Report of the Working Group on Coalition Logistics Planning

Dr Roberto Desimone (Working Group Facilitator)

DERA Malvern, UK

Tel: +44 (0)1684 895246

Fax: +44 (0)1684 894055


The working group on coalition logistics planning met for several hours of discussion and brainstorming between 10-11th May 1999. The working group comprised seventeen participants from 4 nations (9 US, 7 UK, 1 Australian, 1 Canadian) and from several perspectives (5 operational, 8 technical, 5 programme management).

The main objective of the working group was to identify realistic opportunities for collaborative research between the participating nations of the overall workshop in the area of coalition logistics planning. Several short, medium and long-term challenges were identified and a concrete proposal was made for a COAlition logistics eXercise/workshop (COAX) to provide the starting point and basis for specific collaboration research in coalition logistics. The latter alone confirms that the main objective was well and truly achieved.

Discussion sessions

The discussions were very productive and took place in two three-hour sessions. The first session focussed on the operational perspective and identified several short, medium and long-term challenges for logistics community in supporting coalition operations. The working group was fortunate that 5 of the participants had solid logistics operations expertise, two from the US and two from the UK - 2 currently active in the UK Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) J4 cell, and the new UK Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO). In addition, several of the technologists had solid technical expertise in US and UK logistics support projects.

The discussions began with a description of a coalition logistics scenario and the difficulties in generating logistics plans for coalition operations. Combined and NATO-led missions with partners with common political objectives were contrasted with more ad-hoc coalition missions involving partners with dissimilar objectives. The discussion progressed onto the coalition logistics processes for various mission types, including peace-keeping, peace-enforcing, non-combatant evacuation and disaster relief. The scenario was used to compare the logistics processes of the US and UK with other nations. This led to discussion about the need to understand how the different cultures, languages and doctrine of coalition partners affects the coalition planning process, and how more explicit representation of the complete coalition logistics picture would avoid ambiguity and uncertainty.

The importance of logistics reconnaissance to gather information for logistics plans and to identify information gaps was highlighted, especially when the plans require significant host nation support (HNS) and multiple coalition partners involved in the movement and provision of logistics supplies. This led to discussion about the different representations and formalisms used to convey logistics information. The US time-phased force deployment data (TPFDD) was compared with the UK desired order-of-arrival staff table (DOAST) and the NATO detailed deployment plan (DDP).

Finally, the discussions touched on two thorny subjects: interoperability and security. It is difficult enough trying to achieve interoperability between and secure access to the existing plethora of logistics systems and databases within each nation, let alone between coalition partners. Currently, logistics liaison officers provide a human bridge between systems and security domains.

Coalition Logistics Challenges

The latter part of the first discussion period focussed on determining key challenges to facilitate effective coalition logistics operations. These challenges were divided into two categories: short/medium-term, denoting those challenges that are required to be resolved and used operationally within the next 2-5 years, and long-term, those that should be resolved within the next 5-10 years.

The following short/medium-term challenges were identified:

The following long-term challenges were identified:

It should be noted that the above lists were determined during a relatively short brainstorming period, and, thus, are neither comprehensive nor have they been prioritised. They do not represent a consolidated view of the 4 nations, but were derived from the discussion of the coalition logistics scenario. However, they do provide a basis for a more considered discussion about key challenges for the coalition logistics community.


Coalition Logistic Exercise/Workshop (COAX)

The second discussion session focussed on the technology and program perspective. The session began with a brief description of DARPA’s Advanced Logistics Planning (ALP) program and other related research work in the US and UK. The intention was to find some common ground between existing joint logistics research programmes that might help jump-start a collaborative program on coalition logistics planning.

This led to the proposal for a 5-day COAlition logistics eXercise and workshop (COAX) that would comprise a 3-day exercise and a 2-day workshop with a weekend between the two sessions. The participants of the COAX would include logistics experts (both military J4 and civilian technologists), together with national logistics program managers and, possibly, representatives of non-government organisations (NGOs) and commercial logistics carriers. The purpose of the exercise would be to develop a coalition logistics plan for a prepared scenario. The exercise would be lead by the military J4 experts, with NGO and commercial carrier involvement, and the technologists predominantly in an observing role. The purpose of the subsequent workshop would be to review the existing process and procedures for developing coalition logistics plans and determine specific technical challenges that could jump-start a collaborative programme.

For such an event to be successful the prepared scenario would need to be carefully defined to address many of the challenges identified in the first discussion session. A detailed plan for the running of the exercise and the subsequent workshop would need to be developed with a detailed list of issues and topics to be addressed and specific questions to be answered during the exercise/workshop schedule. Each exercise participant would need to have expert knowledge of their national logistics processes; the representation for (essential) tasks; the structure of their plans; and of their logistics systems and databases. Ideally, each participant should provide documents, preferably unclassified, for each of these inputs. The expected outputs of the exercise and subsequent workshop would be a coalition logistics plan for the prepared scenario, together with lessons learned about the logistics planning process that would help determine a collaborative R&D programme with well-defined tasks and experiments. The location for the event is to be determined, but many favoured San Diego, California, sometime between February and April 2000.

Conclusions and next steps

The discussions within the working group were extremely fruitful, highlighting a clear way forward for determining specific collaborative opportunities within the coalition logistics planning area. The next steps involve confirmation from all potential players of their desire to participate in the COAX and their willingness to be involved in the preparations for, what will need to be, a well-defined and planned exercise/workshop.