Disclaimer: In the interests of brevity this article ignores the potential societal impacts of reducing permanent military presence in current garrison towns.
“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight”
– Sun Tzu
This article discusses how Army can ‘hibernate’ its supply chain in a peacetime setting, with the aim to preserve capability for when it’s needed while maintaining high logistic readiness. The article should be read in conjunction with The Future Ready Total Workforce Army – Growing Army from the Inside Out to provide a holistic understanding of the concepts contained within.
If we were to downsize our full time Army in favour of a larger but more flexible workforce, what do we do with our equipment and logistics capabilities? If we were to downsize our fulltime capabilities and therefore our training liabilities, we would need to find ways to maintain our logistics readiness. This article outlines a way that we can do so in line with the direction of commercial logistics.
The future army supply chain trades combat service support battalions, force support battalions, and joint logistics units for ADF logistics hubs (ADFLHs). The aim of the ADFLHs will be to store and maintain critical vehicles, equipment and supplies in secure facilities which are largely automated – thereby reducing reliance on people while significantly reducing corporate governance overheads. It allows logistics’ units to be force generated on an ‘as required basis’, deploying with the key commodities already secured within the ADF supply chain. ADFLHs will be segregated by commodity groups and will achieve multi-point dispersion across the nation to ensure survivability in the event of attack on Australian soil. Small teams will maintain the ADFLHs on a cyclical basis for stock maintenance and rotation. The ADFLHs are based on a hub and spoke concept making use of regional centres surrounding larger capital cities which in turn will be used as mounting bases.
‘Dark Warehouses’ – The strategy for automated warehouses is to locate them close to transport infrastructure to enable rapid activation and mounting. The warehouses will be automated with maintenance being commercially contracted. Digital stocktakes will significantly reduce the corporate governance burden.
Vehicle Caches – The strategy for vehicle storage and maintenance will be to locate them in regional centres that have pre-existing Defence industry ties to allow the fleet to be accessed for pre-deployment training while being close to a mounting base to deploy. Maintenance will be nationally managed through commercial contracts. Commercial freight will be used to force concentrate vehicles at mounting bases on activation, alongside a maintenance team to rectify any faults during pre-deployment training.
Fuel Depots – The strategy for fuel depots will be to build ADF capacity within pre-existing national strategic infrastructure. This provides additional contingency storage, while ensuring ADF protection of critical Defence and civilian infrastructure during times of war. It will focus on Australia’s two remaining petroleum refineries and national petroleum import terminals.
Ammunition Depots – Ammunition depots will leverage off pre-existing ADF and industry-operated storage facilities with an increase in storage capacity and stockholding.
Training Bases – Existing training areas will be used to conduct pre-deployment training prior to deployment. These may be located alongside mounting bases in some cases. In other cases they are located closer to vehicle caches, allowing for training to be conducted prior to moving to a mounting base.
Mounting bases – Mounting bases will be used to force-concentrate vehicles, personnel, and equipment in one location prior to deploying. They will be based off key air and sea transport infrastructure as well as transport links to the ADFLH locations. This is critical for the hub and spoke methodology, as part time members will be required to force-concentrate at a mounting base, with vehicles and equipment likely being delivered from a separate regional hub.
Inventory and Stock Rotation – Inventory and stock rotation for all commodities will be nationally managed by a small team. They will be able to conduct virtual and physical tours of facilities as well as digital stocktakes. Items will be electronically flagged when rotation or replacement is required. Large fleet rotations will be managed by drawing from ADF reservist capabilities for short durations.
Each of the locations would be selected based around pre-existing ADF and national infrastructure. This would take into consideration access to national highways, ports, airports, military bases, training areas and other critical infrastructure.
This model increases logistics readiness while reducing overall cost to Defence. It increases stock holding capacity while decreasing corporate governance. It significantly reduces the requirement for human interaction with vehicles, equipment and supplies and it allows cost savings to be transferred to purchasing and maintaining additional contingency stock and equipment. It also enables the Army to focus on training for deployed tasks rather than running units in barracks. This will increase the fighting power and rapidity of mobilisation for the ADF – two things that are likely to be critical in winning the next war and defending Australia.