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Defence Logistics Organisation Analysis for War Suitability

Info: 5512 words (22 pages) Dissertation
Published: 11th Dec 2019

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Tagged: MilitaryWarfare



Historically, nation states have used military power as an instruement of state to achieve their national aims & objectives. Towards that end, logistics along with strategy and tactics constitute an important sub division of the practical art of war fighting” [1]. It therefore evolves upon students of military history to grasp the nuances of logistics, the way it affects the very essence of modern, contemporary war fighting philosophy.

To begin with, it is not incorrect to say that the military activity known as logistics is probably as old as war itself. The word logistics is derived from the Greek adjective, “logistikus” meaning “skilled in calculating”. Research indicates that the first use of the word with reference to an organised military administrative service was by the French writer Jomini who served as a staff officer in Napoleon’s army. In 1838, he set down logistics as one of the six branches of the military art, the other five being statesmanship in its relationship to war, strategy or art of properly directing masses upon the theatre of war, grand tactics, engineering and minor tactics. He included the phrase ‘it is the execution of strategic and tactical enterprises’ in his definition of logistics. In short, he devised a theory of war upon the trinity of strategy, ground tactics and logistics. He defined it as “practical art of moving armies” [2].

Based on the experience gained over the years, the term was redefined in 1968 wherein Logistics was referred to as the art and science of creating and maintaining a military capability. It consists of the process of determining requirements, acquisitions, distributions and maintenance of materials”. As regards, our Indian manuals, they define logistics as the science of planning and carrying out the movement and maintenance of forces”[3]. In today’s usage, logistics is the function of providing all the material and services that a military force needs in “Peace or War”. Logistics, therefore, covers a wide canvas & broadly includes all military activities, other than strategy and tactics. It would therefore, be prudent to refer to logistics as the bridge between our combat troops and the industry & natural resources of our country.

Logistics perse is a key element of Doctrine, too, which describes it as a process that consists of planning and executing the movement and sustenance of operating forces in executing a military strategy and operations. It is essentially moving, supplying and maintaining military forces and is basic to the ability of armies, fleets and air forces to operate – indeed to exist. It has a direct bearing on a country’s capability to support a national strategy [4].

As the rapidly evolving modern battlefield milieu transforms into short, intense and technologically intensive wars, the over bearing need for a fool proof and highly responsive logistic organizational structure for Indian Army to meet the logistic imperatives of a short war cannot be over emphasized.

Our existing logistics system has been inherited from the British. Though the logistic system in general and the logistic organisation in particular have been subjected to numerous improvements and changes over the last six decades, the logistic system perse has failed to evolve with changing times and has more or less retained its archaic character. The major, Mathew[5] reason for the antiquated character of our logistic system is the flawed organisational structure which inhibits and precludes optimum utilisation of our well developed and vast national logistic capacities. Restructuring of our existing defence logistics organisation, therefore, is a pre-requisite to restructure our logistic system to meet the logistic imperatives of a short war.



Statement of the Problem

To study and analyse the existing defence logistics organisation and to ascertain its suitability to meet the logistics imperatives of a short war.


Our existing defence logistics organization is based on archaic concepts and will not be able to deliver adequately in a short war.


The scope of this study is restricted to analysis of the existing defence logistics organisation and to suggest a viable and responsive organisational structure that can meet the logistics imperatives of a short war.

Methods of Data Collection.

The data and information has been gathered from books, journals, periodicals, internet sites and also from own exposure and experience. The bibliography of sources is appended at the end of the text.



War has been the single most important instruement by which most of the great facts of human history have been accomplished and maintained. It has been used as an instruement against aggression as also as an instruement of aggression itself. It has played the most dominant role in nearly all important crisis of humankind ; it has been used to achieve liberty, to ensure democracy as also in building great empires and in enforcing dictatorships.

The term ‘war’ today has come to include many more kinds of hostile activities ; limited war, short war, total war, cold war, hot war, propaganda war, psychological war, ground war, space war as also various other low -intensity conflicts such as guerilla war and fourth generation warfare. Thus war today is not only far more horrifying and a far more complex affair, it has also come to pervade all other aspects of man’s social life [6].

