Cover: Right-Sizing Marine Corps Intermediate Supply Units

Right-Sizing Marine Corps Intermediate Supply Units

A Staffing Model and Proposed Process Improvements

Published Oct 14, 2019

by Joslyn Fleming, Ellen M. Pint, Jessica Duke, Simon Veronneau, Austin Lewis, Jordan R. Reimer


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Research Questions

  1. Are intermediate-level supply units manned sufficiently to meet their supported units' needs?
  2. What are the main challenges that SMUs and RIPs face?
  3. What best practices can be identified and shared across units?
  4. What capacity model can help intermediate supply accounts determine personnel requirements relative to the size and needs of a supported force?

Force reductions to the United States Marine Corps (USMC) due to budget cuts, sequestration, and redeployments from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have affected logistics units, and in 2015 intermediate-level supply accounts experienced a reduction in personnel authorizations. At the same time, a movement toward supporting smaller-sized units in more distributed operations has placed a heavy burden on logistics support elements. Under the dual impositions of reduced manpower and increased requirements, intermediate-level supply forces may not be able to meet the needs of future contingency operations, and further personnel reductions may place additional strain on intermediate supply capacity.

In order to help the USMC address this problem, RAND researchers focused on the two main types of intermediate-level supply organizations in each Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF): the Supply Management Unit (SMU) and the Repairable Issue Point (RIP). They conducted field visits to the SMUs and RIPs at each of the three MEFs to document supply processes, interviewed subject matter experts to better understand the challenges faced by SMUs and RIPs, and identified best practices that can be shared across these accounts. Subsequently, researchers developed a methodology that can be used to determine the recommended personnel numbers and daily workload depending on the supported force. This will help the Marine Corps assess whether intermediate supply accounts are manned sufficiently to meet the supported units' requirements. Process improvements that could help intermediate supply units work more efficiently in garrison are also proposed.

Key Findings

Intermediate-level supply sections are currently overextended and require additional personnel to meet supported units' needs

  • Based on available data and capacity modeling, SMUs and RIPs are understaffed, and tasks require more man-hours per day than what is recommended.
  • Data collection is inconsistent across the three MEFs, and there are significant deficiencies in data required to forecast appropriate staffing requirements.
  • Personnel instability and lack of E-5 and E-6 personnel significantly decrease unit efficiency.
  • Significant equipment deficiencies impede the ability of Marines to perform their primary tasks.
  • Inconsistent funding allocations cause inefficiencies.


  • Ensure that intermediate supply units are adequately staffed in order to reduce daily storage work hours to recommended levels, by increasing table of organization or staffing goals for warehouse operations.
  • Improve staff modeling by archiving on-hand personnel data; collect data on task frequency and duration for all SMU and RIP sections to improve capacity models; and forecast staffing requirements for deployed environments.
  • Improve business processes by providing basic material handling equipment found in U.S. commercial warehouses; ensure that Marines have the correct protective equipment to perform their work; allow SMUs and RIPs at all MEFs to control their own spending rate; optimize item locations at RIPs and SMUs to reduce picking time; and foster a Lean Six Sigma program for continuous improvement.

This research was sponsored by the United States Marine Corps Operational Analysis Directorate and conducted within the Acquisition and Technology Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense intelligence community.

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