Report: US maritime logistics would fall short in time of war


The following is an excerpt from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA):

(WASHINGTON) — The current and programmed defense maritime logistics force of the United States is inadequate to support the current U.S. National Defense Strategy and major military operations against China or Russia. The summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy specifically highlights “resilient and agile logistics” as one of eight capability areas that need to be strengthened to prepare the United States for an era of renewed great power competition. Despite this, the Navy’s fiscal year (FY) 2019 30-year shipbuilding plan submitted to Congress decreased the percentage of spending on logistics forces compared to previous plans, and the Navy’s FY 2020 30-year shipbuilding plan further reduces the logistics force as a proportion of the fleet.

Current maritime logistics plans lag behind the projected size of the Navy battle force, the Navy’s future operating concepts, and the emergence of adversary threats to logistics. Decades of downsizing and consolidation with the goal of achieving greater efficiency have left U.S. defense maritime logistics forces brittle while simultaneously contributing to the decline of the U.S. shipbuilding industry and the merchant marine. Failing to remedy this situation when adversaries have U.S. logistics networks in their crosshairs could cause the United States to lose a war and fail its allies and partners in their hour of need. An unsupported force may quickly become a defeated one.

The current and programmed maritime logistics force has been shaped by decisions and analyses predicated on now-outdated assumptions and operating concepts. Chief among these decisions was the retirement of most Navy expeditionary logistics capabilities in the 1990s following the end of the Cold War, along with a heightened reliance on forward shore facilities that are now increasingly vulnerable. Today’s world, in which sophisticated adversaries challenge the U.S. military across domains, is dramatically different from the futures envisioned during the 1990s, 2000s, or even early 2010s. This report identifies five key maritime logistics planning assumptions that should shift to reflect the new environment:

• From secure, proximate resupply facilities to distant and/or contested basing;

• From assumed rear theater sanctuary to global conflict;

• From gradual force buildup to forward deterrence and rapid response;

• From short-duration to potentially protracted conflicts; and

• From low attrition to high attrition planning.

The Navy and other services have already begun responding to current and emerging challenges in their combat forces, yet commensurate shifts in logistics preparations are lagging behind. In general, Navy and other service concepts emphasize geographic distribution within and across theaters, decreased dependence upon fixed sites, and greater force resilience in the face of attack, each of which carries logistics costs. With these new concepts in mind, CSBA modeling of estimated Navy peacetime and wartime logistics demands for its projected FY 2019, 2033, and 2048 battle force identified major gaps in logistics capacity that would hinder the fleet’s ability to employ its preferred concepts at scale during conflict.

Click here to read "Sustaining the Fight: Resilient Maritime Logistics for a New Era."

By Professional Mariner Staff