The Department of
logistician offers some thoughts on the collaborative network
of relationships and the operational imperatives needed
to make joint logistics as effective as possible.
The logistics capacity of the U.S. military today
is unmatched. Our Nation’s ability to project military
power gives the joint warfighter unprecedented capabilities.
However, a constantly changing operating environment and resource
constraints demand that we optimize joint logistics to enhance
our capabilities for tomorrow. We have the opportunity to significantly
advance our systems, processes, and organizations in order
to improve support to tomorrow’s joint force commander
(JFC), and we must seize that opportunity.
My purpose in writing this is to generate thought and frame
discussion. This article represents my view of joint logistics
and today’s environment, and it frames three essential “imperatives” and
key strategic relationships around which we can build collaborative
change. I offer these thoughts as a catalyst for the development
of concepts and solutions that will make joint logistics as
effective as possible.
The necessity of joint logistics is widely
accepted throughout the Department of Defense logistics community,
and no one I know of would disagree that the effective delivery
of logistics support is essential to the JFC, our ultimate
customer. However, I believe that our current logistics systems
include many inefficiencies, unnecessary redundancies, and
process gaps that increase both risks and costs. Achieving
harmony among military service- and Defense agency-funded missions,
systems, processes, and programs will correct today’s
inefficiencies, but doing so poses a significant challenge.
That challenge can be overcome with a common agreement on,
and understanding of, the purpose of joint logistics. That
understanding, in turn, requires answers to the fundamental
questions, “What is joint logistics?” “Why
do we need it?” and “What does it deliver?”
Joint logistics is the deliberate or improvised sharing of
service logistics resources to enhance synergy and reduce both
redundancies and costs. We need joint logistics because the
services (especially during initial expeditionary activity)
seldom have sufficient capability to independently support
the JFC. By sharing, we can make the best use of limited
resources to provide maximum capability to the supported commander.
The overall purpose of joint logistics is to achieve logistics
synergy—getting more out of our combined resources than
we can individually. The supported JFC expects joint logistics
to give him freedom of action, so he is able to execute his
mission effectively and according to his timetable. Sustained
operational readiness gives the JFC the freedom of action he
needs to respond effectively to operational objectives. Sustained
operational readiness is the result of the cumulative efforts
of service, Defense agency, and other logistics players across
the entire joint logistics environment.
from the 3d Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment, offload
their Stryker vehicle from a C–5 Galaxy transport
at Daegu Air Base, South Korea, for joint and combined
Exercise Foal Eagle.
Joint Logistics Environment
The joint logistics environment is characterized by the Global War on Terrorism,
other threats to our security, frequent and diverse commitments around the world,
and complex interagency and multinational operations. Future operations are likely
to be distributed and conducted rapidly and simultaneously across multiple joint
operational areas within a single theater or across the boundaries of more than
one geographic combatant command. The requirement to integrate sustainment and
force-projection operations in a complex operating environment presents the greatest
joint logistics challenge.
This environment spans the strategic, operational, and tactical levels and provides
the context in which we must deliver the capability, or “effect,” expected
by the JFC.
Freedom of action is the overall effect the JFC must have, and that freedom is
delivered at the tactical level. We should measure success at the tactical level,
and our performance metric should be the amount of joint operational readiness
available to the JFC. However, sustained joint operational readiness depends
on the efficiency and effectiveness of logistics processes, programs,
systems, and organizations that are outside of the tactical level. The effective
integration of all logistics capabilities is directly reflected at the tactical
level, but there is a high tactical price to pay for inefficiencies at the strategic
or operational levels.
Our Nation’s ability to project and sustain
military power comes from the strategic level. The national
system enables sustained military operations
over time and leverages
our most potent force multiplier—the vast capacity of our industrial
base. At this level, modern, clearly defined, well-understood, and
processes drive efficiencies across service, Defense agency, and commercial
capabilities. Robust and efficient global processes, combined with agile global
are fundamental to joint
logistics reform and to our Nation’s ability to maintain global flexibility
in the face of constantly changing threats.
