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The Crucial Role of Logistics ...


The Crucial Role of Logistics and Facilities Management in Defence

The Crucial Role of Logistics and Facilities Management in Defence
The Silicon Review
06 June, 2024

Though we imagine militaries as being made up of people who face off the enemy in combat, the reality is that there are far more support and logistics personnel than combat troops. In modern militaries, the “tooth-to-tail” ratio of support to combat personnel can be anywhere from 1:3 to 1:10, with some specialised services like air forces having dozens of support people per combat pilot. In addition, the realities of managing large organisations invariably mean that credible defence is always contingent on having consistent logistics and up-to-date facilities.

As warfare becomes more technologically enabled, the need for specialised support services is likely to increase even further. However, widespread scepticism of the need for defence spending in peacetime means that maintaining bases and other defence assets needs to be done in a way that does not unduly impact the functioning of the civilian economy.

All that being said, the significance of logistics and facilities management in defence cannot be overstated in both times of war and peace. Let’s delve into several important areas where these components take centre stage: 

  1. Supply Chain Management

In times of crisis, this very ability to rapidly deploy resources determines life-or-death outcomes. In peacetime, being able to do the same in an economically and politically sustainable manner is key to the wider societal buy-in of defence spending which, in turn, guarantees the continued readiness of a country’s armed forces.

  1. Maintenance and Repair

Over their lifetimes, some defence assets can cost more to maintain than they do to acquire. However, equipment maintenance and repairs are essential for enabling a country to have specific defence capabilities. Military aircraft, tanks, and even infantry units are tremendously expensive to operate, but they are generally regarded as essential for maintaining sovereignty. Skimping out on scheduled part replacements or facilities maintenance can, therefore, directly compromise a country’s territorial integrity.

  1. Infrastructure Development and Management

Permanent military installations require high-quality infrastructure, not just to house advanced equipment but also to support basic functions such as housing, training, and administration. Specialised facilities managers are needed to oversee the planning, construction, and maintenance of facilities such as barracks, training grounds, and command centres, according to military rather than civilian needs. In addition, they ensure that these infrastructure developments follow relevant legal and environmental protection standards.

  1. Transportation and Distribution

Military logistics is, in many ways, more demanding than its civilian counterpart, as military logistics specialists must be able to deliver people and supplies even to remote, unprepared areas. In addition, they also have the difficult task of coordinating multimodal land, air, and sea transportation, sometimes in hostile environments. In other words, militaries cannot do their main function without highly competent logistics staff.

  1. Procurement and Contract Management

Defence procurement specialists work closely with suppliers, negotiating contracts and ensuring timely delivery of quality products at prices that are not inimical to the public good. Effective contract management is key to maintaining wider societal support for military spending, providing a means for accountability and controlling both the costs and risks associated with procurement activities.

  1. Asset Tracking and Inventory Management

Military organisations manage vast inventories of equipment, spare parts, and consumables. In modern organisations, logistics personnel utilise advanced asset tracking technologies not unlike those used in retail or manufacturing to monitor the movement and status of assets in real time. This improved inventory management prevents shortages, reduces excess stockpiles, and minimises the risk of theft or loss.

  1. Forward Operating Support

When forces are deployed in the field for extended periods, their forward operating bases will require comprehensive support services to sustain operations. In this context, both logistics and facilities teams are necessary for providing everything from fuel and food to sanitation and communications infrastructure. Their efforts enable deployed forces to remain connected to the larger supply chain, allowing them to focus on the missions at hand.

  1. Disaster Response and Humanitarian Aid

Beyond combat and defence operations, logistics is also crucial in the disaster relief and humanitarian assistance missions often undertaken by militaries. Logistics capabilities are invariably leveraged to deliver aid supplies, deploy medical and rescue teams in the right areas, and establish temporary shelters in the aftermath of crises. Indeed, how defence forces’ logistics teams perform in these commonplace scenarios can often predict how well they do in more serious situations.

Logistics: The Backbone of Credible Militaries

Without skilled logistics and facilities managers, defence forces are incapable of sustaining any kind of serious operation. This is true of all militaries, but it is especially relevant for civilian-led democracies, as the allocation of defensive resources needs to be done in such a way that both guarantees constant readiness as well as the preservation of the primacy of civilian governance. From the procurement of basic necessities to the maintenance of exotic technologies, logistics teams are a crucial element in guaranteeing national defence postures, enabling countries to sustainably safeguard their territories and political interests without compromising their domestic economies.