In his opening remarks at the National Defense Industry Association (NDIA) 30th Annual National Logistics Forum, retired Air Force Gen. Duncan McNabb, chairman of NDIA's Logistics Management Division, quoted Alexander the Great. "My logisticians are a humorless lot ... they know if my campaign fails, they are the first ones I will slay."
These days, those involved in military logistics seem to have graduated from humorless to sullen and downright dour. What's soured their mood, of course, is the continuing budget squeeze at the Department of Defense (DOD). Commonly known as the "sequester," it isn't going away.
Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, and the number three guy in the Pentagon, put it this way: "Last year was a nightmare year." He described 2013 as "the worst budget environment I've ever seen."
Within that context, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Bob Ruark, the director of logistics for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, outlined a vision that emphasizes continued collaboration with private industry as the only path to success for DOD. "We need to understand the industrial base," he said. "Partnership is vital." But developing partnerships with the private sector is easier said than done, and that's an issue DOD must address, Ruark said.
Nobody expressed optimism about the funding situation's near-term prospects. Referring to the sequester, Kendall said, "It's a 10-year law, and it doesn't go away unless Congress does something to make it go away."
Speaking about the military's massive budget cuts at last year's NDIA event, Alan Estevez, now the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, said, "We're on a slow ramp to hell."
It seems Estevez was right.
Editor's note: For more of Steve Geary's thoughts on the impact of budget constraints on defense logistics, read "Start thinking: Insights from NDIA's 30th Annual Logistics Forum."