Military logisticians need proper support

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Sua Tela Tonanti – the motto of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, now part of the Royal Logistics Corps, is generally translated as “To the warrior his arms”. And anyone who has had anything to do with our military logisticians will know how committed they are to achieving that. It is impossible to be left unimpressed at the effort and ingenuity employed to get supplies to troops in the front line.

So last month’s report from the National Audit Office makes depressing reading. The report, “The use of information to manage the logistics supply chain” savaged the Ministry of Defence, saying that it was failing to meet its own performance targets. “Highest priority items sent by air should arrive in theatre within five days. However, in 2010, this was achieved in only around a third of cases.”

The NAO found that failure to deliver the right item on time was primarily due to items being unavailable for transport. This meant that either the MoD was not accurately forecasting usage and repair rates to ensure the right level of stock was held, or suppliers were unable to respond to demand, it said, arguing that the MoD’s use of information to manage its supply chain fell short of general logistics industry best practice.

One MP described the MoD’s supply chain as “operating on a wing and a prayer”.

But it would be quite unfair if the blame for all this were to fall on the military logisticians, who by all accounts have been calling for modern IT systems for some five years.

The NAO report highlights the scale of the savings to be made – transferring ten per cent of items sent by air to Afghanistan to surface delivery routes would save about £15m per year.

In December last year, the MoD signed an 11-year, £800m contract with Boeing Defence which it says will provide a more streamlined, agile and effective logistics support chain.

Under the Future Logistics Information Services initiative, Boeing will become the sole supplier managing a number of sub-contractors. At the moment there are more than 50 contractors, an in-house service provider and 120 different contracts.

It’s been a long time coming: now its up to the MoD to show that it really can provide proper support for our military logisticians.

Malory Davies FCILT

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