The operational level is where the JFC synchronizes and integrates his joint
operational requirements with the national system. It is there that joint logistics
excel and where the ability to fully integrate logistics capabilities
provides our greatest opportunities. The operational level is where the joint
must bridge service, coalition, agency, and other organizational elements and
capabilities, linking national and tactical systems, processes, and organizations
to achieve the freedom of action that the JFC expects. The essence of joint
logistics is found at the operational level, and it is at the operational level
joint logistics community should focus its efforts.
of a logistics over-the-shore operation, cargo is
discharged from a Navy fast sealift ship alongside
an Army logistics support vessel.
Effective joint logistics depends on clear roles, accountabilities,
and relationships among the global players within the joint
logistics domain. The collaborative network of relationships
between these players should be based on the preeminence
of the services. By law, the services are responsible for
raising, training, equipping, and maintaining ready forces
for the JFC, so they must lie at the heart of this collaborative
network. Service logistics components form the foundation
of the joint logistics network and are responsible for
maintaining systems life-cycle readiness. Thus, the services
act as Defense Systems Readiness Process Owners, and they
are the supported organizations for logistics readiness.
In this capacity, the services focus on their product:
logistics readiness at best value.
The services and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) share
responsibilities as the Defense Supply Process Owners.
In that shared role, they act as supporting organizations
to the components of the joint force for logistics readiness.
The services and DLA are responsible for supply support
and, supported by the Defense Distribution Process Owner,
are focused on their product: perfect order fulfillment.
The U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) serves as the Joint
Deployment Process Owner and is the primary provider of
conventional forces. In this role, JFCOM, through its service
components, ensures that the supported commander is provided
with the forces needed to achieve national objectives.
JFCOM is responsible for coordinating and making recommendations
for the global conventional force and, supported by the
Defense Distribution Process Owner, is focused on its product:
perfect capability fulfillment.
The U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) serves as the
Defense Distribution Process Owner and is the supporting
organization to DLA and the services for the movement of
sustainment and to JFCOM for the movement of forces. TRANSCOM
coordinates and synchronizes the Defense distribution system
and is focused on its product: time-definite delivery.
The JFC, through his service components, is the ultimate
customer of the joint logistics system. The JFC has authority
over joint logistics resources in his area of responsibility
and is the principal focus of the national organizations
These national organizations have global responsibilities
and form the backbone of joint logistics. They exist to
provide and sustain logistically ready forces to the supported
JFC. These organizations serve as global providers, responsible
for the end-to-end synchronization and coordination of
processes that deliver outcomes to the supported JFC. They
should strive constantly to improve their capabilities
in cooperation with each other, integrating deployment
and redeployment, supply, distribution, and readiness processes
to ensure that the supported commander receives both forces
and logistics sustainment on time and where needed.
Because the services lie at the heart of the joint logistics
network, the joint logistics community (including processes,
systems, programs, and organizations) should measure “value” at
the tactical level from the perspective of the service
components of the JFC. Every logistics program, system,
and initiative should be viewed within the framework of
these critical strategic relationships and should be measured
by its ability to support the effect we are expected to
Imperatives for Success
The value of joint logistics is in its ability to sustain
joint logistics readiness, and we can measure that value
by how well we achieve three joint logistics imperatives:
unity of effort, domain-wide visibility, and rapid and
precise response. These imperatives are not goals in themselves.
But they define the outcomes of a confederation of
systems, processes, and organizations that are agile enough
to adapt effectively to a constantly changing environment
in order to meet the
emerging needs of the supported JFC.
line up their vehicles in a convoy formation after
dropping off supplies at Camp India in Fallujah,
Unity of effort. This imperative refers to the
coordinated application of all logistics capabilities to focus
on the JFC’s intent. It is the most critical of all joint
logistics outcomes. Achieving unity of effort requires the
optimal integration of joint, interagency, multinational, and
nongovernmental logistics capabilities. Unity of effort is
built around three enablers—
• Appropriate organizational capabilities and authorities provide the means to execute joint logistics effectively and
Shared awareness across the logistics domain drives unity of
effort by focusing capabilities to meet the joint warfighter’s
most important requirements. The effective integration of priorities
and the continuous optimization of those priorities in space
and time are key tasks that require shared awareness.
