As these events were shaping views of future logistical needs of naval forces, substantial reductions in Navy Department budgets drew attention to the costs of support activities, including logistics. The Navy has been spending at least 30 percent of its budget on logistics ($22 billion in 1995, for instance),1 Many are convinced that this share is disproportionately high, that it needs to be reduced to free funds for other tasks and needs, and further, that the success of some U.S. business firms in reducing the cost of logistics provides evidence that more efficient naval logistics is possible. Thus the challenge is to create a logistic system that is more effective in providing timely support to naval forces, places fewer logistic activities at risk in a war zone, and costs less in the long run.
The Navy and Marine Corps have started transforming their logistic operations to accommodate the new environment and to meet the new needs of naval operations. This is, by and large, a management task —changing the way logistic functions are accomplished and revising procedures and organizational prerogatives that have served naval logistics well for many years. Technology will play an essential role in enabling the desired changes; it will help make feasible the new logistic capabilities needed to support future warfighting concepts and the type of efficient, responsive logistic system that naval forces will demand. Applying technology to logistical support of future naval forces is the panel’s topic. The time horizon is mid to long term, 10 to 30 years.
This report assumes an operational context for logistics—supporting naval force operations in an overseas littoral region. By doing so, it sets aside a host of issues related to the continental United States (CONUS) logistic activities and to the management of logistic processes that are concentrated primarily in the United States. For example, the report does not deal with the shipyards, base closures, port access, outsourcing, industrial base, or any of a myriad of similar management and policy issues that occupy senior logisticians today. Instead, the focus is on the logistics of supporting forward-deployed naval forces—both ships and aircraft at sea and ground forces as they project U.S. military power ashore.
The technologies of primary interest are those underlying most logistic tasks—information, materiel handling, and transport. Yet, although the specific logistic technology needs of future forces are identified, the recurring theme is that simply applying new technology to current ways of accomplishing logistic functions is insufficient. To exploit fully the capabilities offered by these technologies will require that logistic processes be redesigned—the way in which the Navy and Marine Corps think about logistics, about its purposes, and about how it is planned, conducted, and managed. This bringing together of very-large-
This estimate includes only supply, maintenance, and transportation activities. It does not include medical services, construction, facilities maintenance, and a variety of other support services sometimes categorized as “logistic.”