FORT BELVOIR, Va. –
The future of logistics and capabilities of the Defense Logistics Agency were among the topics discussed by DLA’s executive director of operations and sustainment at the Army’s Joint Logistics Course at Fort Lee, Virginia, March 3.
Patrick Kelleher gave an overview of DLA, how the agency fits into the joint logistics enterprise, and how the operational environment is changing.
“I think it’s important for people to understand how and where DLA plugs in in support of the services and combatant commands,” he said.
Years of fighting counterinsurgency operations, the COVID-19 pandemic, and emerging threats from nuclear-armed competitors are changing the role of logistics, he said, and it takes time to change the direction and focus of the joint enterprise.
“I think the logistics challenges of today’s operational environment are dramatically different than the logistics challenges that we faced when we were fighting counterinsurgency operations or conducting counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that means that we have to think about things dramatically differently in terms of how we execute tactical, operational and strategic logistics,” he said.
New logistics demands require a more holistic approach, down to the industrial base and obtaining raw materials, Kelleher said.
“That sort of holistic analysis, while not necessarily required when you’re fighting counterinsurgency operations, is very much required when you’re fighting, or could potentially fight, peer or near-peer competitors,” he said.
In previous situations, mass stockpiles of materials could be used to mitigate risk, Kelleher said. In a contested environment where an adversary has precision munitions, a large stockpile can turn into a target, so there needs to be a different approach.
“It’s a very different operational environment. Logistics will enable freedom of maneuver regardless of the theater, whether it’s land warfare in Europe or maritime warfare in Indo-Pacific,” he said.
Logistics must enable speed and lethality on the battlefield, he added.
While DLA’s top priority is supporting the warfighter, supporting the fight itself should also be a major consideration, he said.
“By thinking about things in the context of supporting warfighting, we are involved in the planning, the operational realities, establishing the requirements, understanding the conditions, and being part of the maneuver at the operational level that is required for tactical battlefield success,” Kelleher said.
The Joint Logistics Course is a Defense Department 10-day program aimed at those already in or going into a joint position. It provides intermediate level officers, senior noncommissioned officers and Defense Department civilian logisticians with an understanding of organization, authorities and processes associated with the joint logistics. The course is designed like an online master’s program, and students have a capstone event at its conclusion.
DLA’s role in warfighting and introducing those in joint roles to the agency’s capabilities is crucially important and why the agency should participate in these types of classes, Kelleher said.