Huge troop shuffle will strain logistics systems

A chief problem is that logistics teams and warfighters use separate command and control systems, Defense transformation czar Arthur K. Cebrowski says.

J. Adam Fenster

The U.S. military will replace more than 250,000 troops in Iraq over the next four months, a movement that will be the largest since World War II and pose a challenge to Defense Department IT.

The transfer of troops, dubbed by Pentagon officials as Operation Iraqi Freedom 2, will require integrated logistics systems to account for the coming and going of service members'as well as thousands of pieces of equipment.

New systems not ready

Although DOD is working on a new logistics environment for the battlefield, it will not be ready for the upcoming troop shifts.

Because DOD must use its existing systems, the transfer operation is likely to experience significant hits and misses, officials said recently at the Network-Centric Warfare 2004 conference in Washington sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement.

'There is one hell of a lot of movement, and there are a lot of people and pipes going the other way,' said Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, commander of the Joint Forces Command and supreme allied commander for transformation at NATO.

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Arthur K. Cebrowski, director of DOD's Office of Force Transformation, said logistics operations early in the Iraq war fell behind as the military advanced to Baghdad. The current logistics processes in use 'are not designed for that,' he said.

Part of the problem, he said, is that logistics teams use command and control systems separate from warfighters.

'There is dysfunction from both of those things, and it has to change,' Cebrowski said. 'We have to have common metrics with the operations.'

Despite advances in moving troops and equipment and in technology, battlefield logistics remains difficult to master, said Army Lt. Gen. Benjamin Griffin, deputy chief of staff for the Army's Resource Management Division.

'Combat service support severely lacked network capability,' said Griffin, who commanded the Army's digital 4th Infantry Division in Iraq. He said the military must better integrate logistics operations into Defense networks.

DOD needs systems that give a real-time view of commands on the move, Griffin said. 'We have to find hardware and software to do that,' he said. 'We're striving for a standard battle command capability across the Army.'

But before it addresses the shortcomings of its logistics system, the military has to overcome its shortage of bandwidth, he added.

'We have an insufficient data transport capability to battalion levels,' Griffin said. 'We have a huge appetite for bandwidth. We have to take an appetite suppressant.'

DOD is developing a prototype system to support the rapidly changing logistics environment.
Officials said the prototype would prevent problems such as the shortages that troops experienced early during fighting in Iraq, when advancing warfighters outpaced their supply units.

Tests planned

Cebrowski's office is developing the Sense and Respond Logistics Concept, a framework that will involve sophisticated networks, sensors and automatic demand signals. DOD plans to test the system during military exercises later this year, said Navy Capt. Linda Lewandowski, a DOD transformation strategist.

To counter likely problems that will crop up during the coming Iraq troop movements, the Transportation Command is sending a special logistics team to Kuwait this month to coordinate the flow of troops and supplies.

The Transportation Command also is fielding a Deployment and Distribution Operation Center in Iraq. 'This is not going to be the 100 percent solution, but we'll get there,' said Air Force Gen. John W. Handy, TRANSCOM commander.

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