Common measures of performance drive optimization across all
processes that support the JFC. Clearly defined joint logistics
processes, well-understood roles and accountabilities of the
players involved in those processes, and shared JFC metrics
shape this enabler.
Domain-wide visibility. This is the ability to see requirements,
resources, and capabilities across the joint logistics domain.
Three fundamental enablers are needed to achieve this imperative—
Connectivity requires access to the information network 24
hours a day, 365 days a year. The objective of connectivity
is to reach globally—backward, forward, and laterally—throughout
the network to synchronize and coordinate the efforts of supporting
Defense agencies, interagency participants, multinational partners,
host nations, contractors, and commercial sector participants.
Standard enterprise data architecture is the foundation of
rapid and effective data transfer. This enabler is the fundamental
building block for creating a common logistics operating picture
and high logistics situational understanding. It serves to
foster JFC confidence.
A global focus on the processes that deliver support to the
JFC is paramount to achieving the best joint logistics capability.
Logistics support to the joint force is global business, and
any view of joint logistics that operates below the global
level will reduce the effectiveness of processes and deliver
Rapid and precise response. This imperative defines the ability
of the supply chain to effectively meet the constantly changing
needs of the joint force. Lack of key supplies, regardless
of the reason, acts to undermine readiness and increase mission
risk. The following performance measures can accurately indicate
how well the supply chain is responding to the needs of the
• Speed is the core characteristic of responsiveness,
and the most critical to the JFC. In measuring speed, we
should focus our efforts on what is “quick enough,” recognizing
that not all supplies are equal in importance. Items that
truly drive operational readiness deserve special treatment.
Reliability is the ability of the supply chain to provide predictable,
or time-definite, delivery. When items are not immediately
available, the joint logistics system must provide immediate
and accurate estimates of delivery so the warfighter can make
informed decisions about future mission options.
Visibility provides rapid and easy access to order
information. A subset of domain-wide visibility, this capability
the JFC’s fundamental questions, “Where is it?” and “When
will it get here?”
Efficiency is directly related to the supply chain’s
footprint. In the tactical and operational space, the footprint
needed to provide support can be determined by the resources
needed to compensate for inefficiencies within the supply
|An Air Force
C–5 transport loads an Army AH–64 Apache
The Need for Joint Logistics
Joint logistics exists to give the JFC the freedom of action
he needs to meet mission objectives. We deliver this effect
by integrating all logistics capabilities at the operational
level, thereby bridging our Nation’s strategic sustainment
base to the complex tactical environment in a way that optimizes
logistics readiness. Through rigorous self-assessment, discussion,
analysis, and collaboration, we can make significant progress
toward improving our ability to deliver logistics readiness.
It is important to move forward rapidly with programs and initiatives
that truly support joint logistics. We cannot wait until
every issue is resolved to make decisions. Viewing initiatives through
the lens of the three joint logistics imperatives—unity
of effort, domain-wide visibility, and rapid and precise response—should
provide a reasonable starting point for assessing an initiative’s
value. The challenge of integrating service and agency programs
and systems that were not designed to holistically support
joint operations cannot be overestimated. However, the importance
of achieving this integration also cannot be overestimated.
We have a responsibility to the American people and the next
generation of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast
Guardsmen to do better—much better.
Lieutenant General C.V. (Chris) Christianson
is the Director for Logistics, J–4, on the Joint Staff. He previously
served as the Deputy Chief of Staff, G–4, Headquarters,
Department of the Army. From August 2002 to July 2003, he served
as Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, G–4, Headquarters,
Department of the Army, with duty as Chief of Logistics, Coalition
Land Component Command, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
General Christianson has a bachelor’s degree in industrial
engineering from North Dakota State University and is a graduate
of the Infantry Officer Basic Course, the Ordnance Officer
Advanced Course, the Armed Forces Staff College, and the Army