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VCJCS Describes Logistical Challenges in Global Security Environment

Logistical and other warfighting strategies focus first and foremost on the threat, and that informs all decisions and actions taken by the Defense Department, the vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said.

Military vehicles are being loaded onto an aircraft.
Loading Labor
Air Force personnel load Humvees onto a Boeing 747 at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., Oct. 16, 2022.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Caleb Parker
VIRIN: 221016-F-BI574-0179M

Navy Adm. Christopher W. Grady provided the keynote address today at the National Defense Transportation Association-U.S. Transportation Command fall meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. 

Sustaining Ukraine with military assistance using presidential drawdown authorities is a great example of focus on the threat, he said, describing the complexities and challenges of working with industry to meet production goals for that effort.

Industry, for all the right reasons, has gone to this just-in-time model. That works well in a peacetime environment, but not so well for wartime where inventory needs to be ramped up, he said. 

Regarding munitions destined to support Ukraine's defense, what's the right balance between the size of the stockpile and the production line of munitions? Just-in-time may not work, Grady said. 

Discussions about incentivizing chief executive officers in industry to meet the needs of the department for the long term are taking place at the highest levels in the department, he noted.

A person drives a military truck off of a ship’s ramp while several uniformed service members assist another person.
Defender Europe
U.S. soldiers unload a truck from the U.S. Army Logistic Support Vessel MG Charles P. Gross during Defender-Europe 21 exercise, May 1, 2021, in Durres, Albania.
Photo By: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth O. Bryson
VIRIN: 210501-A-DQ632-0012

Another issue involves finding enough of the right workers, he said. "Where do we get the people that will man the ships, that will be the engineers on the trains, that will drive the trucks, that will fly the planes?" 

Grady also touched on innovation. During World War II, about 40% of the research and development was coming out of the department. Today, it's a fraction of that. Therefore, knowing how to leverage industry for the right innovation needed is critical, he said.

The Joint Requirements Oversight Council provides acquisition review of that, in consultation with industry, he said.

The JROC is chaired by Grady. Other members of the council are the second highest-ranking military officers of each of the Defense Department services. 

Supply chain vulnerabilities also exist, he said. "The nature of the defense industrial base has changed significantly. Part of that is due to contraction of the supply chain."

A uniformed service member drives a military tactical vehicle off a ship’s ramp.
Defender Europe
U.S. service members move a tactical vehicle off of a logistics supply vessel May 3, 2021, during the opening exercise of DEFENDER-Europe 21 at Durres Port, Albania.
Photo By: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth O. Bryson
VIRIN: 210503-A-DQ632-0009

For instance, there were once 26 shipyards and there are now just four, he said. 

Another problem is the complexity of DOD systems. During World War II, shipyards were turning out about one Liberty ship every three days. Turning out that many destroyers today in that timeframe would be impossible due to their complexity. 

There's also the challenge of global force deployment in the face of challenges not only from Russia, but also from China, North Korea, Iran and terrorist organizations. Force posture must be continually reevaluated to avoid spreading forces too thin and being in the right place at the right time, he said. 

Fortunately, the United States doesn't go it alone. There's great value in allies and partners who also bring their own innovations to the table, he said.

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