Logistics and Sustainment are both rising in priority as the industrial base, cyber security, and readiness become more and more important to the modern warfighting environment. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment ((ASD(S)) Christopher Lowman spoke with the Defense Acquisition Workforce about how these topics were evolving as well as his own personal experience supporting the Department of Defense (DoD).
DAU President Jim Woolsey introduced Lowman saying there was a “need to plan early for sustainment” and that DoD may find it “hard to look into the future.” Still, Woolsey emphasized “nothing is more important than logistics and sustainment,” in part because of how much they impact program budgets.
Meeting the ASD
Lowman’s career has taken him from his original time in maintenance to where he is now as the ASD(S). He shared a few practices from his own career that he encouraged others to adopt. He started by citing the importance of mentorship, saying that his success was in part because of “mentorship writ large,” with mentors coming from subordinates, leaders and peers alike. “It is our responsibility as senior leaders to build the bench,” he said.
Second, he encouraged everyone to pursue being a “lifelong learner,” saying that each person should “strive to understand the current state of the world.” The next two pieces of advice built off of the first two, in which he encouraged the workforce to pursue both geographic and professional mobility. “Take a risk and step out of your comfort zone,” Lowman said, explaining that taking these risks will help the workforce grow both professionally and personally.
The National Defense Strategy
Lowman then turned to the National Defense Strategy (NDS), which he encouraged everyone to read if they have access to the NDS. “You may not see yourself explicitly in that document,” Lowman said. “But, you’ll see your profession throughout the document.”
Logisticians and sustainment professionals play a role in the four Defense priorities. The priority of defending the homeland impacts supply chain risk, industrial base disruption, and cyber or foreign acquisitions. The second priority, deterring strategic risks, focuses on “defending the United States’ allies and partners,” including against cyber and air and missile attacks while securing freedom of navigation. Deterring aggression, the third priority, comes in a lot of forms, according to Lowman, all of which ultimately lead to readiness. Lowman said logisticians and sustainment professionals’ work improves the United States’ “stance, posture, but it’s also projection of strength and capability to execute against the Nation’s priorities.” The final priority is building a resilient Joint Force and defense ecosystem. Lowman’s presentation highlighted sustainment and logistics efforts for ensuring “material availability and equipment on hand.”
Sustainment and logistics efforts are part of the new “integrated deterrence” methodology. Integrated deterrence is a new approach the DoD is taking because modern war is changing, Lowman explained. Modern war, he said, is “going to be fast, highly distributed, mobile and going to be really lethal. Integrated Deterrence is a realization that the U.S. will not fight in the future in a near-peer conflict in isolation alone.” Going forward, Lowman explained that DoD will rely on the capabilities that the United States' allies, other U.S. government entities and industry provide. Lowman cited DoD’s work with the Department of Health and Human Services on COVID-19 as an example of a successful partnership.
For a fact sheet on the NDS, click here.
The War of Tomorrow
The future of warfare is going to greatly change how logisticians and sustainment professionals approach their programs. While each Service will develop their own strategy to develop their requirements for portfolios, there is a Joint concept for contested logistics. Lowman noted that in recent conflicts, DoD has “gotten comfortable” with contractors providing a variety of services and supply chains, but with the risk of near-peer competition, the DoD may need to rethink not only that reliance, but also focus on “resilient, integrated and survivable” logistics.
Lowman wants logisticians and sustainment professionals to ask themselves how their programs are approaching energy resilience, cyber and electronic warfare and the distribution of pre-positioned inventory. “How survivable are our capabilities,” Lowman asked. “How do we mitigate risk?”
Specific to cyber, Lowman stated that future programs must consider both offensive and defensive cyber applications. As more and more systems use machine learning and artificial intelligence, logisticians should be looking for how to operationalize condition-based maintenance plus, a form of proactive maintenance designed to limit downtime and increase readiness.
Future warfare will involve fewer fixed-base operations and require more resilient equipment and weapon systems. “How do I execute in a distributed, mobile, lethal environment,” Lowman asked. “Can I do that with contractors, and is it appropriate?” The answers to these questions will shift the DoD from the “pull system we have today and orient ourselves as much as possible to a push logistics system” with a “smaller logistics footprint” and “more mobile, more distributed” supply and capabilities.
Logistics includes more than just the posture of combat forces. In the future, the DoD will transition from an era of “large prepositioned sets of equipment” to smaller sets distributed across a larger geographic area, Lowman said. Resupply while underway is another concern for the future of logistics, describing some of the concerns being whether the capability is mobile, distributed and lethal. Ultimately, the DoD will need to “secure access to supply chains” and understand who is part of the supply chain, which means the DoD will need to better understand the deeper layers. “We have to understand where that risk resides and how to mitigate it,” Lowman said.
Other concerns that future weapons systems will need to consider include cyber and intellectual property concerns. In addition, citing the surge requirements that became apparent from watching the conflict in Ukraine, future weapon systems will need to factor in surge capabilities for future readiness. DoD's reliance on policy and legislation makes it imperative that the Defense Acquisition Workforce review and understand these requirements. “We should be clear on what the government is doing,” Lowman said.
“Logistics, whether traditional or not, takes some imagination,” Lowman said. “Envision what the future looks like and [what] the best possible strategies to deploy are, then pursue and defend them.”
Click here to view Mr. Lowman's complete presentation and the following questions and answers section.
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