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NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan poses huge challenges in terms of logistics. The date of major withdrawal from Afghanistan is approaching (December 2014) with full withdrawal expected to be discussed at a summit next year. It’s likely that around two-thirds of the kit will be bought home, and a recent article from Bloomberg suggests the costs of transportation of equipment is likely to reach around $7bn for the U.S. alone. Accompanied with this, there is also the issue of refitting the equipment for normal service, with the Financial Times reporting Britain will face mounting sums of between £1.5-2bn in doing so.

And it’s not just dealing with the climate, terrain and the politics of the locations the equipment has to travel through in order to return. Crucial in the whole ‘multi-dimensional’ process are the support procedures and the need to determine the configuration of equipment and its state of repair, which is why co-ordinating a cost effective strategy will prove undeniably complex. There is a widely expressed view in the industry that when the kit is returned from Afghanistan it will require a huge amount of inspection and overhaul due to the harsh environment in which it has been used which has accelerated wear rates.

As Dr. John Louth, Senior Research Fellow and Director at RUSI notes, Afghanistan is a much ‘knottier’ problem than withdrawal from Iraq, given that the quantities of equipment and vehicles to be returned home are far larger than those moved from Iraq. There are also a greater number of bespoke or specialist vehicles procured under Urgent operational Requirement (UOR) procedures than was the case in Iraq, many of which will be new to the UK environment.

It is certainly not an option for NATO to simply dig a big hole in the ground and bury the hardware, and the A&D support chain therefore needs to focus on just that ‘equipment support’ as well as supply – managing the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of operations and tracking as an integrated process.

ERP investment can deliver ROI several times over

It is here that IT can provide the necessary visibility, accuracy and timely information.  An A&D-enabled enterprise support solution is designed to manage such complex operations much more effectively by providing clear visibility across the entire military supply chain solution, integrating into MRO and in this way, delivering ROI several times over.  It is difficult for niche products to do this.

Given the huge costs and complexity of returning equipment from operational theatres , a viable business case could be made for a relatively small investment in IT.  The investment would deliver a dynamic and holistic management capability of the assets, their configuration state and the associated support chain.

No-risk approach best for the military

At IFS we deliver enterprise solutions pre-configured and defined on a template using our SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) that  enable defense organisations to develop their own customised enterprise solution, whilst staying within the COTS envelope and thus extremely low risk. Because the IFS solution is completely component based, they can be funded – module by module.

It will be interesting to see what percentage of the equipment will be repatriated.  There are suggestions that a third of the equipment will be left behind (sold/gifted/scrapped) with the remaining two thirds being bought back.   It seems likely that of the two thirds remaining some will be sold here in UK and the remainder serviced and held in inventory . It is clear, however, that given the huge costs and complexity of returning equipment from Afghanistan, an A&D-enabled enterprise support solution which is able to manage the complexity of the support chain as a whole, would be a relatively small investment that would more than cover its cost several times over.


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