Limited War

The concept of limited war goes back to the 19th century when miitary theorists underscored the determinative relationship between political ends and military means. Both 19th century theorist Clausewitz and his 20th century successor Liddell Hart were committed advocates of the use of limited war or limited force as opposed to total war. In the 19th century, when concepts of blitzkrieg and wars of annihilation dominated military thoughts and policies, Clausewitz opposed such concepts. He stated, “Political objectives, as the original motives of the war, should be the standard for determining both the aim of the military force and also the aim of effort to be made. With the advancement in automatic warfare in the middle of World War II, Liddell Hart realised that because of the destructive nature of the weapons, wars should be limited; however, he did not advocate limited war as a strategy. Later after the development of nuclear weapons, Liddell Hart came up with the concept of limited war. He said, “Where both sides possess atomic power, total war makes nonsense” and any unlimited war “waged with atomic power would make worse than nonsense; it would be mutually suicidal. He goes on to say “any total war, or even the preparation for it, is likely to carry more evils in its train, without bearing any good promise in the event of victory [7].

Robert E Osgood defined limited war as ” A limited war is one in which the belligerents restrict the purpose for which they fight to concrete, well defined objectives that do not demand the utmost military effort of which the belligerents are capable and that can be accommodated in a negotiated settlement. The battle is confined to a local geographical area and directed against selected targets – primarily those of direct military importance. It permits their economic, social and political patterns of existence to continue without serious disruption. In another study, Osgood defines limited war as a war that was “to be fought for ends far short of the complete subordination of one state’s will to another’s using means that involve far less than the total military resources of the belligerents and leave the civilian life and the armed forces of the belligerents largely intact. Robert Osgood also admitted that limited war was not a uniform phenomena, it meant different things to different people. War could be limited in different ways and could be limited in some and not limited in others. For instance, a war limited in geographical terms may be unlimited in weapons employed or the targets involved. Similarly, a war may be limited for one of the adversaries yet unlimited in the eyes of the other [8].

Osgood while writing an epilogue on US experiences in Vietnam war, candidly confessed that even in nuclear age, a category of limited war exists which was still limited because of limitation of means. He examined limited war under three different categories of Central War, Local War and Unconventional war. While Central war involved use of nuclear weapons and was unacceptable, popularity of unconventional wars declined in US post Vietnam war. Hence, Osgood rated conventional local war as the most practical form of limited war though he did factor the contingencies which may arise and require other two categories to become operational [9].

Henry Kissinger, in ” Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy ” advocated that limited war might be a “war confined to a defined geographical area, or war that does not utilize the entire available weapons system (such as refraining from the use of thermonuclear weapons). It may be a war which utilizes entire weapons system but it limits its employment to specific targets ” [10]. Kissinger, the man behind the Nixon Administration’s adoption of the strategy of ‘ Limited Nuclear Options popularly known as ” Schlesinger Doctrine ” defined limited war as a war fought for specific political objectives which, by their very existence, led to establish a relationship between the force employed and the goal to be attained. It reflects an attempt to affect the opponents will, not to crush it, to make the conditions to be imposed seem more attractive than continued resistance to strive for specific goals and not for complete annihilation [11].

Kissinger , nevertheless, propogated a limited nuclear war strategy which came into conflict with the arguments of known proponets of limited war like Osgood and William Kaufmann, then the greatest critic of limited nuclear war. Kaufmann, a Yale University scholar and the brain behind the McMamara Strategy of flexible response, advocated keeping the war limited and its escalation under control.

A more apt definition of limited war in line with contemporary thought process and environment is “An armed conflict in which at least one protagonist intentionally restricts his objectives and/or means to accomplish those objectives. Intentional restriction can be self imposed or induced by an opponent or another nation or nations or organizations ” [12]. Limited war is also defined as a ” military encounter ” in which the two warring sides ” see each other on opposing sides and in which the effort of each falls short of the attempt to use all of its power to destroy the other [13].

