Defense Science Board warns military supply system ‘decayed’ and needs rapid upgrading
The strategic American military system for moving troops, weapons, and supplies over long distances has decayed significantly and needs rapid upgrading to be ready for any future war with China or Russia, according to a report by the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board.
A special task force on survivable logistics evaluated the military’s current airlift, sealift, and prepositioned equipment and supplies and found major problems with supporting forces during a “high-end” conflict.
“Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has not fought an adversary capable of the catastrophic disruption of military supply chains and deployment of personnel and materiel,” an unclassified summary of the report states.
“As a result, the [joint logistics enterprise] has suffered neglect and chronic underfunding relative to other DoD priorities.”
Additionally, the ability of strategic competitors to threaten military supply lines has increased with new and advanced weapons and missiles, as well as “gray zone” capabilities such as cyber attacks and space warfare.
“Competitors and adversaries have already disrupted commercial logistics information technology systems,” the report said. “Military and commercial networks are at risk.”
“Without a demonstrably resilient and survivable logistics capability, U.S. deterrence will suffer and the ability of the U.S. military to operate globally will be at stake,” the report said.
The report warned that American military readiness in recent decades “has severely decayed” as the result of budget cuts, misaligned funding priorities, a lack of incentives to protect the defense industrial base, and insufficient wargaming.
The task force urged reversing course immediately to address one of the highest priorities of recently departed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who sought to rebuild military readiness in pursuit of more lethal forces.
The 29-page report was made public in November and is the executive summary of a longer, classified study.
Craig Fields, chairman of the Defense Science Board, said the future of warfare is changing rapidly and the Pentagon will need to adapt quickly to deal with conflict conditions less favorable to the United States than in the past.
“Survivable logistics is the key enabler underpinning all U.S. military power,” Fields said. “Without the ability to provide our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines with the resources needed to win on the battlefield, the development of advanced tactics and technologies will not have the opportunity to matter.”
The report urged the Pentagon to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to bolster military logistics using predictive analysis, demand forecasting, production scheduling, anomaly detection, and supply-chain optimization.
To counter cyber attacks, the task force urged developing the use of blockchain technology that allows digital information to be shared but not copied.
A blockchain-like test infrastructure for military logistics would enable the Pentagon “to evaluate potential offensive and defensive cyber applications of blockchain-like technology and other distributed database technologies,” the report said.
Ed Timperlake, a former Pentagon logistics official under President Ronald Reagan, said the task force report and its recommendations show the strategic brilliance of the Defense Science Board.
“As President Reagan’s principle director of mobilization and requirements, an office eliminated during the Clinton administration’s ‘peace dividend’ years, failure in logistics can not only limit the ability to fight a peer-to-peer war but can mean the difference between victory and defeat,” Timperlake said.
Dakota Wood, a defense analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said the report on military logistics weaknesses was not surprising.
“Logistics is the poor step child of the military,” Wood said adding that logistics systems often are short-changed in administration and congressional budgeting processes. Fighters and warships often get more budgetary attention, he noted.
For example, vital KC-135 aerial refueling tankers were built beginning in the 1950s and their replacement, the KC-46 has faced repeated development delays.
The Defense Science Board “is saying that if you want to be effective in war we do not have the material capacity to sustain that initial combat power surge and sustain that over time,” Wood said. “And it’s going to take a long time and a lot of investment to get to where we need to be.”
Full article: Pentagon: Military Logistics System Not Ready for War With China or Russia (Washington Free Beacon)