Isn’t the defense supply chain just another name for the military supply chain? This question comes up often in supply chain management, and the two terms have been interchangeable in the past. With supply chain issues in the news more as of late—along with the increasing need for seamless logistics to combat these issues—understanding all the differences, details, and options in supply chain management is more critical than ever.

Greenwood Aerospace provides all the information you need on supply chain management, along with expert services to keep your aerospace program running on time and efficiently. Our team’s 41 years of experience enables us to offer professional assistance with all your logistics needs, including: 

Our team provides unparalleled customer service to help you fill gaps in your supply chain, procuring the parts you need when you need them. From defense supply chains to aircraft parts supply, Greenwood Aerospace is ready to partner with you. 

In this article, we answer your questions on the defense supply chain, including:

  • What separates the defense supply chain from other supply chains?
  • What is the history of defense supply chains in the U.S.?
  • What modern advancements have been made for defense supply chains?
  • What does Greenwood Aerospace offer for defense supply chains?

Let’s take a closer look at what defines and differentiates the defense supply chain.

Defining and Differentiating Between Supply Chains

Before getting into all the details of defense supply chains, it is first necessary to understand the differences between all the types of U.S. supply chains, such as: 

  1. Defense supply chains
  2. Government supply chains
  3. Military supply chains
  4. Commercial supply chains

Each has unique characteristics, requirements, and regulations that businesses need to understand to navigate successfully. 

For example, the government supply chain involves multiple government levels, making it challenging for businesses to understand and comply with regulations and procedures. Additionally, the military supply chain is subject to strict security and quality requirements, which can impact the procurement process and the types of products and services that can be offered. 

By understanding the differences between these supply chains, businesses can tailor their strategies to avoid unexpected delays, keep costs down, and take full advantage of supply and demand. 

Let’s take a look at the common and unique elements of each supply chain. 

Defense Supply Chain

While at times mistaken for the military supply chain, the defense supply chain is actually a subset of the military supply chain, focusing on the production and delivery of defense-related products and services. This includes everything from aircraft missiles to cybersecurity and intelligence services. 

Military defense contracting is highly regulated and often requires specialized knowledge and expertise. Although not directly under the purview of MIL-SPEC, defense supply chains nevertheless need to abide by specific standards set forth by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

The defense supply chain is closely related to both the military and government supply chains. It is a critical component of the military supply chain, providing the necessary equipment and technologies that are essential to carrying out military operations. Where it sets itself apart from military supply chains is through contracts and contractors.

The world's largest defense contractors operating today are:

  1. Lockheed Martin Corp.
  2. Boeing Co.
  3. Raytheon Technologies Corp.
  4. General Dynamics Corp.
  5. Northrop Grumman Corp.

While most of these defense contractors fulfill strictly regulated government and military contracts, they are also able to operate for general and private defense contracting without the red tape of government oversight that comes with military supply chains.

Government Supply Chain

The government supply chain is a complex and highly regulated system that involves federal, state, and local government agencies. The government procures a wide range of goods and services, from office supplies to aerospace technology, to support its operations and fulfill its missions. 

Businesses that want to participate in government contracting need to understand the procurement process and unique regulations, as well as the needs and preferences of government decision-makers. 

For aerospace suppliers and contractors, the government supply chain offers significant opportunities for growth and expansion. The aerospace industry provides a range of products and services to support government agencies and military operations, including aircraft, satellites, space systems, and related technologies. 

Types of aerospace and aircraft companies in government supply chain programs may include: 

  • Aircraft manufacturers
  • Defense contractors
  • Aerospace technology companies
  • Spacecraft manufacturers 
  • Aircraft maintenance and repair
  • Navigation and communication technology companies
  • Aviation component manufacturers 

Aerospace companies must comply with strict regulations and quality standards to ensure the safety and effectiveness of their products and services. They’ll also face competition from established government contractors, suppliers, and emerging companies in the market. 

Military Supply Chain

The military supply chain is a subset of the government supply chain that focuses on providing the necessary goods and services to the military. This includes everything from military aircraft parts and ammunition to food and clothing. The military supply chain is complex and often involves multiple contractors and suppliers. 

Throughout the entire supply chain, aerospace suppliers and contractors play a critical role in providing the military with the technologies and equipment it needs to carry out its missions. These companies are responsible for designing, manufacturing, and maintaining a wide range of aircraft, satellites, and other technologies that are used by the military and government. They may also provide support services, such as training and maintenance, to ensure that these technologies are effective and reliable.

History and Modern Advancements in U.S. Defense Supply Chains

Pinpointing an exact timeline for defense supply chains would be equal to mapping the history of warfare. Although logistics have drastically changed even in the decades between the most recent wars, it is likely that the Battle of Megiddo in 1479 BC featured some crude form of defense supply chain to aid the Egyptian troops.

