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Poor state of logistics force could be US Navy's achilles heel

Warship Technology: July/Aug 2019Logistics

A report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) suggests that the US lacks the right maritime logistics force to support the 2018 National Defense Strategy in general and major military operations in a war with China or Russia in particular.

 

In Sustaining the Fight: Resilient Maritime Logistics for a New Era, which was published in April 2019, authors Timothy Walton, Ryan Boone and Harrison Schramm identify challenges to the logistics force and propose a new architecture that would allow the fleet to fight in a more effective, distributed, and sustained manner while supporting US joint force power projection.

 

The CSBA researchers concluded that the US Navy's logistics force is optimized for uncontested operations and is too small and vulnerable to support the fleet – much less a larger or more distributed one – in a conflict with a peer adversary.

In addition, the strategic sealift force, the cargo ships that transport military vehicles, equipment, and supplies, can only generate 65 per cent of the Department of Defense’s required capacity.

 

The strategic sealift force also faces an imminent decline in capacity as many of its obsolete ships are retired. It is expected to fact a shortage of seagoing personnel; and the US commercial fleet – from which the Department of Defense draws ships and personnel – is barely stable and continues to shrink.

 

As the report’s lead author, Timothy Walton noted, “Although logistics has traditionally been a US strength, it now risks becoming a major weakness that could cause the US to lose a war against China or Russia.”

 

The authors of the report recommend rapidly fielding a larger, more differentiated, and more cost-effective fleet that relies on a mix of US government ships and commercial ships of the US merchant marine.

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