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Logistics Officer Association Symposium

By ADM Harry B. Harris, Jr. | U.S. Pacific Command | Oct. 15, 2016

Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command

Logistics Officer Association Symposium
National Harbor, MD

October 13, 2016
As prepared for delivery


Good afternoon, folks. With Game 5 between the Nats and Dodgers starting soon, I thought for sure I’d be speaking to an empty crowd, so thanks for being here instead of on the Red Porch.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Logistics Officer Association has been avoiding me for close to 40 years now, but it failed this year. So here I am. You can thank – or blame – my outstanding J-4, Brigadier General Evan Miller, for that. I’ve heard that he’s a big deal in these parts and I believe it. 

The fact that there’s a can of my usual soda here at the podium is refreshing and a good sign considering this audience – logisticians always deliver! Hopefully my speech will leave you feeling equally refreshed. I guess we'll find out when I get to the end of my remarks.

Folks, it’s a pleasure to be here to discuss such an important topic like expeditionary logistics. Symposiums like this offer opportunities to test new ideas and try out new concepts among your peers. And don’t worry about how good or bad your ideas are, just be sure to offer them up. To give some introverts in this audience some confidence, Thomas Edison once said that he "failed his way to success". So give it a shot.

And if that doesn’t work, remember what Alexander the Great said about his logisticians: "they know if my campaign fails, they are the first ones I will slay."

So with that in mind, I’ll get down to business. Admiral Hyman Rickover once said that "bitter experience in war has taught the maxim that the art of war is the art of the logistically feasible." Let’s face it: ‘logistically feasible’ is sort of a loaded term in this day and age… especially when we consider future logistics challenges associated with our desire to dominate in all domains.

Since it's baseball playoff season, it's an apropos analogy to say that logisticians will have to knock it out of the park all the time in order to support our operations in the complex environments we are likely to fight in. This is a tough problem, but again, remember what Alexander the Great said!

As the Joint Force Commander of all U.S. military forces in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, I’m keenly aware of the lengthy lines of communication we face in this vast area.

Comprised of 36 countries and spanning 14 time zones from Hollywood to Bollywood, and from penguins to polar bears, the tyranny of distance in the PACOM area is daunting. Distance and austerity provide the logisticians and planners at PACOM with unique limiting factors that require us to approach our challenges differently.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has rightly called the Indo-Asia-Pacific the single most consequential region for America’s future. He’s also identified five strategic – and very real – global challenges to U.S. security that drive our defense planning and budgeting: North Korea, China, Russia, the Islamic State or ISIL, and Iran.

Four of these challenges are resident in the PACOM AOR. And guess what? China and Russia are working on technologies and techniques to deny us access to operate where we want – in places really far down our lines of communication. Out in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, these environments are austere and dispersed, and the operations there will be conducted in all the domains: land, sea, air, space, and cyber.

We must be ready to ‘fight tonight’ across far more domains than planners accounted for in the past. That means we need a degree of ‘jointness’ that appropriately integrates the services across the fluid domain boundaries. A Combatant Commander needs to be able to create effects from any single domain to targets in every domain. When facing high end threats, our forces must be able to disperse.

These dispersed forces must then be supplied. And like everyone in our military, logisticians must move beyond just coordination with our Pacific allies and partners. It's imperative that we seamlessly integrate allied and partner battle networks and logistics to make combined forces truly interoperable. Truly interoperable means sustainment for more platforms and people – in a word, logistics.

Relying on established bases as giant logistics hubs with scheduled service to our people and platforms might make sense prior to conflict, but it won’t cut it in a complex expeditionary environment. The challenge before us, then, is to change the way we think about logistics before the fight, increasing our agility and enabling us to become more responsive and flexible as we fight.

Simply stated, dynamic basing requires dynamic logistics. Let’s shorten our logistics tail to keep it as close to the teeth of our combat forces as possible to respond swiftly to their needs.

If we can do this, I think that our pre-conflict logistics posture will help to deter would-be adversaries and overcome the long lines of communication in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. This logistics posture will allow us to implement the multi-domain battle and ensure that our Joint Force never finds itself in a fair fight.

I know some of you are probably asking how we get there. Well, it’s safe to say that training and exercises must challenge our old ways of doing business.

In PACOM for example, the Dynamic Basing Wargame and Pacific Sentry exercise series have shed light on opportunities for us to better integrate logistics postures into operational design.

We can start by focusing on getting the fundamentals right: command and control, supply chain visibility and velocity, joint interoperability, integration with our partners and allies, and information management. 

