Reprinted from February 1968 and February 1970 Navy Supply Corps Newsletters
“I believe the industrial society of electronics, atomic energy, automation, is in a cardinal respect different in kind from any that has gone before, and will change the world more. It is this transformation that, in my view is entitled to the name of ‘scientific revolution.’”
The Scientific Revolution
C. P. Snow
With these words, a respected man may well have named the age in which we live and projected our future environment. The term “scientific revolution,” which is often heard today, was first defined and articulated here, but the fundamental words are “transformation” and “scientific.” It is more obvious each day that the whole world is on the move toward a more complete use of science. The United States Navy and its Supply Corps have, if anything, ridden the leading face of this wave of the future.
We in the Supply Corps have only to look back at the things we have done. The integrated Navy supply system, the federal stock catalog, the automation of records and warehousing, and we have named only a few of our great efforts of the past. These have influenced military logistics profoundly already, and our future accomplishments will have as great an influence tomorrow. It is a source of pride to us to feel that we have been part of such great undertakings. Undertakings which have insured the peace of the world because they have supported the mightiest navy ever conceived by the mind of man. However, in retrospect, we in the Corps have been so busy, that we gave little thought to trying to find out where it must all lead. We have needed something more. We have needed to define the meaning of the Supply Corps in its role in the Navy, but the first task was a review of the condition of the “Corps” in a manner befitting logical and scientifically oriented men.
THE MERI STUDY
In 1966, after deliberation at the highest management levels, it was decided that outside expert assistance in combination with a panel of the Corps’ leading practitioners could attempt to measure the future environment, and make some searching judgements. Acting on this decision, a contract was let to Management and Economics Research Incorporated (MERI), and a panel of eight Supply Corps officers was established. Working as an integrated military consultant team, each aspect of the matter under review was given exhaustive study. The study members interviewed 112 senior military officers of all services, and top level civilians of the Department of Defense and industry. The bibliography of the study, published in the Winter of 1967, showed 174 sources of material. This hints at the care exercised by the men charged with reviewing the role of the Supply Corps in the future environment.
THE NEED OF A DOCTRINE
The material developed by the MERI study panel was ready for presentation to the Williamsburg U.S. Navy Supply Conference of May 1967. Using the case method of presentation, the alternatives for the Supply Corps’ future were discussed and evaluated. Returning to Washington, the Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command acted on the consensus of the Williamsburg meeting that a doctrine and objectives for the Supply Corps should be provided. On July 17, 1967, Rear Adm. Herschel Goldberg signed the following letter:
From: Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command
To: Chief of Naval Operations
Via: (1) Chief of Naval Material
(2) Chief of Naval Personnel
Subj: Recommended Doctrine and Objectives
Encl: (1) Doctrine for the Supply Corps and Supply Corps objectives
1. It was apparent to me, shortly after my appointment as Chief, Bureau of Supplies and Accounts and Paymaster General, that an assessment of the future role and development of the Supply Corps was a necessity. With the complexities and changes occurring in the field of logistics and the business management functions inherent therein, it was mandatory that we appraise our present officer inventory and project the professional skills and capabilities a Supply Corps officer of the future must possess. Therefore, in May 1966, I established a committee and contracted with a recognized consulting firm, Management and Economics Research, Inc., to study the “Impact of Future Technology on Navy Business Management.” The principal tasks of the study group were:
a. To study future trends of business and logistics management in the Armed Forces in the period 1966-1980;
b. To study the proper role and responsibilities of the Navy Supply Corps in that management;
c. To develop a statement of objectives related to that role; and
d. To develop action plans to achieve the objectives.
2. The report projected certain implications in Manpower Planning resulting from technological progress and changing management concepts in Naval Logistics Support. These manpower implications have been identified, and objectives formulated to give direction in the development of Supply Corps officers to meet the Navy’s future resource requirements, and to ensure a capability in forecasting future technological changes. Since objectives must be prefaced by a set of values, known truths which are held to be self-evident, a Doctrine has been promulgated also, upon which the objectives have been assessed as to their validity and consistency with the Navy’s mission in our defense posture.
3. With this report and the formulation of the Doctrine and Objectives, I conclude that, under the direction of the Chief of Naval Personnel and the guidance of the Chief of Naval Material, the Supply Corps will have a longrange framework in which to continue its goal of providing competent officer personnel to meet the ever-changing requirements in those functional areas in which Supply Corps officers are qualified to perform as a result of academic preparation and career development.
4. It is recommended that enclosure (1) be approved for distribution by the Chief of Supply Corps. Rear Admiral B.H. Beiri, SC, USN, my prospective relief, concurs in the enclosure and the recommendations set forth above.
H. J. GOLDBERG
On Nov. 16, 1967, the Chief of Naval Operations approved the Doctrine and Objectives of the Supply Corps. The great step to define the present and future role of the Supply Corps became a reality. This is only a good platform from which to challenge the future. The work will never finish, but it is at least well begun.
THE NEED FOR GRADUATE LEVEL EDUCATION
The need for increasing the educational level of the whole Corps was a fundamental conclusion of the MERI study. Although the Corps started from a significant graduate level educational base in the men that make it up, the transformational aspects of the environment described in the study highlighted the impact of the growth of knowledge in the areas of communications, mathematical modeling, simulation, behavioral science, and weapons acquisition. By the fall of 1967, the master’s degree programs had been increased to place 100 officers a year in educational institutions. In addition, the doctorate program was put on a solid annual input. This all was done at a time when the Supply Corps manpower resources were pressed to the limit by its commitment to a major armed conflict in Vietnam.
THE NEED TO CONTINUE TO FORECAST THE FUTURE
Recognizing that the forecasting work performed in 1966 could not be considered static, the research and development activities of the Naval Supply Systems Command have been called into action to update the projections on a yearly basic. In this way, the impact of technological change will be evaluated on a continuing basis.
If this article were to be focused on a single word, it would have to be techno-economist. This word embodies the skills necessary for dealing with the technician attempting to keep the intricate weapons system maintained and effective on the one hand, and the business community of the country with its legalistic contracts, specification problems, labor difficulties, and profit motive on the other. The able practitioners of this dialogue require varied and time consuming preparation. They must be formed through a cycle of work experience and formal training, which is flexible and well thought out. The cycle must provide officers that can participate in the United States military defense establishment as practicing techno-economists, for this is the shape of the future.
THE FUTURE AND THE DOCTRINE
There is more yet to be done, but the blueprint is present. There is a need for precise definition of present and anticipated characteristics, including technical competence and management skills, required for logistics managers of the future. There is a need for a refined model of career flow patterns, which will develop the proficiencies needed to execute the responsibilities of the Corps. Finally, there is a need to relate the forecasts of the future to the qualifications of the officers of the Corps. It is to these tasks that we all as members of the Corps must turn our attention. The fundamentals have been spelled out. They are lodged in the Doctrine and Objectives for the Supply Corps. They represent the steps which we must take to meet the challenges of military logistics management of the future.