The Three Most Important Supply Chain Management Skills for Military Leaders

With U.S. military forces stationed around the globe, strong supply chain management is essential for providing the equipment, resources and supplies our troops need to fulfill their missions. As with any function in the military, strong leaders are needed to manage the complexities of the global military supply chain. When COVID-19 significantly disrupted the world’s interconnected supply chains, the event further punctuated the need for effective leaders who could quickly adapt to changing circumstances and problem-solve during uncertain times.


If you are interested in pursuing a career in military supply chain management, here are three important skills to develop and hone.


Project Management

Project management skills are the core abilities necessary to successfully bring a project from start to finish. A leader in this role should be competent at initiating, designing, planning, executing, monitoring and completing projects, both on time and on budget. Strong organization skills will keep processes running smoothly, and the ability to multitask, prioritize and document everything will help leaders excel.


Inevitably, not everything on a project will go to plan, so an effective project manager should be able to troubleshoot issues and know how to problem-solve with the information that is available. There are often many parties involved in a supply chain with a variety of key stakeholders invested in its outcomes, so strong soft skills, such as written and oral communication, are handy for relaying project milestones and managing expectations.


As you look to move up the ladder and take on a bigger leadership role, look for opportunities to gain experience with lean manufacturing, business process re-engineering or continuous process improvement projects. These three transformation models are regularly used in the military, and when applied properly, can significantly improve your supply chain’s efficiency, accuracy and cost processes.


Technical Acuity

Paper invoices and fax machines are relics of days gone by. Today’s high-tech supply chain networks provide unprecedented visibility and transparency thanks to digitization, robust data bases, artificial intelligence and machine learning.


A leader’s ultimate goal should be to build a supply chain that is cognitive, collaborative and connected. To achieve that goal, supply chain managers must know how to leverage digital technologies, optimize inventory allocation with predictive analytics, forecast demand and use robotics to speed up assembly. A strong working knowledge of the principles behind planning, procurement, category/commodity management, supplier relationships, logistics, sourcing, quality management, warehousing and inventory management, the Internet of Things and data analytics will be very helpful for selecting the right tools and technologies.


While IT professionals and engineers bring the expertise and hands-on experience to create the inner workings of these technologies, they also need to collaborate and seek guidance from supply chain leaders to know what to program, what makes a better user experience and which functionalities to include.


Accounting Skills

Supply chain leaders can significantly impact the military’s costs and its ability to perform a mission on budget. A general familiarity with accounting principles will help leaders collaborate with others to brainstorm more efficient processes.


Ultimately, a well-rounded supply chain leader should be able to examine existing procedures or opportunities for streamlining activities to meet product distribution needs. This can include directing or coordinating production, purchasing, warehousing, distribution, or financial forecasting services to limit costs and improve accuracy or safety.


Another aspect of the role is to manage financial resources. These resources include the allocation of personnel, warehouses, inventory, equipment and transportation. The manager must decide how money will be spent to get the work done and where investments should be made, as well as how to account for these expenditures. Regular financial analyses should be conducted to assess the costs and benefits of the supply chain structure. At pre-determined intervals, it is a best practice to review key performance indicators, measure how your team is performing and set or revise the benchmarks.


Working within the global supply chain, it is also imperative to have knowledge about economic principles and practices as well as an understanding of financial markets and the banking industry. How financial data is analyzed and reported is another area of critical importance. The interplay of these forces can affect forecasting, demand, costs and other aspects of logistics.


A career in military logistics is a great opportunity for leaders who naturally see the big picture, are adaptive, calm under pressure and effective at problem solving. If you want to pursue a career in your organization’s supply chain logistics, the Institute for Defense and Business offers several programs that can help sharpen your skills. LOGTECH Advanced explores strategies to increase agility and maintain relevancy despite changes in the global, economic and business landscape. Additionally, you will effectively learn how to align people, processes, and technology to facilitate organizational and cultural change. The eIDB: LOG 21 covers technology and innovation, logistics risk and process analysis to teach you how to apply best practices and innovative thinking to maximize the results of logistics operations.


About Institute for Defense and Business

The Institute for Defense and Business (IDB) delivers educational programs and research to teach, challenge and inspire leaders who work with and within the defense enterprise to achieve next-level results for their organization. IDB features curriculum in Logistics, Supply Chain and Life Cycle Management, Complex Industrial Leadership, Strategic Studies, Global Business and Defense Studies, Continuous Process Improvement, and Stabilization and Economic Reconstruction. Visit or contact us on our website for more information.



Becoming a military supply chain management leader is a challenging and rewarding career path. Learn the three skills you must start honing now to build the knowledge base and capabilities that will help you succeed later. #IDB #SupplyChain #Logistics #Military




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