Beyond doubt, limitation in warfare has always been impressed upon on the grounds of either morality or other limitations of resources and technology. However, with the advent of nuclear weapons on the one hand and of irreconciliable ideologies on the other, limitation in warfare had become a matter of necessity if the war was to sustain its traditional role of being an instruement of politics. And it is here that the strategy of limited war which seeks to preserve the eternal values of ‘primacy of politics’ and ‘economy of force’ even in the nuclear age has assumed supreme importance. Limited war framework does not include wars involving non-nuclear states. Instead, limited wars are conflicts in which vital interests of the nuclear powers are directly or indirectly involved and in which, therefore, the threat of their expansion into a Total War remains omnipresent & imminent. Hence, it is this massive and deliberate hobbling of their infinite power by nuclear weapon powers that qualifies a conflict as limited war.

Such wars have also been termed as Short Wars and , as seen in numerous conflicts since second World War II, have retained their pre-eminence as the most acceptable category of war in the contemporary nuclear age. The US and the Soviet Union, the two nuclear superpowers in cold war era, had the responsibility to not only ensure limitation of conflicts that involved dangers of exploding into a nuclear war but also to modify its war fighting doctrines to address the imperatives of intense short wars, which were likely to manifest in the nuclear enviornment. However, as the Soviet Union disintegrated, it enjoined on the US to effect a major shift in US war fighting doctrines, wherein it adopted a short war specific logistic structure to support the challenges to US strategic security calculus. The logistic structure catered for highly intense and violent battlefield which would have exacted heavy casualties of men, material and equipment [14].

Limited War In Indian Context

The Indian ‘Limited War’ doctrine had its roots in formulation of our response to the Pakistani aggression in Kargil in 1999. As the Dec 2001 terrorist strike led to mobilization and protracted deployment in Operation Parakram, the Indian strategists offered ‘Limited War’ as India’s answer to what in security theory is termed as the ‘stability-instability’ paradox. In the recent years, the limited war theory has acquired highly placed proponents and gained its own doctrinal respectability amidst intense public debates amongst Indian think tanks. Paradoxically, the Pakistani strategic experts community calls our new strategy as a doctrinal response based on regurgitation of American limited war concept of nineteen fifties to threaten and deter Pakistan [15].

Evidently, the Indian perspective on limited conventional war in a nuclear backdrop has witnessed intense and vigorous debate with proponents and opponents posing questions and counter questions on the probability of a limited conventional war escalating into a nuclear conflagaration. Historically, nuclear weapons have engendered caution between adversarial states, wherein the 1969 Soviet-Sino Ussuri River clashes and Indo-Pak Kargil war remains the only two cases where two declared nuclear weapon states have engaged in armed conflict [16]. Therefore, the options for India, to pursue its limited war doctrine against Pakistan, is to either apply military power spaced out in time and concentrated in space or stretched out in space and concentrated in time. In other words, Indian defense doctrine and strategy must seek to apply calibrated force for punitive effect, which does not have a destabilizing effect on the adversary [17]. The nuclear factor in South Asia has rendered ‘total war unthinkable” and limited war has become a necessity and must be central to the military input provided to the political leadership as an option to secure conflict limitation [18]. From the Pak perspective, a limited conventional war in the Indo- Pak context, can be defined as a ‘ war designed to achieve specified political objectives by applying compatible resources in a critical area and by acting smartly in a manner so as to leave bare minimum incentive for the opponent to react with nuclear weapons without taking definite risk to suffer more gains [19] . India, of late, is also forced to contend with an increasingly assertive and belligerent China which sees India as the single biggest rival to Chinese pre- eminence in Asia. As numerous strategic and defence experts have began to increase the probability of a Sino-Indian military conflagration in the Himalayas, an objective look at the time frame & duration of such a conflict is also mandated.

