General of the Army Vladimir Isakov, Chief of the Logistic Service of the Russian Armed Forces, inspected the Siberian military district last week. Official media report that he inspected logistic structures in military garrisons and attended a meeting of the military council of the Siberian military district where he finalized the results of the inspection and outlined the tasks of the Logistic Service in connection with military exercises conducted in the Siberian military district.

Isakov also discussed issues linked with the creation of the joint logistic system of the security ministries. This issue will soon be discussed by the Russian Security Council. As is known, the Russian Army has been discussing this problem for over five years. Meanwhile, a joint logistic system has not been created yet. A high-ranking source in the Defense Ministry states that “the plan of transition to a joint logistic system has not been accomplished yet”.

He noted, “The security ministries have failed to solve a range of problems, including the control over the logistic system, the creation of transport and medical structures and inspections of the new structure.”

This expert noted that another problem is linked with the abolishment of logistic structures, which duplicate each other’s functions in different ministries and departments. For instance, both the Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry have military communication structures.

He stated, “Every structure has 31 commandant’s offices at railway stations – this is around 500 people who solve similar tasks.”

In other words, the chief of the Logistic Service of the Russian Armed Forces solved three tasks in the Siberian military district. First, he inspected the military district’s logistic services. Secondly, he organized preparation of materials for the joint collegium of the Security Council and the Defense Ministry, which will be held in May-June. Thirdly, he organized preparation for an exercise aimed at ensuring the supply of fuel from pipelines to the Army, which will be conducted in 2005.

As we see, all tasks are quite different. Sources in the Defense Ministry note that the collegium of the Security Council and the defense Ministry will have to prepare measures aimed at speeding up integration of the Army’s logistic service with logistic services of other security ministries, evaluate the efficiency of the joint logistic service and discuss problems of using market mechanisms in the logistic sector. The creation of a new system of supply from civil pipelines is one of the examples of such market mechanisms.

As is known, this idea is not new. Transnefteproduct and the Russian Defense Ministry conducted a similar exercise in the western regions and Belarus in 2003. Sources in the Defense Ministry note that this year such an exercise was conducted in the Far Eastern region. The Defense Ministry considers the pipeline supply system efficient.

A representative of the Logistic Service of the Armed Forces said, “This is almost 20,000 kilometers of pipe, which contain 2.5-3 million tons of oil products. We use this.” According to the source, 237 ammunition depots and fuel bases, and nine airfields are connected to the pipeline system.

He said, “Thanks to these facilities the Defense Ministry has the opportunity to abolish 35 fuel bases and save 180 million rubles a year.”

Of course, saving money is a very topical issue for the Armed Forces. However, does the pipeline system meet the requirements of mobility, combat-readiness and security? It’s no secret that the Army’s ammunition depots and fuel bases are camouflaged, and only a few people know about their existence. The pipelines are marked on practically all maps. It’s not a problem for an enemy to destroy them. Where will the Army get fuel?

Market relations in the Army are another problem. The Logistic Service of the Army states that it stores part of its food reserves in civil organizations. Commercial enterprises control 35 laundries, 19 bread-baking plants and 24 canteens (mainly in the Pskov garrison where the Airborne Force is creating a professional division).

Perhaps, this is a correct approach but will civil organizations be able to provide goods and services to the Army as efficiently in wartime? For instance, three battalion tactical groups of the 76th airborne division operated in Chechnya. Contract servicemen had to cook. The Army’s logistic structure is optimal, and if civil structures become entangled in this process the performance goes down. In particular, supplying food to contract servicemen in commercial canteens is 30 rubles more expensive (per serviceman). This is a substantial sum for a division. Of course, it’s reasonable to use services of civil organizations and take fuel from pipeline in peace time. This is the civilized way. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that the main task of any army is war, and combat-readiness is the main factor. If Russia creates hothouse conditions in the Army it will not meet its requirements and will not be able to cope with its tasks. To all appearances, the Logistic Service must think about this problem.