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Maritime Logistics Community News : Winter 2011
54 NAVY SUPPLY NEWSLETTER WINTER 2011 The composition, roles and responsibilities of the Branch have evolved over time. These changes have, in part, come about through the evolution of warfare and maritime platforms, changes in technology and through increasing government efforts to gain efficiencies in the Defence budget. Today, the Supply professional requires the skills and experience to contribute to joint and combined logistics planning in support of multiple operations around the world. At sea, in addition to their primary roles, the Supply team are increasingly engaged in whole of ship activities due to reduced ship staffing levels. While still responsible for the administration of both public and non-public funds as well as many human resource functions, the Supply Branch has evolved over recent years to include a strong emphasis on operational logistics and material management. The Supply Branch is responsible to Command for ensuring that the Fleet Units and their systems are properly supported, that they are logistically safe to proceed to sea, and that they are ready to achieve the mission of the RAN. The Supply Branch originated with the Ship's Purser of the Royal Navy who was responsible for the receipt and issue of food, clothing, soap and tobacco. By the time the RAN came into being, the Supply Branch had evolved to include secretarial roles such as the provision of legal, financial, commercial and diplomatic advice. Robinson, B.C. CMDR. ed. (1991) p2 outlines that by the 1950s, the role of the Supply Branch (or White Mafia as they were affectionately termed) was well established in providing support to the operational units of the RAN. The Branch was responsible for managing the retail naval stores system, pay, cash accounting, catering and canteen activities, and providing officers for administration, logistic planning, movement and transport and legal duties. Interestingly, at this time wholesale supply operations (stocking policies, procurement and stores depot management) remained the responsibility of civilian officers employed under the Naval Defence Act. In the past 20 years, the importance of logistics planning and material support for Ships has strengthened. This has been shaped by the acquisition of more sophisticated equipment, greater compliance emphasis for the Australian taxpayers, and decreasing costs attributed to wastage as well as increased focus on force manoeuvrability. Supply chain management and integrated logistics (ILS) are areas of significant focus today with both disciplines ensuring that end-to-end distribution capabilities meet 21st century deployment and sustainability requirements. Put simply, these disciplines facilitate the Supply Branch to provide the right materials, in the right place, in the right condition, and in the right quantities at the right time to meet the Navy's mission needs. Today, the Supply Branch comprises highly trained Supply Officers who lead a team of specialist Sailors divided into the Stores Naval, Cook, Steward, and Writer categories. The Supply Branch plays an essential role in the overall logistic support for the RAN. This support is either Operations Support or Capability Support. Operations Support encompasses the planning, delivery and monitoring of logistics and administrative support to operational force elements, for exercises and operations, in a single, joint, or combined context. Capability support is complex and exists at four levels: determining Government expectations (Defence White Paper), strategic planning (preparedness planning and force structure planning), implementation planning (define preparedness and development requirements) and implementation (acquisitions, through life support, personnel development and disposal). The Supply Branch contributes at each level from the logistics support experience gained at sea sustaining a ship in its operating and maintenance cycles; in particular through a strong focus on preparedness, how ready and sustainable the ship is to carry out its mission. At sea, the core functions of the Branch are logistic preparedness, logistic sustainment and service delivery. Put simply, the Supply Branch is responsible for preparing the ship to conduct missions and for sustaining the ship while on mission. This is no easy feat and involves coordinating all aspects of logistic support required by the ship including: deployment, port visit and consigned cargo planning; managing spare parts for maintenance and defect rectification; medical stores support as well as the divisional administration of medical sailors; catering, hospitality and canteen services; aviation support both in terms of providing spare parts and personnel for evolutions; and financial and business management. While on mission, the Supply Department provides Command with an emergency organisation capable of issuing naval stores to ensure machinery, weapons systems and sensors are available when required as well as catering services to the ship's company at a moment's notice utilising little more than a hot plate in some cases. The RAN is different to the other two services from a logistics perspective because ships must be largely self-sustainable to provide significant reach and endurance of force. Ships must be capable of carrying their warehouse on operation and exercise. The RAN relies less on the ashore supply chain and more on a Task Group Logistics Coordination organisation. This organisation involves the Supply Officer and Senior Naval Stores sailor liaising with other ships using the ships messaging system to locate and organise transfer The Supply Community: Past, Present and Future Whether it was HMAS Sydney in World War 1 or HMAS Anzac in the Second Gulf War, the RAN has been able to achieve its mission because of the support provided by Supply personnel employed within Fleet Units and ashore. LEUT MELISSA CLARKE, RAN