A “limited war” in our context would envisage a likely time frame of 21- 28 days. This time frame is a logical one as geo-political realities of an armed conflict between two nuclear states along with inherent limitations of developing states in terms of economy, war waging capability etc will preclude continuation of viable operations beyond four weeks. Moreover, in a Sino-Indian conflict, the restrictive campaigning season of approximately two months will be a determinant of duration of hostilities as both sides would need time to build up their forces in the post monsoon phase. Otherwise, too, all our past wars have unambiguously been short wars, limited in duration and objectives and the future wars in a nuclear backdrop are going to be anything but different. Yet, the future wars will be short but highly intense, destructive wars, exacting heavy casualties of men, material and equipment in fast, fluid mobile battles across the entire spectrum of conflict in a technologically driven war fighting environment with far reaching implications for the war fighting philosophies of the adversaries.

Logistics Imperatives

The future battlefield in an intense, short war would necessitate a major transformation in our logistic support system with likely changes as under [20] :-

  1. Limited preparatory period and highly intense short duration war, necessitating an efficient mobilization plan.
  2. Self contained theatre based logistic support structure.
  3. High attrition rate due to greater accuracy and lethality of long range weapon systems necessitating forward positioning of a greater quantum of reserves.
  4. Greater emphasis on intra theatre regeneration and re-supply of logistics resources.
  5. A sense and respond system working on the “push model”.
  6. Adoption of information technology and decision support systems for total asset visibility and improved inventory management [21].
  7. Need to improve survivability of logistics echelons by dispersion and area air defence cover where possible.
  8. Maximum reliance on air maintenance for maintenance of momentum especially in mountainous and desert terrains.
  9. Need for greater degree of logistics flexibility and redundancy in all theatres.
  10. Increased strain on logistics support system due to greater density of high technological equipment in battlefield.

The diversity of terrain and our varied operational roles, required to be performed in highly intense, short duration wars pose enormous logistic challenges and demand a dynamic, new approach to include simple, flexible and efficient logistic plans, based on a technology driven, seamless and fully networked logistic system. Such an approach is required to integrate the logistic resources of the three services and to utilize the existing national infrastructure more profitably to improve our logistic efficiency and enhance our operational readiness [22].




Existing Defence Logistic System

National Level

In India, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is the highest decision making body on national security and strategic issues and is mandated to formulate policies for the defence of the country through the National Security Council ( NSC ) established in 1998. The Defence Minister, who is a member of the Cabinet Committee on Security, heads the Ministry of Defence ( MOD )and is responsible for implementing the government’s defence policies. The defence policies get implemented through various committees functioning under the MOD [23]. Details of such committees are as under :-

  1. Defence Minister’s Committee.
  2. Defence Minister’s Production and Supply Committee.
  3. Defence Research and Development Council.
  4. Chiefs of Staff Committee.

The Defence Minister’s committee is responsible for defence planning while the Production and Supply Committee is most important as it covers the entire gamut of planning force levels and equipment planning related to availabilty of resources. The Chiefs of Staff Committee advise the Defence Minister on all military matters including logistics matters. Another committee called the Joint Adminstration Planning Committee (JAPC) having representatives from the Services, is placed under the Chiefs of Staff Committee to coordinate the logistics effort of the three services and to prepare a joint adminstration plan to supplement and support the overall mobilisation and operational plan evolved by the Joint Planning Committee ( JPC ) [24].

Army Logistics

At Army Headquarters level, the agencies responsibile for providing logistics are the Adjutant General (AG), Quartermaster general (QMG), Master General of Ordnance (MGO) and Engineering-in-Chief (E-in-C). Basically the existing system is influenced by what was primarily inherited from the British Army. In the present organization, the supply and transport are under the QMG while Ordnance and EME are with the MGO and the Medical services have been placed under the AG. Moreover, selection and introduction of any new equipment though a joint responsibility, is with the Weapons and Equipment (WE) Directorate while maintenance of such equipment is a logistic function. In order to coordinate various branches and to ensure smooth flow, Directorate General Operational Logistics (DGOL) has been created. However, the management and control of the logistic services has not been brought under a unified single management or control, which gives rise to a number of intra-service logistical problems , thereby making the task of DGOL difficult [25]. Utilisation of army budget also is a problem area as the QMG Branch, which is responsible for large portion of Army’s logistic planning, spends almost two-fifths of the army budget [26]. Thus the staff support is highly fragmented and does not approximate to the concept of integrated logistic support.

