under the current system as we could be. The challenge to fill the new forward support and base support companies in the Force XXI division with tactically skilled, multifunctional lieutenants and captains is a key indicator of what awaits the logistics community in the redesigned Army. The force structure envisioned by JV 2010 and AAN, coupled with a constrained funding environment, compels us to reconsider the primarily functional AOE training and development model for logisticians.

The AOE Logistics Model

The Army's current logistics community is made up of three main functional branches or corps: Ordnance, Quartermaster, and Transportation. Each branch specializes in specific logistics functions, has its own training and education system, and has officers assigned to functional and multifunctional logistics units based upon their branch affiliation. Will this education system produce the multifunctional, multicapable logisticians who will support effectively the dominant maneuver concept envisioned by JV 2010 and the AAN? In my opinion, the answer is no because the current Army system relies so heavily on on-the-job-training (OJT) to develop the multifunctional officer. Each officer's assignments would have to be managed very carefully to ensure he is multifunctional. The Army cannot afford to depend solely on OJT if the success or failure of dominant maneuver hinges on the "responsive, flexible, and precise logistics" described in JV 2010. To ensure the logistics community is fully capable of meeting and exceeding the logistics expectations of JV 2010 and setting the conditions for logistics in the AAN, we must activate a Logistics Corps and abolish the Ordnance, Quartermaster, and Transportation branches.

The Army already took its first step toward the Logistics Corps concept with the introduction of the Combined Logistics Officer Advanced Course (CLOAC) in 1993. However, officers received functional training in their basic courses and were sent to the basic branch school during CLOAC Phase 2. CLOAC was redesignated as the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course (CLC3) in 1998. All logistics officers retain their functional branch affiliation throughout their careers. Officers are given the opportunity to receive the functional area 90 (multifunctional logistician) designation, but the formal multifunctional education process ends with CLC3. For the rest of an officer's career, the multifunctional education process relies mainly on OJT.

This informal education system was effective under the AOE structure, but force redesigns and the dynamic nature of 21st century warfare require a more formalized system. It is crucial that logisticians join their units educated, trained, and ready to deploy. Eight hours before line of departure will be too late for a functionally focused logistics officer to conduct OJT, effectively synchronize all classes of supply, and orchestrate maintenance sustainment operations on the dispersed and asymmetric battlespace of the future.

The Logistics Corps Model

The Logistics Corps training, education, and development system would train all logistics officers as multifunctional logisticians who can operate effectively in the complex and joint environment of the 21st century. All Army and Marine Corps logisticians would begin their careers with the Logistics Officer Basic Course. This would be followed by the Logistics Officer Advanced Course and then an echelons-above-brigade planning staff sub-course for logisticians as part of the universal Command and General Staff College of the future. Included in the curriculums would be training in joint logistics planning and operations at the joint task force and theater levels. After completing a training and education level, a logistician whose next assignment is to a position requiring specialized functional skills would attend a course designed to prepare him for the assignment. However, this would be the exception rather than the rule because the Warrant Officer Corps would continue to provide functional expertise as it does now.

Benefits of a Logistics Corps

A Logistics Corps would offer several tremendous benefits. First, all training would be conducted at one installation under one command. Second, the consolidation would reduce significantly the number of instructors and education support personnel needed, leaving more personnel available to fill tactical units. Third, consolidating the funding required by three officer training programs would decrease costs and increase the quality and training value of the one program. Finally, the talent that had been dispersed formerly among three functional corps would be consolidated within one organization. This new organization would produce the innovative logistics leadership needed to sustain the Army through the 21st century.

The feasibility of a Logistics Corps would depend on detailed studies of the personnel changes required, the impact on base infrastructure, and funding issues, as well as finding ways to overcome institutional resistance caused by the branch pride instilled at the separate basic courses. It is up to the current logistics leaders to take the steps that will allow the Army to produce multifunctional logisticians for the 21st century. As JV 2010 states, "Turning concepts into capabilities requires adapting our leadership, doctrine, education and training, organizations, and materiel to meet the high tempo, high technology demands posed by these new concepts." We owe the soldiers we lead and the units we support the best trained and educated logistics leaders who will leverage new technologies to produce dynamic organizations capable of accomplishing their missions.

Major Gerhard Schröter is attending the College of Naval Command and Staff in Newport, Rhode Island. He was assigned previously as brigade maintenance trainer at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. He has a B.A. degree in international relations and German from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.