Home > Creativity, Military, Planning, Teaching, Uncertainty > Reflection on the “art of military logistics”

Reflection on the “art of military logistics”

Reflecting outloud on a discussion I am having with a SAMS officer who is inquiring into doctrinal considerations of educating for the “art of logistics” based on his experiences in Afghanistan.


In the same way that I think defining “science” for the purposes of the thesis is important, I think defining “the art of logistics” will be crucial. I am sure professionals have written on this topic.


It seems to me that the art could include the following, and you will have to decide how far along the continuum you want to go:


1. Pure science

2. Applied science (ie using statistics to frame uncertainty within reliable boundaries)

3. Applied heuristics (applying time tested rules of thumb in a professional way, consistent with best practice)

4. Individually developed heuristics (adding creativity to select which heuristics and which principles to apply, but within the boundaries of professional judgment)

5. Innovation: a new twist, a new framework, perhaps borrowed from commercial logistics, probably doest get automatic professional approval

6. Creativity: an original insight into a new type of problem, that redefines an approach, or introduces an entirely new technique, that can be rationally/intellectually justified in retrospect or upon reflection, but about which there would be considerable disagreement among professionals

7. Inspiration: an unexplainable gut feeling that we should do things this way


Depending on how far you want to go in defining what you mean by the “art” you will find it progressively more difficult to argue that this should be included in the body of professional knowledge reflected in curriculum and/or doctrine. Unless you want to go as far as saying that there is no body of doctrine that can completely account for all battlefield requirements and that we need to have an “art muscle” developed that allows us to see beyond the formal limits of doctrine and science and conventional practice, and be prepared to operate in the realm of pure art (instinct?)


TRADOC’s CACD (TP 525-5-500) provides a framework for how, when faced with “wicked problems” that do not lend themselves to the “applied science” of MDMP, planners can reframe a problem to the semi-structured type which IS suited for MDMP.  There is a healthy dose of “art” in that, although the procedures and considerations they have suggested are a systematic way of thinking about the nature of the campaign problem. I see it in much the same way as an art school can provide technical instruction on technique, but stop short of prescribing what the  outcome shall look like.  The art school “enables” the implementation of the artistic vision. The education/training of the professional school increases what the artist can achieve by providing the techniques that can translate vision into reality.


So, in the same way you must define what you mean by science for purposes of the thesis, I think you’ll need to be clear on what you mean by “art”.  Happy thinking to you!

  1. Terry Lesniak
    December 4, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    What’s interesting is the further out you evolve into that “fat-tail” discretionary creativity, the language used to sell it becomes more and more opaque. It’s difficult to wrap a mathematical formula around “enlightenment.” Hard science based on western logic is structurally necessary, but often times misses a larger knowledge base that can’t easily be explained. The irony is, the further you move along the continuum, the more valid your end results even though you may find it difficult to explain how you got there.

    Regards, Terry

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