Toward a Multinational Future

by Joseph R. Bainbridge

The next large deployment involving U.S. forces will be a joint operation, and likely multinational as well. In a joint operation, one service may dominate, but two or more military services contribute. Certain functions are performed by one service in support of all. Department of Defense structure makes this cooperation and dependence inevitable; participation in multinational operations makes it vital.

All potential Army commanders need basic, operational-level awareness of joint and multinational operations and logistics. The U.S. Joint Forces Command's Joint Warfighting Center in Suffolk, Virginia, certifies that joint commanders and joint task forces possess capabilities not found in single-service elements and trains them to use these skills effectively. The Army Logistics Management College at Fort Lee, Virginia, offers the Joint Course on Logistics, which addresses multinational operations, but not in detail.

Given the world we live in, we can expect to participate in multinational operations in the future. Those operations can be very successful because consensus, created when a number of autonomous states band together toward a common goal, sends a powerful message. Operation Desert Storm, to which 38 nations sent forces and which many more formally endorsed, demonstrated this.

While officers are exposed to some multinational experiences as they progress through their careers, these may not be enough to prepare them to serve as logisticians in a multinational operation. There should be a multinational logistics course for them.

Bold leaders assess circumstances and make plans and decisions on the spot. Yet having suggestions, a framework, or a pattern as a starting point is easier and faster than starting from scratch. The Army has published multinational doctrine in Field Manual 100-8, The Army in Multinational Operations. Joint Publication (Pub) 3-16, Joint Doctrine for Multinational Operations, was published in April, and Joint Pub 4-08, Joint Doctrine for Multinational Logistics, is under development.

Multinational operations may include some unfamiliar relationships. The person responsible for an operation may have to persuade or coerce commanders from other nations to follow or adopt his strategy and procedures. Participating nations may pledge cooperation but reject subordinate status. Operations that do not involve fighting may be controlled even less tightly. Humanitarian assistance missions are dominated by logistics, yet nations opting to join a coalition may be unwilling to relinquish control of their logistics resources to commanders from other nations. Consider that the United States belongs to an international organization (the United Nations) to which most of its potential enemies also belong. What a challenge it must be to come to a consensus on issues in United Nations meetings.

Our military logisticians need to be trained to function effectively in multinational operations. The Army Logistics Management College is developing a multinational logistics course. If you would like more information about this course, or if you have suggestions for course content, call (804) 765-4341 or DSN 539-4341 or send an e-mail to For information on the Joint Course on Logistics, call (804)765-0285 or DSN 539-0285, or send an e-mail to

Joseph R. Bainbridge is a military analyst and instructor of joint logistics at the Army Logistics Management College, Fort Lee, Virginia. He holds a B.S. degree from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.Ed. degree from Virginia State University.