It will take the Department of Defense about a year to deploy the additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan authorized by President Obama. Part of the reason for this seeming delay is the difficulty in moving anything in Afghanistan during the winter months and the scarcity of airfields and military bases to which additional forces can be sent. Because of the difficulty and time involved in getting equipment to Afghanistan the military is flying in the specially-designed M-ATV armored vehicles. But the major reason is the challenge of supplying our forces in Afghanistan. Simply put, the Pentagon cannot deploy even a single soldier or Marine if he cannot be fed, sheltered, provided with ammunition and otherwise supported. In addition to deploying tens of thousands of personnel, the Afghan surge means we will send thousands of vehicles and hundreds of aircraft and helicopters. These additional platforms will require fuel, ammunition and spare parts. Because it is so difficult to move equipment in and out of Afghanistan, repair depots will have to be created which will require their own facilities, personnel and equipment.
It is said that Omar Bradley once remarked that amateurs study tactics, armchair generals study strategy, and professionals study logistics. Nothing demonstrates the importance of logistics to the war in Afghanistan more than this one figure: $400. This is the estimated fully burdened cost of a gallon of fuel pumped into the tank of a U.S. military vehicle or aircraft in Afghanistan. Since gasoline sells for perhaps $2.50 a gallon that is quite a markup. Were the rest all profit, there would already have been a congressional investigation. The price of fuel is so high because of the cost of transporting fuel through the wilds of Pakistan and Afghanistan or across Europe, Russia and Central Asia. Transportation costs include the requirement that the private transportation companies employed to move the fuel (and most other commodities the military consumes) provide their own security. Private logistics companies have had their convoys ambushed and their workers killed. But they are doing a job that otherwise would require uniformed military personnel.
Everything needed to support U.S. and Coalition forces, including the building material to construct the bases to which troops will be deployed, must be brought into the country. So, the troops cannot be deployed until there are bases to house them. In addition, unless they are to be left stranded in the field without food, fuel or ammunition, a stockpile of supplies must be present to support our forces when they arrive. It took the military, particularly the Army Materiel Command and the Defense Logistics Agency, years to create a viable logistics net into Afghanistan and an adequate stockpile of supplies to support the nearly 100,000 forces deployed. The addition of some 40,000 more personnel when new NATO forces are included requires a major logistics “surge.”
There is another aspect to the logistics challenge that cannot be underestimated. This is the support provided by the private and public defense industrial bases to the efforts in Afghanistan and, of course, Iraq. Both sectors have performed admirably, sending their workers into the war zones to provide critical maintenance and repair support for the troops. Working in partnership, the private sector and the military depots have set new standards for the rates at which damaged or worn out equipment is repaired and sent back into action. Using a system know as Performance-Based Logistics throughout much of the non-defense economy, the two defense industrial sectors have created a new approach to supporting U.S. forces in the field that should stand as the benchmark for the future evolution of public-private partnerships in defense logistics.
Find Archived Articles: