Shrivenham, England-21st Theater Sustainment Command logisticians shared lessons learned and their vision of a multinational team of innovators and Logistics Functional Area Services (LOGFAS) experts with their UK counterparts at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, Shrivenham, UK, May 24, 2023.
Lt. Col. Scott Gum, Theater Movement Center-Europe Chief; Lt. Col. Oliver Stolley, Distribution Integration Branch-Host Nation Support Chief; 21st TSC movement control officer Cpt. Mike McKinney, and NEXUS Chief Executive Manager Joel Battistoni, briefed UK Brig. Gen. Owen Bunkle, Head of Operations and Strategic plans, Ministry of Defense, Support Cooperation and about 30 UK military personnel and civilians on challenges, solutions and resources available to grow LOGFAS integration, proficiency and a “Community of Practice.”
LOGFAS is the suite of tools supporting NATO logistics processes. Originally implemented by NATO in the late 1980s to facilitate logistics information-sharing among member nations, the system has evolved over the years, as has individual nations’ use and proficiency using the system.
“Everyone will have a different agenda,” said Brig. Gen. Bunkle, as he welcomed the group. “And that’s brilliant. But we all should leave with a similar understanding of where we are, how it works, its shortfalls and its capabilities.”
According to Stolley, the day-long 21st TSC LOGFAS update was designed to ensure the U.S. and UK are on the same page and identify ways they can work together to build LOGFAS proficiency across the board.
“We’ve been using LOGFAS for more than 10 years as a planning tool,” said Stolley, “We need to move to using it as an execution tool [including live monitoring].”
Bunkle said the UK recognizes LOGFAS’ utility at the tactical level.
“We are very interested in the operational and the strategic,” said Bunkle. He likened the military work environment to an eco-system where LOGFAS’ impact is felt on every level—from planning to operations. He said the breadth of UK participation at the brief, including representatives from the Ministry of Defense, the Joint Force Logistic component headquarters, frontline commands of Army, Navy, Air Force and Strategic Command and the Business Modernization Support team, responsible for acquisitions—illustrates LOGFAS’ far-reaching impact, and the UK’s commitment to using LOGFAS.
“Being able to understand where everyone is coming from, what everyone wants from…LOGFAS, is important because we need to be able to service everyone’s needs,” said Bunkle.
21st TSC is meeting those needs through grass root efforts to break down LOGFAS utilization barriers. Those barriers include lack of trained personnel and difficulty combining Ally and Partner efforts to collect, aggregate and share data. According to Gum, building a “Community of Practice” will help overcome those barriers and simplify, standardize and automate LOGFAS utilization. Getting Allies like the UK on board early in the community building process is essential to creating momentum.
“We’ve been offering training for years, and since the Ukraine crisis there has been renewed interest in LOGFAS,” said TMC Transportation Officer Cpt. Mike McKinney. “In the past six months our team has provided two weeks of training every month. We’ve provided training on everything from LOGFAS fundamentals, LOGFAS executive overview and training tailored to movement control teams and training on the multi-national LOGCOP [logistics common operating picture] for the upcoming DEFENDER23 CPX [command post exercise].” McKinney said he is working with 21st TSC Civil Affairs and Host Nation Support to make Ally and Partner nations aware of the regularly scheduled training that 21st TSC can provide free of charge.
To encourage more robust data collection and sharing among Allies and Partners using LOGFAS, 21t TSC’s TMC has streamlined the process for tapping into and sharing resources, using existing contracting agreements.
These programs and resources, as well as creating a forum for sharing, aggregating and building on lessons learned in a “Community of Practice” will help the UK and other Allies break down barriers to LOGFAS utilization.
“What we’re really trying to do is seize opportunity and mitigate shortfalls,” said Bunkle. “If we can work out where we can leapfrog on the back of something that 21st TSC has been doing, for the good and benefit of NATO…if we can work out where those gaps are, then we can then start to work out how we can mitigate, whether that be about money, abut training or infrastructure.
“The end state is that we are allied by design…..so that everyone can see a logistic picture across the Alliance, not just the U.S., the UK, France, Germany, whoever it might be. But we’re all integrated into one package. So, the commander, when it comes to it, can make his decisions based on the richest picture he possibly can. It comes back to the command being able to make decisions in a timely manner, which provides them the operational advantage in a contested or competing environment.
“There’s a lot to be said for logistics as an art of deterrence,” said Bunkle. “If we know what we’ve got and where it is, and potentially, we let our adversary know we’ve got those logistics and that ability, that’s a deterrent from them wishing to prosecute any campaign. And should they then wish to do that, the commander has tools in the box to understand what the possible answers are with the forces he has at his disposal. Without that level of knowledge shared across the Alliance, you don’t have the full picture. The reason we’re doing it as an Alliance is to have that full picture. It provides interoperability, interchangeability.”
Briefing event coordinator Tim Frogley, UK Wing Commander, Strategic Capability and Plans, said being able to build on 21st TSC’s experimentation and the leaps they’ve taken in the last three or four years will help the UK “supercharge” their LOGFAS direction. “A number of the challenges that [21st TSC] faced and have started to overcome and overcome, we’re a little further back on that journey,” said Frogley. “So, going forward, we can absolutely take some of the lessons [21st TSC] learned and use them in our future implementations and make sure that we fall in line rather than fall behind. It will be really useful to keep that dialog going.”