Magazine article National Defense

War Experience Provides Rationale for Marine Corps Logistics Reform

Magazine article National Defense

War Experience Provides Rationale for Marine Corps Logistics Reform

Article excerpt

U.S. Marines in Iraq generally are having an easier time managing and distributing battlefield supplies than they did during the early phases of the conflict more than a year ago. But that does not mean the Marine Corps should slow down ongoing efforts to reform logistics procedures and upgrade information systems that track shipments and equipment requests, said Marine Lt. Gen. Richard L. Kelly.

As deputy commandant for installation and logistics, Kelly is responsible for the overhaul of antiquated business processes and computer systems that Marines have employed for decades but no longer are practical. Under a program called "logistics modernization," Kelly plans to unveil new technologies such as web-based software that could make requesting spare parts, for example, as easy as ordering books from Amazon.com.

The logistics support of 25,000 Marines in Iraq has become easier, because they are stationed in semi-permanent bases. In the early stages of the invasion, the situation was grim, with the forces moving at rapid speeds, and the logistics units trailing way behind.

Those logistics nightmares did not surprise Kelly. "I could have written the lessons before the war began. It was very predictable what was going to happen, because we failed to modernize."

The current environment in Iraq is "semi-fixed," allowing for a more conventional logistics operation, Kelly noted. Iraq is a "maturing theater, so you don't get many complaints today, as if during the war.... We have plenty of repair parts, plenty of rations, plenty of everything."

But Kelly worries that complacency will set in and that the Marine Corps may decide to push logistics modernization down on the priority list. "Now that things are working well in the theater, the danger is that we take our eyes off the future of logistics modernization," Kelly told National Defense.

"The institutional mindset is that if the hinge isn't squeaking, why invest in it?" said Kelly. "Things are working pretty well in Iraq. We are not moving the distances we used to. I'm confident what we have in place today will sustain us as long as we are there." Nonetheless, he added, "we should not lose sight of the fact that we have got to modernize institutionally for the future."

The cornerstone program in Kelly's plan to overhaul logistics is the global command and support system for the Marine Corps, or GCSSM, a sophisticated web-based software application that tracks the availability of supplies, requisitions and repair orders. …

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