Mmegi Blogs :: BDF must bring back Defence Logistics Command (Part 2)
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BDF must bring back Defence Logistics Command (Part 2)

One of the things that bring me so much joy and delight in my writing as a newspaper columnist is positive feedback. To me positive feedback is when you objectively critique my opinion in a civil manner.
By Richard Moleofe Fri 09 Dec 2016, 15:06 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: BDF must bring back Defence Logistics Command (Part 2)








This weekend I received a call from a retired senior officer who has spent his whole career life as a logistician. He expressed to me without mincing words his utter disappointment in the way I had written about his former unit. I would suggest to the reader to refer to last week’s column as I go ahead to deal with the issues that he raised.

Beside this officer, I have been given a lot of insight on other matters pertaining to logistics at BDF, and this was feedback from another angle. To some extent the views held by both readers that gave me feedback are contrary. Before I get into debating the issue at hand, allow me to correct certain factual errors that I have admitted in my long and cordial conversation with the retired senior officer. I had not acknowledged Major General Jefferson Tlhokwane as the first DLC Commander. This is a mistake I should not have committed. Indeed it might be a little misleading to note his deputy and not him. The other factual error was the level at which I elevated Major Zigar Solomon’s educational achievements. It must be noted that there are several other officers at BDF who hold Masters degrees in the field of logistics.

The topic on logistics is still a burning issue at our military establishment. I write on this topic from the deep end of the bottom of my heart because I had seen the establishment of DLC as a creative art of thought by the leadership when Lieutenant General Matshwenyego Fisher was at the helm of the organisation.

So I still stand my ground to say that the abolition of DLC in its original form and state was a terrible mistake. It is a pity that some of my readers who hold a different view will not have the privilege and space to posit their opinions, but I am ready to engage them constructively on different forums than this particular one.

My main contention from last week’s opinion was that BDF made a mistake in scraping DLC. Maybe to use a lighter word I would say, diluting. I have praised the work of DLC in Ex Matsubutsubu. It was here that the new command was stretched and tested and did not crack. However, with the new diluted DLC, it was failure after failure at Ex Hot Dunes which was held in Kgalagadi last year around this time.

There were several compounding factors that withheld the success of this exercise in the area of logistics. In the first place DLC as a command structure has been downgraded. It is currently headed by Brigadier Paul Sharp who does not carry with him the same authority as either the Ground Force or Air Arm Commanders.

Someone may argue that Major General Mpho Mophuting who is Head of Corporate Services at BDF HQ is actually the man in charge since DLC falls under him. His hands are full because he is equally dealing with other matters of

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units that fall under his belt and which may not necessarily be logistics units.  Furthermore, the current shift to the creation of Service Support Battalions is an anti-climax in the whole deal. These battalions are subsets of the three existing brigades in as far as the structure is concerned.

The reality on the ground is different as personnel have been removed from logistics units to beef up the new battalions while they left equipment behind. What has actually happened with DLC is that a major decentralisation exercise has taken place from the command itself all the way down to the organisation of the new battalions.  Therefore, one or more of the principles of war have been compromised in the dilution of DLC as a command. First of all, the principle of unity of command has become the first casualty. The new structures have become so complicated that the principle of simplicity has also been knocked out. And lastly I fail to see that basic principle of objectivity in the dilution of DLC.

By compromising more than two principles is a major problem in its own. And for the fact that the new Service Support Battalions (SSB) have now adopted former units of DLC is a major challenge to having any meaningful unified command from DLC.  The case in point is what has happened at the Glenn Valley Barracks. The new SSB has taken over the medical clinic including the mechanical workshop. I wouldn’t see any problem with this if the SSB had DLC as a parent unit. But in this case they belong to the brigades. This happens while the brigade grouping system is still exhibiting its teething problems.

As all military people know and understand, the army matches on its stomach. Therefore we cannot undermine the critical role of logistics in armed conflicts. My main contention with the changes at BDF is that they have fiddled with a very wonderful creation by Gen Fisher.

I still hold the view that the dilution of DLC was done because of certain internal politics. This is an area I did not want to tread on. BDF Commanders have a tendency of restructuring whatever their predecessors had created. That is where institutional politics are factored in.

There is need to create a universal structure that will also need the blessing of the Commander-in-Chief and as well as cabinet approval. This will help us to avoid a continual restructuring at BDF which to me is simply the re-invention of the wheel.

Restructuring exercises are expensive in nature and BDF needs to awaken to this fact. For instance, yesterday there was an artillery brigade and today there is none. It also frustrates the commanders of these units as is the case with the abolition of the artillery brigade.

The bottom line is; we need to have a functional military doctrine in order to avoid these pitfalls. Once our military has addressed this one major hurdle, then we will not see it on reconstruction every day.

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The Ex Soldier
Fri 09 Dec 2016, 15:06 pm
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