—Rear Adm. Mark F. Heinrich
Today’s military logistics successes were built on lessons from past conflicts. Many of these tenets apply to private-sector purchasing and supply management, as well. The military, civilian and contractor logisticians of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) conduct supply chain operations nearly identical to those in the private sector. Our processes are anchored by large Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems that enhance the management of logistics requirements, contracts, transportation and distribution. Supply management is critical during this era of persistent conflict, and our logisticians share one goal: to sustain our military while providing the best value to our shareholders— the citizens of the United States.
End-to-End Supply Chain Collaboration
Following Operation Desert Storm, the DOD realized the importance of end-to-end logistics synchronization. Embedding logisticians closer to our military customers provides supply managers greater operational awareness and understanding. Establishing large distribution centers in the war-fighting theater of operations provides more effective logistical support by reducing customer wait time.
At Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, the Central Command (CENTCOM) Deployment & Distribution Operations Center (CDDOC) is responsible for synchronizing operational logistics and increasing supply chain precision, reliability and efficiency. In this collaborative environment, planners link military customer demands to suppliers and transporters, including the U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). Additionally, collaboration with industry provides greater supply flexibility—especially in fuel, subsistence, medical, clothing and construction items. This allows direct shipments from manufacturers, distributors and strategic suppliers through prearranged contracts. The CDDOC, USTRANSCOM and DLA work together to ensure the timely and effective distribution of supplies to the front lines.
In large measure, the extensive inventory of excess supplies left behind after Desert Storm led to today’s requirements-focused logistics processes. As simple as it sounds, having the field commanders on the front end of planning is now recognized as key to our logistics successes. This is further facilitated through DOD’s integrated ERP systems which link supply chains from order placement to delivery.
Collaboration on requirements development, contracting, transportation, distribution and disposal takes many forms:
  • Analyzing the pace of requirements, as well as cooling and power-generation requirements, to effectively predict the amount of fuel required for U.S. bases weeks in advance < Awarding contracts based on commercial best practices and private- ector distribution capabilities to supply subsistence provisions to U.S. forces, based on predictable menus and volumes
  • Using surface transportation to preposition heavy materials (such as armor and lubricants) at forward depots to reduce airlift requirements
  • Purchasing point-to-point commercial airlift capability from suppliers (for example, FedEx, National Air Cargo, UPS and Evergreen) through an online bid process to augment U.S. Air Force capability
  • Dismantling armored doors in Kuwait and selling the aluminum in the Middle East instead of transporting the material back to the United States for scrapping.
Shared, Rec urring, Repeatable and Measurable Processes 
Today’s technology provides field commanders with collaborative involvement in order fulfillment, demand planning and asset visibility. Response times are managed with common processes, aided by customer- nique modifications for various commodities. Labor-intensive planning processes of the past have been replaced by statistical algorithm settings and used in the DOD’s emerging ERP systems.
Today’s DOD business systems provide improved tools that effectively guarantee delivery of the right item to the right place. The military now has access to common data, business services and information regarding storage and in-transit asset visibility, leading, in turn, to greatly improved customer support and inventory position. In assessing performance, a primary metric of the supply chain is customer wait time. This is a key factor in supporting the military customer, as well. Fuel, food, water, clothing, construction and medical supplies are stocked forward and delivered as requirements emerge. These logistics transformation initiatives have helped mitigate the problems in the stove-piped processes and inefficiencies of past conflicts. For example, one of the most common commodities
on the battlefield is tires.
The DLA, as well as the U.S. Navy, executed performancebased logistics (PBL) solutions that provided tires to equip aircraft, tactical equipment and many administrative vehicles, with increased effectiveness and significantly reduced cost.
Bringing It All Together
Without question, the overriding reason for our logistics success in Southwest Asia is the skill, dedication and commitment of the DOD’s integrated logistics teams who employed emerging technology and best business practices in military logistics operations. DLA, in conjunction with the military services, implemented a PBL strategy to contract with suppliers to provide product support. While it’s virtually impossible to compare current combat logistics operations with past conflicts, the lessons of Desert Storm contributed to operations success today. Military logisticians now have the tools to deliver supply chain agility to support today’s dynamic combat environment.
Almost all the military supply chain’s lessons are applicable to current private-sector challenges: improving bottom lines and increasing shareholder value. Reduced customer wait times and smaller, faster-moving inventories— as well as long-term partnerships with third- arty logistics providers that leverage our state-of-the-art ERP systems—are delivering improved supply chain precision.