Command and control is as important to logistics as it is to the warfighter. Before the shots are fired, we have to identify authorities: who does what, who’s responsible for what, and what authorities do they have? If we get C2 right, we can operate in any domain, and overcome volatility, uncertainty, and ambiguity. Early in the planning process, operators, planners, and logisticians must understand who has the lead to integrate support – this will then enable logistics planning, reporting and responsiveness.

Additionally, we must take a look at our current processes and ask if they can keep up with the expected pace of operations in a high-end fight with 21st-century peer adversaries. For instance, my J-4 recognized that there may be some opportunities for improvement regarding how we execute the Joint Materiel Priorities and Allocation Board process, particularly as it pertains to munitions. The Joint Staff is checking our work to look at options for increasing munitions visibility across Combatant Commands.

We must increase supply chain velocity to maximize what everyone on the team brings to the fight; this includes leveraging partnerships to improve host nation support.

One example of how we are deepening partnerships in PACOM is the Pacific Area Senior Office Logistics Seminar (PASOLS); this year is the 45th iteration. PASOLS brings together over 30 senior logisticians from across the region annually to exchange logistics best practices, focus on regional challenges, and conduct bilateral and multilateral meetings.

This seminar deepens our partnerships and our logistics capacity by developing relationships and improving capability and interoperability.

We also rely on contracts to leverage commercial and industry solutions as an important way to sustain the force. Defense Logistics Agency’s relationships with industry in the vast expanses of the Indo-Asia-Pacific are critical here.

For instance, we're leveraging more commercially fungible fuels, like Jet A-1, to provide more operational flexibility. Our reach will be improved by using this readily available commercial fuel to support operations.

DLA is also increasing commercial fuel storage to cut down on sustainment costs. It’s important we maintain a balance between commercial and military capabilities – those are smart investment decisions. That said, some military facilities – like Red Hill in Hawaii – are strategic assets whose value is incalculable.

We are also looking at the flexibility and responsiveness of Preposition Stocks. Does our current laydown match the operational design? Can we reach all the places that need to be reached if we have to ‘fight tonight’? Do we have access to pre-position stocks in the right locations? Important questions that General Miller is asking right now throughout PACOM. These questions should prompt you all to consider similar challenges at your commands.

Moving on to joint interoperability – this is important because our current and future fights are all joint – it only makes sense that each of the Services would leverage common equipment to reduce deployment footprints and maximize resource allocation. But this is a very difficult problem to solve.

Luckily there are a lot of smart folks in this room. I need your help to find smart joint solutions that emphasize standardization of technologies, equipment, and procedures. As a Combatant Commander, I don't own a budget – but I’m mindful of the tough resource decisions the Services have to make to enable the joint fight a contested environment.

I owe it to the Services to communicate my priorities via the Joint Requirements Oversight Council and Integrated Priority List processes.

Simply put, I have to communicate the threat and the requirements to execute operations and sustain operations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

Finally, let’s look at information management. Fortunately, I've got General Miller to help me in my PACOM role as the Directive Authority for Logistics.

The accuracy and timeliness of logistics information are paramount to sustaining the force. And one way to increase supply chain velocity is to increase supply chain visibility to all stakeholders. As you know, there are several different logistics systems that provide status across all the classes of supply; the challenge is finding a common system or interface that links all the systems.

In a contested environment, a fully integrated Logistics Common Operating Picture is the key to enabling operational decisions.

Providing real-time information on the status of key logistics nodes, classes of supply, and the supply chain in an integrated system will allow us to get the right stuff to the warfighter at the right time. I’m aware Logistics Common Operating Picture is a priority for the Joint Logistics Enterprise and I would like to see your efforts in that area continue.

Folks, I'm painfully aware that I'm the last speaker for the day. And I can see that many of you are downing coffee – a clear indication that I've talked too long. Recently, when my wife Bruni and I were entertaining some dignitaries in our home, I spoke after lunch. Afterwards, as our guests were leaving, one of the ladies said to me, "Admiral, I really enjoyed your speech. I woke up so refreshed."

Regardless of whether you just woke up, or whether you were paying close attention, I hope you walk away from this symposium knowing how important logistics are to PACOM and the entire joint force. So I’ll close by saying this:

In 1732 Maurice, Count of Saxony and Marshal General of France, said "Every unit that is not supported is a defeated unit." Those sage words are as true now as they were then. Please keep them in mind when you get back to your commands.

And don’t forget, General Miller is out there – raise your hand, Evan. Remember what I said about Alexander the Great. So please direct all your tough questions to Evan.

May God bless all of our servicemen and women across the globe who go boldly into harm's way. May God bless our logisticians who are critical to help defend our nation. And may God continue to bless the beacon of freedom we call America. Thank you very much.

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