HomeAbout UsBrowse This IssueBack IssuesNews DispatchesSubscribing to Army LogisticianWriting for Army LogisticianContact UsLinks






























Thinking Joint—
Integrating Army Logistics
Jump to top of page


Thinking Joint—
Integrating Army Logistics

When Admiral Edmund P. Giambastiani, Jr., addressed the House Armed Services Committee last October on lessons learned thus far from Operation Iraqi Freedom, he described the new approach to warfare demonstrated in Iraq as “overmatching power.” Giambastiani, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and Commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, stated that the emphasis is no longer on numbers only but also on harnessing all of the capabilities the services and Special Operations Forces bring to the battlespace in a coherently joint way. This important point should be the key for developing future Army logistics systems and doctrine. Although threats from terrorists, insurgents, and enemy state-sponsored cells have dramatically changed the world in which the military operates, the responsibility of the services to defeat the enemy has not changed.

The first step toward exploiting all available capabilities is to educate the Army logistics community about existing systems and procedures that increase situational knowledge of the battlespace. Logisticians must understand combat missions in order to support them. If 9–11 has taught us anything, it is that there are no front lines and battlefields will never be linear again. The natural second step is to incorporate joint training and doctrine in all logistics planning. With insights gained from Operation Iraqi Freedom, logistics planners have discerned four important attributes that will ensure success on the battlefield. They are knowledge, speed, precision, and lethality.


Improved satellite capabilities made possible by new communications links have greatly improved knowledge and increased intelligence on the battlefield. The information these links provide enables extremely accurate targeting, which increases lethality and reduces the number of sorties required. Fewer sorties mean reduced fuel consumption, and fewer flying hours mean less aircraft maintenance. Fewer operational forces require a smaller logistics footprint to support them. Current Army logistics doctrine does not address the integration and leveraging of satellite capabilities or their advantages to the logistics community.

In addition to global positioning systems and satellite communications, other available technologies could greatly enhance the knowledge of logistics units. An example is multispectral imagery. Multispectral scanner systems are passive, electro-optical sensors that collect and digitally record reflected and emitted electromagnetic energy. Data obtained from these systems range from the viability of supply routes to the most abundant water sources.

Space-based systems can provide much more than weather and communications data. However, many logisticians are not familiar with these systems and the information they provide because joint training that uses these resources is seldom offered. Information on these systems can be requested through various channels, such as the S–2 (intelligence staff officer). However, most battalion S–2s are unfamiliar with the types of information satellites can produce, and space operations personnel are not authorized in the division support command. Many space systems are classified and clearance is required to request data from them.


In Operation Iraqi Freedom, forces closed on the joint area of operations in less than 90 days as opposed to the 7 months required in Operation Desert Storm. Although a smaller force equates to a smaller logistics footprint, the overall customer wait time was reduced dramatically. Modes of delivery and capabilities have improved greatly since 1990. Available bandwidth has increased more than 40 times, which has permitted direct visibility over supplies and enabled the destination of supplies to be adjusted while they are en route. This has provided more flexibility for the forces in theater because they do not have to wait for critical parts.

Some systems problems remain, however. The Army supply system is not integrated with the other services’ systems. The Marine Corps has many of the same vehicles as the Army, so they can use the same repair parts. However, an Army unit could have a part shortage while a Marine Corps unit operating 1 mile downrange could have an excess of the same part. Because neither service has visibility over the other’s supply system, the Army requirement would not be filled. Depending on each service’s stockage level, a part also could cost one service more than it costs another.

Other coalition forces in theater often have supplies needed by U.S. forces. In many instances, supplies could be shifted to where they are needed most under the provisions of acquisition and cross-servicing agreements. These agreements with other nations’ defense ministries authorize the acquisition and transfer of logistics support between the signatories. They are widely used throughout the U.S. European Command. Army logisticians also could use other types of joint and coalition support agreements to obtain needed supplies and equipment, and an automated system linking the services and coalition forces would increase the speed of delivery even more.


