Iraq troop shifts will test logistics systems

The military will move more than 250,000 troops in and out of Iraq in the next two to three months, marking the single largest troop movement since World War II, officials say.

Such a huge transfer of authority, dubbed by Pentagon officials Operation Iraqi Freedom 2, will require integrated military logistics systems to keep an adequate accounting of troops coming and going, as well as thousands of pieces of equipment.

And if OIF is any indicator, there are bound to be pockets of hits and misses, officials said today at the third annual Network Centric Warfare 2004 conference, held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. The conference is 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, told conference participants that logistics was stumped by the speed of the military's advance to Baghdad. The current logistics processes, Cebrowski said, 'are not designed for that.'

Cebrowski said part of the problem is that logisticians use command and control systems separate from those of 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.'

Army Lt. Gen. Benjamin Griffin, deputy chief of staff for Army G-8, who commanded the Army's digital 4th Infantry division in Iraq, agreed.

Griffin said the Army learned during the Division Capstone I and II training exercises that, despite advances in moving troops and equipment, logistics is still an uphill battle.

'Combat service support severely lacked network capability,' Griffin said. He added that the military needed to better ensure logistics operations were integrated into the network.

Furthermore, the military needs to make more strides with communications on the move. Blue Force Tracking helped, but only a limited number of users, 1,200, had the BFT system installed in their vehicles during OIF, Griffin said.

'It was limited battle command on the move,' Griffin said. 'We're going to have true battle command on the move, terrestrial and line of sight. We have to find hardware and software to do that. We're striving for a standard battle command capability across the Army.'

But right now, the military has to do a better job with 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.'

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