Pre-paid supplies

Pre-paid supplies

Pre-paid supplies is a strategic studies term for those military supplies purchased prior to conflict. As a result they do not enter into the current cost considerations of conducting combat.

Conflicts of high intensity and lengthy duration may have to rely mostly on supplies that are produced while they are ongoing. The First and Second World Wars provide examples of this. But smaller wars of shorter duration where belligerents have already stockpiled sufficiently for the outbreak of conflict are able to rely on pre-existing supplies. The U.S. invasions of Grenada in 1983 or Panama in 1989, in particular, were small enough to be almost wholly reliant on existing stocks. Some further examples follow:

Boer War 1899-1902

The British had available to them pre-paid food reserves that were kept at Woolwich prior to the war sufficient to feed a force of 40,000 men and 20,000 horses. Pre-existing supplies also included 118,000 rifles, 8,500 carbines, and 2,300 pistols that were sent out between 1 June 1899 and the end of the war. Of the approximately 139 million rounds of small arms ammunition sent between 1 June 1899 and 1 June 1902, 106 million came from pre-war stocks. [Webb, 2007: 301]

Falklands War 1982

According to the British government following the Falklands campaign, they were able to meet “all the demands of the task force”. It was given “first call” on pre-existing stocks which included those built up for NATO operations. [Webb, 2007: 301]

First Gulf War 1990-1

The United States had enough items such as tanks, artillery, warships and strike aircraft for it not to require the manufacture of more for the needs of the war. This was demonstrated when the decision was taken in November 1990 to increase the American presence in southwest Asia in order to provide what President George H. W. Bush described as “an adequate offensive military option”. This meant a doubling of the ground force, including a tripling of the number of tanks, as well as a doubling of the naval force and an increase in air power by a third. For this the U.S. called upon pre-existing equipment. Much of the augmentation of the ground force, for example, was carried out by the transfer of the VII Corps from Germany where it had formerly faced the Red Army. [Webb, 2007: 301]

Significance of pre-paid supplies

Pre-paid supplies have been argued for as a factor in the continued importance of distance in military affairs. Because the cost of such items is nothing at the time of fighting they maintain a linear relationship with transport costs regardless of any changes over time. Thus, in the competitive circumstances of war in which belligerents will take whatever advantage they can of pre-existing supplies and of falling transport costs to send as much into battle as possible, a linear cost relationship between supplies and transport means that distance retains its importance as a hindrance to logistics. [Webb, 2007: 299, 301]



Kieran Webb, 'The Continued Importance of Geographic Distance and Boulding's Loss of Strength Gradient', Comparative Strategy, Volume 26 Issue 4, 2007: 295 – 310

See also

*British logistics in the Falklands War
*British logistics in the Second Boer War
*Distance in military affairs
*Upward Spiral

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