Global Logistics and Strategy, 1940-1943

By Richard M. Leighton; Robert W. Coakley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVII
Logistical Planning and Its End Products

However diluted by improvisation, logistics is essentially a planned and organized activity. Every armed soldier placed and sustained on the firing line is an end product of many months of logistical preparation -- the long process of designing, manufacturing, and distributing his weapons and supply, the somewhat shorter one of training him and moving him to the scene of action. The need for the soldier and his weapons and supply at a particular time and place, therefore, must be anticipated.

From this circumstance grows a fundamental dilemma. During the period dealt with in this volume, the length of logistical "lead time," covering the process of logistical preparation, varied widely according to circumstances, types of matériel, and character of training; the industrial processes alone were usually estimated to require eighteen months to two years. The specific military operations that this preparation made possible could, of course, seldom be even dimly envisaged so far ahead; to foresee their material requirements in detail was out of the question. The process of fashioning, mobilizing, and distributing the tools of war had to begin, therefore, and invariably was well advanced, long before the specific purposes for which the tools were to be used could be known. Had it been necessary to perform the entire process of logistical preparation after the initial decision was made, the North African operation, which was decided upon in July 1942, might have been carried out some time in 1944 instead of November 1942. "Lead time," in other words, was far longer than planning time.

How, then, could the logistical process itself be planned in advance of that late stage when specific objectives finally were determined? The Army's answer to this problem was the system, described at length in some of the foregoing chapters, by which it shaped its long-range requirements. These estimates, compiled in the Army Supply Program and the War Department Troop Basis, for the most part did not attempt the probably impossible task of anticipating far in advance the needs of specific military operations. The aim was rather to create a general fund or pool of ingredients -- finished munitions, supplies, organized and equipped manpower -- along with the capacity for replenishing or enlarging the fund, from which specific needs might be met as they arose. The ingredients were varied and represented a judicious balance between general-purpose items, such as the infantry division or the 2½-ton cargo truck, and

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