IAF Logistics

In IAF, the Logistics Branch handles all the equipment, materials management and distribution functions [27]. At the Air Headquarters, Air Officer-in-charge Maintenance ( AOM ) and Air Officer-in-charge administration ( AOA ) perform functions similar to those of the AG and the QMG in the army and partly similar to those of MGO. The AOM is assisted by four Additional Chiefs of Air Staff ( ACAS ) and Air Officer Logistics ( AOL ). The AOM to a large extent, provides single point management and control, wherein all specialist aspects of aircraft and equipment maintenance, overhaul and provisioning of stores in respect of each weapon system is looked after. In addition, the ‘Initial Provisioning Committee” and ” Maintenance Planning Teams ” provide logistic support for the newly introduced aircraft and weapon systems [28]. As regards, functions of AOA, he is assisted by two ACsAS and controls administrative aspects such as organization, works, accounts, legal ,medical, pay and provost.

Navy Logistics

In Navy, the Chief of Materials (COM ), a Principle Staff Officer to the Naval Chief at Naval Headquarters is responsible for entire Logistics management function in the Navy. He is assisted by the Controller of Logistics Support, who functions directly under the Chief of Material and deals with logistics support, clothing and victualling, armament supply and transport. In addition, there are two Assistant Chiefs of Materials aiding the Chief of Material to deal with Systems and D&R. The Chief of Personnel (COP) heads the personnel branch and handles the medical services, recruitment, welfare and service conditions [29].

Analysis of the Existing System

An analysis of the existing logistics system reveals some glaring and profound weaknesses which need to be redressed forthwith, in order to obviate potential adverse effects on our national security. The systemic weaknesses are pronounced in the fields of our logistic organization, both at national and services level and also in our failure to integrate our logistics system. The later, in fact, is a manifestation of a flawed organizational set up, being carried forward as a legacy of the colonial times. That so many past studies and writings by experts on the subject have failed to elicit the attention of the decision makers concerned is a sad reflection on our system and underlines a lack of overall national perspective for logistics. Further, it is apparent that the decision making structures at the national and services level are either inappropriate or simply unresponsive. Our logistic system, though has taken the obvious weaknesses and the shortcomings in its stride and has delivered the goods in all wars fought by us in the post independence period. As such, it is of utmost importance that the obvious shortcomings are identified and addressed in order to integrate and optimize our logistics system as a true component of the “National Effort”, needed to respond to growing threats to our national security.

Shortcomings of our Logistic System

Organisational Weakness. At the top echelons of the MOD and Chief’s of Staff Committee ( COSC ), “Defence by Committees” is the accepted style of functioning, which is hardly conducive to efficient functioning. The Service chiefs are responsible for operational and logistic preparedness, but exercise little or no control over budget and provisioning of war like material, which remains the direct prerogative of the MOD.

No National Level Organisation. Neither any national level organisation exists to oversee, coordinate and integrate our defence needs with national development nor any visible efforts are seen towards orienting national level logistical planning to our defence requirements.

Lack of Common Logistic Doctrine. Despite ” jointness ” and “integration” being the buzzwords, the three services have failed to evolve a common logistics doctrine and philosophy of logistic support.

Multiplicity of Logistic Agencies. There is a multiplicity in logistic agencies with no single authority responsible to the Chief of Army Staff ( COAS ) for logistics preparedness. Lack of centralized logistic support encourages duplication and wasteful expenditure.

Multiple Procurement Agencies. Multiple procurement agencies in the services with lack of interaction, work against the principle of economy and lead to increased costs.

Lack of Standardisation and Codification . It leads to duplication and high inventories. Multiple stocking echelons ,too, lead to a high level of stocking and is compounded due to lack of an integrated systems approach to determine stock levels. A vast range of assorted equipment, both imported and indigenous, has only exacerbated the problems of providing effective logistics backup [30].

Inventory Automation. Despite commonality of procedures, separate inventory automation has been undertaken by all three services, thus violating the administration principal of economy.

