Smith: Ukraine demonstrates importance of logistics, pre-positioning

By Nick Wilson / May 9, 2023 at 12:40 PM

Pre-positioning warfighting equipment in the Indo-Pacific is crucial to preparing for a potential conflict in the region, according to the Marine Corps' assistant commandant, who said the service is drawing 21st century logistics lessons from the conflict in Ukraine.

“The Russians bit off far more than they could chew when they attempted a five-pronged simultaneous attack with no logistics expertise whatsoever,” Gen. Eric Smith said today at the Ash Carter Exchange national security forum. “What it's teaching us is that you have to pre-stage.”

Pre-positioning equipment at Marine Corps outposts distributed throughout the Pacific theater will put the service in the best position to fight if a conflict breaks out, Smith said, arguing that sustaining desegregated forces through the first island chain will be much easier than “fighting your way into the weapons engagement zone” after a conflict has begun.

“The analogy I would use here is if you're a homeowner and you're trying to keep somebody out of your house. If they're already out, it's easy. You just pile more furniture against the door. That's the anti-access/area-denial threat,” he said. “If somebody is already in your foyer, especially if they're a well-trained Marine, and you try to push them out your door, somebody's going to get hurt.”

Smith pointed to the need for a robust amphibious fleet to expediently move personnel and supplies around the Indo-Pacific. He endorsed investing in innovation to develop unmanned air and surface delivery systems to “minimize the logistics burden.”

Smith also cited solar energy, which he said the Marine Corps effectively employed in Afghanistan, as a means of reducing distributed forces’ dependence on traditional energy sources.

Asked whether the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 strategy is effective in operating environments outside of the Pacific, Smith said the re-imagined force is exportable to all theaters.

Pointing to his personal service experience, Smith said having the capabilities developed under Force Design 2030 would have made the service more effective in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Smith also emphasized the importance of U.S. allies, citing support from Pacific nations including the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea, Australia, Japan and Singapore.

“The great thing about us we have a lot of friends. China doesn't have as many friends,” he said.