From the inception of the U.S. Navy, there were officers, called pursers, who served on all Navy ships and at major Navy shore installations. These pursers were charged with all tasks associated with shipboard and Navy yard supply of the day, and each acted independently with no oversight.
Because of supply inconsistencies and vulnerability to overcharges, on the 23rd of February 1795, Congress passed a bill creating the office of Purveyor of Public Supplies, which later became today’s Navy Supply Corps. President George Washington signed the bill into law and a new civilian position within the Treasury Department was designed to oversee procurement and management of all supplies required by the government of the new republic. Pursers now had a central governing point.
President Washington nominated an old friend, Tench Francis, a prominent Philadelphian, to be the first Purveyor; the Senate took just one day to confirm him.
Back in Tench’s day, naval personnel were assigned the task of supporting six frigates. Much has changed since then. Today’s Supply Corps’ duties and responsibilities have kept pace with the expanding scope of the modern Navy’s mission and maritime strategy.
Retired Admiral Raymond Spruance said, “A sound logistics plan is the foundation upon which a war operation should be based. If the necessary minimum of logistics support cannot be given to the combatant forces involved, the operation may fail, or at best be only partially successful.”
In conjunction with the supply enlisted community of logistics specialists, ships servicemen, culinary specialists, and civilian employees, the Supply Corps expertly manages logistics business within the Department of Navy network.
The more than 3,500 active and Reserve component naval officers, who are trained in three principle lines of operation–supply chain management, acquisition management, and operational logistics–proudly wear the “Oak Leaf” insignia of the Supply Corps and serve on nearly every afloat platform, in nearly every expeditionary environment, and at hundreds of shore installations located worldwide. Navy Supply Corps officers’ broad responsibilities are closely related to those of many executive positions in private industry and embrace functional areas such as financial management, inventory management, fuels management, physical distribution, and procurement.
Operating in an austere fiscal environment can be challenging, but the Supply Corps has always operated judiciously with an eye toward maximizing every taxpayer dollar.
In the current environment, the Supply Corps’ talent to be “ready for sea,” regardless of resource constraints, will be the key to optimizing the Naval Support Network to provide unparalleled support to the warfighter. The Supply Corps’ record of service to the Fleet is the foundation of their heritage – the heritage they have continued to build upon since Tench Francis. The traditions they uphold are timeless, like the expectation of excellence they deliver. The Supply Corps’ relevance has always been defined by how they fit into the fight. They know those niches – sometimes even before the Sailors themselves know them – and understand what is needed at the tip of the spear. The foresight Supply Corps officers have is what they bring to the fight. It generates their adaptation to changing needs and is what delivers the Supply Corps’ record of service.
A diverse community, Supply Corps officers are highly educated, operationally focused, and connected business professionals. They are relevant because they are good at what they do. Supply Corps partners know the corps’ reputation for service to the Fleet as unsurpassed and rely on them to maintain their superior quality of service every day.
The Supply Corps’ history is the story of its people – the men and women who embody resourcefulness, ingenuity, creativity, perseverance, integrity, and dedication. Each of their stories has a place in the context of American Naval history and reflects the struggle of the nation to evolve into the world’s most modern and efficient naval force.
The men and women serving as officers in this community are steadfast in their commitment to achieve their vision to produce autonomous, resourceful military logisticians with broad skills who deliver operational logistics, supply chain management, and acquisition and business capabilities that provide mission readiness.