Precision applies not only to weapon systems but also to decisionmaking. Using precision munitions increases lethality on key targets. Over two-thirds of the ordnance expended in Operation Iraqi Freedom was precision guided, and campaign objectives were obtained using one-seventh of the ordnance used in Operation Desert Storm. “Precision decisions” allowed a combination of Special Forces and conventional forces to work jointly, maximizing effectiveness. All of these factors contributed to the drafting of a military response to enemy actions that inflicted minimum damage to Iraq’s infrastructure, which conserved resources that would be needed in follow-on stability operations.

For Army logisticians, precision means delivering the right supplies in the right amount to the right location at the right time. Joint logistics doctrine uses key elements of the logistics system—lines of communication, theater transportation networks, specified units, and host nation support—to make sure resources are available to support combat power. Overall, this works well except in one area—construction. Navy Seabees, Air Force REDHORSE (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron, Engineer), and Army Engineer units operating in the same theater work independently. Although each service is capable of various construction activities, there is little, if any, coordination between them in theater.

Engineer support could be coordinated before deployment to see if a REDHORSE squadron is available. If so, vertical construction units could focus on other areas. (Vertical construction units are those that erect buildings, towers, fences, and bridges and install electrical, sanitary, and heating systems in them). Although they all use class IV construction materials, each service requisitions them differently. The Army relies heavily on contracts for construction services. However, using joint and multinational assets could save time and money since the materials may be in
theater already and transportation costs could be minimized.


The increase in knowledge, speed, and precision and the integration of air, ground, and sea operations have contributed to the final attribute of success—
lethality. However, logistics provides the foundation of combat power. Planning and executing the movement and sustainment of combat forces in a theater of operations makes the forces involved lethal.

The fundamental point in Admiral Giambastiani’s congressional testimony was that the military’s traditional planning and approach to warfare have shifted. Instead of employing service-centric forces that must be deconflicted on the battlefield to achieve victories of attrition, a well-trained, integrated joint force now enters the battlespace quickly and conducts decisive operations with operational and strategic effects.

The lack of a single logistics structure limits the logistics community’s ability to synchronize priority of support with priority of effort. Since our Nation’s founding, military forces have relied on the combined capabilities of the various services and coalition partners. Since the 1980’s, we have had a Combined Force Land Component Commander, a Combined Joint Force Air Component Commander, and a Combined Joint Maritime Component Commander to bring combat elements together to direct their overall capabilities toward national strategic goals. Joint force commanders do not care where a capability is obtained as long as it fulfills the need. This same logic needs to apply to logistics. For Army logisticians, the challenge is to use sister services and coalition forces to get what they need quickly and deliver it with precision.

Although current operations have forced operators to conduct joint and coalition operations and to fight as a joint and combined team, the Army logistics community must establish innovative training and doctrine that incorporates lessons learned while providing support in joint environments. Although Army joint logistics doctrine is still in its infancy, the essential imperatives of combat service support—man, fuel, feed, arm, fix, and sustain—can be applied to the overmatching power approach to modern warfare. Fixing, fueling, moving, sustaining, and arming the forces give them their lethality. How the services conduct these functions in joint operations should be understood, trained, and perfected by Army logisticians. The constantly changing nature of our operational environment requires a joint logistics structure that is flexible, fully integrated, and capable of orchestrating complex, simultaneous distributed operations rapidly and decisively. Joint logistics affects the Army more than it affects its sister services because wars are still won by “boots on the ground,” and most of those boots belong to the Army.

Major Lisa A. Zanglin is assigned to the Directorate of Combat Developments for Combat Service Support at the Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia. She is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College, the Joint Forces Staff College, the Air Force Instructor Course, and the Joint Aerospace Command and Control Course. She has master’s degrees in human resource management and military science from Troy State University in Alabama and is completing doctoral research in public administration through Auburn University.

Thinking Joint—
Integrating Army Logistics
Jump to top of page