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Defense official says Pentagon should consolidate military supply agencies

The Defense Department should merge the main agencies that provide supplies and services to warfighters into a single logistics organization, according to Air Force Gen. John Handy, commander of the United States Transportation Command.

"We manage a considerable amount of sustainment, but so do a lot of other people, and it's the seams created among the other sustaining agencies that we want to close," Handy said Wednesday at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington. "Our suggestion, from TRANSCOM, is give us more responsibility and authority for the distribution management of sustainment and supplies of forces," he said.

Handy said the Defense Logistics Agency, an independent defense agency with about 23,000 civilian and military employees that buys and warehouses supplies and services for the armed forces, should be folded into TRANSCOM to create a single supply pipeline to the battlefield. "It gets rid of the seams," he said.

Transportation Command is one of the military's nine unified combat commands that executes operations throughout the world and is solely responsible for global defense transportation by sea, air and land. Handy said since TRANSCOM already moves most parts and supplies to the battlefield, it would only make sense that they take over buying and storing them as well.

It's not the first time that TRANSCOM leaders have been interested in taking over the Defense Logistics Agency-a move that DLA has always opposed and that the Pentagon has never supported. The difference this time could be that the military is changing the rate at which it sustains troops, so it might make sense to also examine how it manages that operation.

According to Handy, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the military changed from sending troops off to war with supplies for as long as 90 days to providing them with seven days worth of goods and then replenishing them. Handy noted there were no mountains of supplies for U.S. troops in the region as there was during the first Persian Gulf War, a move widely seen as wasteful and inefficient. Instead, Handy said, troops got their supplies as needed, reducing waste and keeping troops from having to sort through mounds of materials.

Fewer supplies are needed on site because advances in information technology systems allow troops to more quickly order what they need and have it shipped to them almost immediately, Handy said.

"Our notion is to have DLA work for TRANSCOM; that we not just work on improvements in process as we do today, but we physically integrate DLA into the transportation business," Handy said.

Another top priority for TRANSCOM is revamping how forces are deployed. Handy said the military is moving away from deploying large fighting units to sending out smaller, more mobile units on short notice. As a result, he said, TRANSCOM needs to tailor plans for quickly moving those forces into and out of combat areas.