Logistics: July 14, 2003


The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq revealed shortcomings in Americas logistics capabilities. While the commercial world has moved to "just in time" inventory (get the stuff shipped from the manufacturer to the user when it's needed) the military still uses the older, more expensive and often less effective, "just in case" system (where quantities, often large ones, are stored in warehouses for potential use, and are sometimes never used.) Department of Defense logistics is a huge operation. The Defense Logistics Agency, which buys and stores stuff, has 22,000 employees and awards 4,000 contracts each business day, while handling 30,000 requests for material daily. Some 4.6 million items are stored in 22 major depots. The U.S. Transportation command, with 150,000 personnel, controls Department of Defense air and sea transport, and arranges for land movement of goods (via road or rail). To achieve a "just in time" systems means replacing a 30 year old computer system with a new one costing nearly a billion dollars, and getting the two agencies to work together. There is some talk of merging the two organizations, but it's pointed out that the two of them are already so big that they are hard to manage. A workable solution is being sought while logistical reforms are stalled..


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