It's the logistics, stupid

After every crisis, after every disaster, there’s always a politician, journalist or other mentally challenged person who demands to know why help hasn’t shown up.

Right now. Lickety split. As if there’s a facility, like a 24-hour manned firehouse, in which doctors wait around so they can be free to  rush to the scene of a hurricane, tornado, flood or tsunami to tend to the injured As if there are warehouses full of medicines, tests, pre-packaged food and other materiel that can be loaded on a plane  and flown to the scene before the dust settles.

(Gary Middendorf / Daily Southtown)

(Gary Middendorf / Daily Southtown)

And so it is with the coronavirus pandemic. Where are the masks?! We need more ventilators?! Gloves? Don’t have any. Personal protection equipment? Gowns? Tents? Prepackaged food?  No, no and no.

Then come the accusations: It’s Trump’s fault. It’s Obama’s fault. It’s the governors’ faults. Might as well add, it’s Bush’s fault.

Where this comes from is an abysmal failure to understand of the difficulties and complexities of moving people and stuff around. Especially on a moment’s notice. It’s called logistics.

Logistics is generally the detailed organization and implementation of a complex operation. In a general business sense, logistics is the management of the flow of things between the point of origin and the point of consumption to meet the requirements of customers or corporations. The resources managed in logistics may include tangible goods such as materials, equipment, and supplies, as well as food and other consumable items. The logistics of physical items usually involves the integration of information flow, materials handling, production, packaging, inventory, transportation, warehousing, and often security

If the states, for example, had gathered all the supplies necessary to fight a pandemic on a moment’s notice, people would have demanded: “What are you spending all that money on stuff that might never happen, when our needs are much more immediate.” In Illinois, that would be government employee pension funds.

There are no doctors’ or nurses’ B teams, ready to rush to anywhere in the nation’s four corners.  Minor leaguers can’t be called up. Spare trucks aren’t idling in the crisis lot, with drivers ready to jump aboard like World War II fliers from the barracks to their planes to fight incoming bombers.

Current in the American mindset is an attitude that we have to be protected from every possible threat. Whether the threat is seen or, unbelievable, unseen. Years ago I served as a Navy supply officer, so I have an appreciation of the difficulties of obtaining that critical spare part needed to get the ship underway tomorrow morning.

As such, I appreciate the work that the men and women in the “supply chain” face–the warehouse people, the transportation people, the purchasing agents, the planners. We owe them our thanks as much as anyone who is on the front lines trying to keep us healthy. 

My historical novel: Madness: The War of 1812

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