by R.J. Jacob
Hurricane Sandy serves as yet another example of how federal, state and local government entities including the military are utterly dependent upon US infrastructure and a vibrant local economy to coordinate supply routes to major cities in times of catastrophic disaster.
Even with practiced and prepared FEMA centers, the Red Cross, the National Guard, and other emergency management agencies standing by, it was impossible for the government to send assistance, equipment, medical and food supplies to tens of thousands of people through a collapsed infrastructure and frozen civilian economy.
When FEMA ran out of water on day three (good one, guys) the FEMA Region Contracting Officer was baffled by the idea of delivering millions of gallons of bottled water to areas in New Jersey and the boroughs of New York City without electricity, fuel lines, operational subway services, train tubes/stations, etc. Keep in mind these bottles of water were not coming from nearby local storage facilities. FEMA’s only option was to solicit a request at FedBizOpps.gov to try finding private vendors to step in and help expand the supply chain.
Staten Island residents were seen on live TV literally weeping and begging for food, water, shelter, and clothing for three days after Sandy struck their neighborhoods. Not a single government truck arrived, for three days!
With most of the workers incapacitated by the storm and trucks and trains brought to a screeching halt, not only did water and food run dry, but more than half of all gas stations in New Jersey and New York City were closed because fuel supplies dried up. And no one, including the government, was able to effectively distribute these supplies.
Luckily for most eastcoast residents (those who didn’t lose their homes) this was only a three day crisis and not a three year civil war.
The impact of Hurricane Sandy on government distribution networks offers some insight into the struggle the US military would face during a civil war or against a serious American insurgency.
The US military is currently the dominant world military power because of its material supremacy, that is, its ability to coordinate with other governments to setup supply routes and move thousands of troops around while continuing to supply those troops with pay, ammunition, parts, repairs, food, clean drinking water, medical supplies, etc. All the sophisticated weapons, over engineered systems, and air-support strategies are based on (or more specifically reliant on) unobstructed logistics and a decent flowing economy—to name a few, transportation, trucks, trains, terminals, pipelines, racks, warehouses and commercial industry production and repairment facilities remaining operational in the face of chaos.
Imagine distributing and maintaining an army across the world’s most heavily armed society for four to eight years while attempting to sustain dozens of factions of soldiers in different areas of a giant, heavily congested, de-industrialized black-market-battlefield-America. Air support alone requires crews, fuel, parts, tools, work space, as well as sufficient ground time for repairs and maintenance. Ground time would be minimized to a handful of supply routes with military bases serving as outskirt entry points for city supply lines which makes for a highly isolated and parochial supply chain in the event of a widely dispersed First World insurgency.
For instance in Afghanistan, a very poor country smaller than Texas, the same logistical strategies have failed to defeat a few thousand Taliban insurgents with AK-47s. In a heavily armed first world country as large as the United States, state security forces would likely lose control of many large areas and high density populations.
When the supply lines go down, and I mean really go down, small gangs, large mobs, and lone shooters become the major military players, not US combat troops.