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Logistics transformation in the making

06-02-2014 After the redeployment of its forces from Afghanistan, NATO is expected to shift the emphasis from operational engagements to operational preparedness, with a view to remaining capable of performing its core tasks while maintaining its forces at a high level of readiness. The Connected Forces Initiative (CFI) will help to maintain operational readiness through expanded exercises, incuding common logistics, education and training and a better use of technology (for example in the area of alternative energies for forces).

Military logistics is like oxygen. One fully realises its vital importance only in the moment of its absence. It may seem unfair that well-functioning logistical support is invisible and usually taken for granted by those whom it supports; visibility comes usually with failure. But logisticians are a modest lot, used to working hard behind the scenes of military operations, knowing well from the history of warfare that the success or failure of most of the major campaigns – from Alexander the Great to our times – has largely been defined if not decided by logistics. Logistics are going joint Yet logistics became at the same time highly visible and successful during the recent NATO exercise Capable Logistician 2013 (CL 13). The exercise was organised in June 2013 jointly by the Prague based Multinational Logistics Coordination Centre and the Slovak Ministry of Defence in the Slovak training ground Les˘t.¨

It was the largest event of its kind since 2004, date of the last NATO logistics exercise, Collective Effort. However, CL 13 was three times bigger, involving some 1750 personnel and around 600 pieces of equipment committed by 24 NATO Allies and 3 Partner nations (Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Georgia). Al l in all, representatives from 35 countries participated in the exercise as either players or observers. Moreover, a total of 14 elements from the NATO Command and Force Structure as well as Agencies were represented, together with several external organizations and agencies, such as the EU Military Staff, EDA, EUROCORPS and the African Union, as observers.Test bed for collective and smart logistic solutions. The main objective of the exercise was to test and develop collective and smart logistics solutions, to assess the level of interoperability of logistic systems and equipment – such as ammunition, fuel, water (including drilling wells and purifying water on the spot), material handling, helicopter operations, movement and transportation – and to enhance the standardisation of procedures for current and future operations. All this is fully in line with our collective effort to use limited resources more efficiently through multinational cooperation.

The Capable Logistician 2013 exercise provided a testing ground for several Smart Defence projects as well as the Connected Forces Initiative and interoperability principles. It also had Smart Energy sources in operation, including a solar energy installation. The redeployment phase of the exercise tested procedures relevant for the ISAF transfer from Afghanistan. And there was also a linkage to NATO post-2014 when we will seek to maintain and develop the connectivity of our forces through better and more intensive use of training and exercises.

Developing the connectivity of our forces Capable Logistician 2013 was a significant milestone in the field of logistics transformation and multinationalisation. Not too long ago the logistics domain was regarded as a purely national responsibility. Our operations over the past twenty years (Afghanistan in particular) have completely changed this perspective. Today logistics in multinational operations is a collective responsibility. What we have learned by trial and error in the Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa is now being translated into collective concepts and ready-to-use multinational solutions that were tested during the CL 13 exercise to be employed in future operations – be it under the NATO or EU flag. The fact that the multinational Joint Logistics Support Group (JLSG) HQ which co-ordinated the exercise will be used for the Visegrad Four EU Battlegroup in 2016 is a good case in point of using our limited resources in a smart and efficient way.

Published in The European Security and Defence Union, Edition 3, Berlin 2013