Private Sector Involvement in Defence Research and Development. Despite the dynamic changes ushered by ” Defence Procurement Procedure ” 2005 & 2009, the private sector involvement in defence research & development and defence production has not reached the desired levels.

Attitudinal Change towards logistics, In Indian Army, an attitude has been prevalent for long, wherein logistics consideration in an operational plan are invariably given short shrift under the mistaken belief that a commanders tactical brilliance will some how compensate for inadequate consideration of logistics. The practice of not involving the logistics functionary in formulation of operational plans and then leaving the logistics planning entirely to logisticians is an inevitable recipe for disaster.

Mobilisation. Mobilisation involves movement of men and material, wherein move by rail is carried out under the aegis of the Operational Rail Movement Plan (ORMP). Though the plan has been validated during ” OP VIJAY ‘ and ” OP PARAKRAM “, concerns remain as regards the move and dispersion of strike and dual task formations as also the creation of requisite infrastructure for unloading / loading at railway stations concerned. Besides this, shortage of defence rolling stocks exist which will inhibit speedy mobilisation.

Functioning of Ordnance Factories and the PSUs. Director General of Ordnance Factories and the Defence Public Sector Undertakings are major defence manufacturers. However, the present organisational structure precludes the optimum functioning of these organisations. Despite being an intrinsic part of Defence Minister’s Production and Supply Committee ( DPSC ) , the Ordnance Factory Board ( OFB ) usually functions independently and in any case is not accountable to the Army or the defence, though the funding for the OFB is made from the Army Budget. As such, the Chief of Army Staff has very little say with respect to production and priority in delivery of items. The OFB items also have quality concerns especially in general stores and clothing items.

Multiple Echelon System. The multiple echelon system which is existing as the chain of supply to the field formations need critical examination and reduction of echelons where feasible. Logistics support need not be the same across the board for all formations in the country, it can be tailor-made to meet the requirement of a particular sector, the terrain, the type of operations and equipment likely to operate in the area. This will cut down the time factor for move from source to the field formation.

Push Model. The push model of pumping the logistics requirement of troops forward has been partially implemented in certain areas. It needs to be implemented across the board to ensure that the troops do not have to look over their shoulders for logistics support.




The US Armed Forces have a highly efficient and responsive logistic system, based on a dynamic organizational structure which has evolved to meet the ever changing operational requirements. The Defence Logistic Agency ( DLA ), a US Department of Defence ( DOD ) agency supplies the nations military services and several civilian agencies with the wide ranging logistical support for peacetime and wartime operations as well as emergency preparedness and humanitarian missions [31]. The DLA Director reports to the Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics through the Deputy Under Secretary of Defence ( Logistics and Material Readiness ).The DLA has evolved from Defence Supply Agency ( DSA ), which worked on the “Single Manager Concept”, wherein eight service agencies viz army, navy, air force etc handled one commodity each and became DSA supply centers.

In 1977, DLA was established with the aim of centralizing the management of common military logistics support and to introduce uniform financial management practices. Later, the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, for integration of US Armed Forces, identified DLA as a combat support agency. In Feb 2000, a new DLA organization structure – part of an integrated plan called DLA 21 – integrated all distribution depots of the military services into a single, unified material distribution system to reduce overhead costs and place them under DLA for management. It also created four major sub agencies under the DLA as under :-

  1. Def Logistics Support Command ( DLSC). Responsible for integration of logistics operations, supply chain management, readiness and contigency operations support. It is also responsible for procurement, storage and distribution of consumable parts, fuel, medical, subsistence and clothing and textile support. It has subsequently been reorganised as DLA Logistics Operations Directorate ( DLALO J-3 ).
  2. Def Contract Management Command. Responsible for DODs primary contract administration activity.
  3. Information Operations. Responsible for DLAs information technology activities to enhance e-commerce, logistics support system and document automation in support of military logistics.
  4. Financial Operations. Responsible for streamlining DLA’s financial system for agency’s future initiatives.

UK System

UK, too, has been a fore runner in initiation of defence reforms, which began with th

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