Approximately 60,000 players per day spend time at the most popular Internet poker casinos, while 50 to 60 million play live games at least once a month. ESPN’s showing of the World Poker Championships equates in ratings to both Major League Baseball and the NBA. There are two popular versions of poker. The classic game of Five Card Draw is played by dealing all five cards, face down. The other players have zero visibility to what you are holding, at times resulting in the classic duels of the Wild West. Hold ‘Em, however, is played by dealing each player two cards face down and then five community cards. This provides the players with 70% information visibility.
For too long, the military acted as if logistics is a game of poker in which little or no information is to be shared. The good news is that with the turn of the century, the 21st not the 20th, the military stopped playing Five Card Draw and is playing Hold ‘Em. Now, the Services share some data and connectivity-information visibility that could be characterized as 70%. Operation Iraqi Freedom highlighted the strength of increased information sharing with the unified distribution system headed by TRANSCOM and ad hoc Joint Theater Logistics Command.
The still opaque 30% of the logistics process is the result of stovepipes, inadequate networking, incompatible standards, lack of connectivity, and competition among logisticians. All of which results in redundant orders, lack of trust, shortage of critical items and frustrated logisticians in the field. Unhappily, some in the business of military logistics still want to continue playing poker instead of fully sharing information.
The military learned the value of sharing information in dealing with C4ISR assets. Regional commanders were in competition for Low Density/High Demand assets. To rectify the problem, STRATCOM was placed as the lead for all C4ISR to ensure unified collection strategies, interoperability and to overcome the transregional seams. Now, as Air Force Brigadier General Andersen mentioned in the March issue of ISR Journal, “We can put all the cards on the table and are in a position to see all the cards. It’s easier to make a smart decision if you can see all the cards.”
The DoD and Services need to take the steps necessary in military logistics to create a fully shared information environment. The DoD needs to define a single process owner for logistics as they did with C4ISR assets and STRATCOM. Second, it needs to take advantage of third-party logistics providers such as Maersk and UPS who can provide a seamless and transparent supply chain from factory to foxhole. Third, DoD should expand the application of e-Commerce particularly to Joint Logistics. Ultimately logistics needs to stop being a game of chance. Until then, the DoD will continue at best to be playing with sparse resources and soldiers’ lives.
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