ARLINGTON, VA -- Army logisticians have greatly improved their state of readiness, but must bring to future battlefields innovations and speedier delivery techniques now being popularized by commercial companies. That was the consensus of several senior military and industry leaders attending a conference yesterday sponsored by the Association of the United States Army."We are now better prepared to deliver to warfighters what they need, where they need it, and when they need it," said GEN Gustave F. Perna, Commander of the Army Material Command. "Last year we were sitting at a 70 percent supply availability. Now the Army is 87 percent and heading higher."In future wars, he said he wants repair parts on the battlefield today. "Tomorrow is too late," he said "because these will be battles like we have never seen."He said his goal is to ensure readiness is at 100 percent when Soldiers enter the fight.LTG Aundre Piggee, the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, described the future battlefield -- a concept known as Multi-Domain Battle. "In these battles," he said, "the United States can no longer assume superiority in any domain -- land, air, maritime, space, or cyberspace."Our future adversaries have already or will have precise weapons, rockets, and drones. They could hack into our systems or jam our networks. They will make things chaotic or more lethal than we have ever seen."He said that while the Army is the dominant land force today, it is about to face competition that "makes us rethink how we deliver and sustain logistics."LTG Piggee saw progress in sustainment readiness preparations, discussing how the Army is building its Army Prepositioned Stocks around the globe in a configured-for-combat state and growing ammunition supplies. "We have enough for what we need today," he said, "and we are working to ensure we have enough if there are two contingency operations simultaneously."He also emphasized the need to "put today's technology in the Army today."That was a theme echoed by many."If Amazon can use unmanned aerial vehicles, so can we," said MG Paul C. Hurley, Commanding General of the Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia.Joshua Marcuse, Executive Director of the Defense Innovation Board, ventured to say he felt everything the Army needed to know about the future was in a single object: the ubiquitous microprocessor."I challenge you not to think about moving stuff," he said, "but to think about moving data." He emphasized that the Army should think like a software company and build more apps to take advantage of all the big data the Army is gathering.Marcuse said logistics-oriented companies are doing this today. "The challenge is not technical, the challenge is in this room, to change the culture of our thinking.""Sustainers are the ones with the drones," he explained. "You have the Internet of Things. You have all the things that everyone in America is admiring. You have to implement them."MG Al Shoffner, Director of Operations and Rapid Equipment Fielding for the Army Rapid Capabilities Office, explained that in the 15 years the Army has been engaged in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, adversaries invested in technologies and gained advantages. In addition, the rate of technological change has increased."Our office is here to understand the gaps and to close them," he said. "We are not looking for perfect solutions, rather 80 percent solutions that will close gaps. There is some risk in fielding an 80 percent solution, but more risk in doing nothing."Retail participants at the conference shared this sentiment.Mark Holifield, Executive Vice President for Supply Chain and Product Development at Home Depot said: "Today, Home Depot's multi-domain battle is interconnected retail. It is no longer brick and mortar. What is important is how we deliver services. Our stores draw customers in, but we have to deliver products just like the new competitors who have come into our space and do things only on-line."In a panel discussion on the importance of ensuring sustainment readiness with Joint and international partners, leaders also believed good progress was being made.VADM William "Andy" Brown, Director for Logistics, J4, said, "in the past sustainers were responsible for setting the theater; now we have to set the globe. It takes a high-degree of planning to do so."He said in his work with NATO Allies, "we are doing more training, more work to improve interoperability and to assess readiness than we ever have." He added that the U.S. is not going to war without our Allies. "That is why multinational exercises are so important."MG Stephen Farmen, Commanding General of the United States Army Security Assistance Command, explained that foreign military sales of equipment to partner nations is not about sales, but building partner capacity."If we have excess equipment, how do we use it? We sell it to foreign countries, who are supporting our combat operations."Brad Kieserman, Vice President of Disaster Operations and Logistics for the American Red Cross, said he greatly admires what the military does with sustainment."At the Red Cross, our terminology is different and the concepts we use are simpler," he said. "But it gets back to the basic questions: are supplies available? Are things accessible?"In the final panel of the day, the discussion was on the basics of expeditionary sustainment superiority. Leaders stressed its importance, and agreed some of the basics in the future battlefield will change.U.K. Maj Gen Doug Chalmers, Deputy Commanding General for Support, III Corps, provided rationale for why the "basics" are evolving. He explained that unlike the War in Iraq, in the future the Army will not have time to build up forces close to the battlefield prior to engagement.Steve Tracey, Executive Director of the Center for Supply Chain Research at Penn State University, said the basics today are: mobility, digitalization, and automation.He explained that mobility is the ability to plan where to move material, and to do it on the fly; digitalization produces technologies such as additive manufacturing, where Soldiers can make parts on the battlefield; and automation allows Soldiers to anticipate when heavy pieces of equipment need to be repaired.LTG Stephen Lyons, Deputy Commander of the United States Transportation Command, also said the Army needs to think about the basics differently.He illustrated his point by saying that the Army would ask: How do you do things for the lowest cost? If the Army was the dominant player, that was an acceptable question; but in a battlefield where all domains are contested, the military needs to think differently.Providing an industry perspective into a similar challenge, Chris Sultemeier, former Executive Vice President for Logistics for Walmart Stores, Inc. explained the importance of segmenting. At Walmart, he pushed forward predictable items while investing in rapid capabilities for those items that are critical, but more volatile. He emphasized that "big data gave us that ability."In closing, BG Charles Hamilton, Commander of the Defense Logistics Agency, Troop Support, challenged industry to partner with the military. "We need your support," he said because the next fight will be so different than anything the military has seen.
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