In American defense supply chains—much like in the history of supply chains—their start can be traced back to the first war the early colonists fought. Beginning with the inception of the United States, we can track American defense supply chains through our history at war, including key developments like:

  • American troops overcome British forces in the Revolutionary War, in part due to defense supply chains
  • WWI introduces more modern forms of defense supply chains and logistics
  • WWII advances defense supply chains through the forming of the Defense Logistics Agency
  • Modern defense supply chains contend with rapid technological advancements

The Revolutionary War and Defense Supply Chains

Historians credit America’s victory in the Revolutionary War to many factors: widespread support among citizens, resiliency of our soldiers, knowledge of the territory and battlefields. However, one factor may have contributed to our victory more than any other: the defense supply chain. 

With the U.S.’s ability to establish supply chains and support among colonies, the British operated at an immediate disadvantage. With a major restocking port for British troops off the coast of Ireland, our adversaries were hamstrung by long shipping routes, hazardous weather, and uncertain conditions of materiel upon arrival. For instance, after a major storm struck the coast of Ireland, British supply chains became hopelessly disrupted. Only 13 ships, preserved food, and 60% of livestock arrived in Boston, leaving the British soldiers in dire straits. 

U.S. armies also used the dangerous shipping routes to their advantage by further ambushing and disrupting British defense supply chains. In attempts to short supply chain lines and find friendlier accommodations, British troops fled to Halifax, Nova Scotia, abandoning much of their supplies in Boston. Although they found better treatment among the locals, the flailing army still suffered irreparable losses in their defense supply chains, proving the advantages of controlling and maintaining supply chains during wartime.

World War I Introduces Modernization of Defense Supply Chains

We can draw connections between early defense supply chains and the Egyptian soldiers along the Mediterranean, but modern defense supply chains as we know them are more often attributed to the British and American militaries circa World War I. 

A war fought on an unprecedented scale, the Allied troops needed to leverage every option to secure victory against the Central Powers. Their greatest advantage being their access to resources—thanks to the production capabilities of the U.S., Japan, Great Britain, and Russia—the Allied forces implemented a defense supply chain to move weapons, ammunition, and vehicles to the frontlines. 

Key developments impacting defense supply chains during WWI include:

  1. Light Railways: American and British troops established quick, effective light railways to expedite supply to frontlines, although these sometimes fell short due to their susceptibility to enemy fire and shelling.
  2. Trench Railways: Similar to light railways, trench railways enabled fast construction of supply chain transport, linking established roads and railways to soldiers and equipment engaged in trench warfare.
  3. Military Board of Allied Supply: The MBAS was established in 1918 to coordinate defense supply chains among Allied forces, facilitating shared equipment, ammunition, rations, and other materiel in the shared goal of Allied victory.
  4. Blockade of Enemy Supply Chains: Not only did the defense supply chain assist British, American, and French troops in securing victory, but the blockade of German supply chains by British ships placed a stranglehold on necessary support that many point to as a major deciding factor in the outcome of WWI.

The Defense Logistics Agency is Established During World War II

Supply chain management was as imperative in World War II as in WWI and the Revolutionary War. President Herbert Hoover understood the need for uniformity among military supply chains, and put forth a formal recommendation for all military branches to centralize logistics provisions. Under these new provisions, each branch was tasked with overseeing different subsets of the supply chain, such as:

  • U.S. Army: responsible for clothing, food, general supplies, and construction equipment
  • Navy: oversaw medical and industrial supplies, and petroleum
  • Air Force: handled all airlift and extraction services

To ensure uniformity, Hoover requested an organization form to handle logistics and assistance of defense supply chains. On Oct. 1, 1961, the Defense Logistics Agency was founded.

Today, the DLA assists in end-to-end global defense supply chain assistance, working with all branches of the military, along with federal and state agencies, combatant commands, and allied nations. Their services include:

  • Excess Property Disposal
  • Document Services
  • Product Testing
  • Industrial Plant Equipment
  • Major Subordinate Command Programs

Technological Advancements Impact Defense Supply Chains

Delays and shortages in supply chains have been prevalent following the pandemic, creating material deficits and price inflation. In defense supply chains, logistical missteps can have serious consequences, placing our national security at risk. It is crucial to national security and to the lives of our servicemen and citizens that all defense supply chains are operating efficiently. 

With the rise in AI and automation, many market forecasters are predicting supply chains will be streamlined through the emerging tech. An estimated 75% of supply chain management suppliers will employ some form of advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, and/or data science in their handling of the supply chain. The defense supply chain will likely be no different.

One of the industries predicted to be most impacted by AI is shipping and transportation. If AI can rapidly identify gaps in supply chains, report logistics needs to your company, and limit delays or unnecessary supply refills, it will become an invaluable tool in defense supply chain management.

Greenwood Aerospace is already implementing such technology in our supply chain management with our Part Procurement Intelligence (GPIQ) software. Read on to discover how we maximize your supply chain efficiency while keeping your flight program within budget.

What Greenwood Aerospace Offers for Your Defense Supply Chain Needs

At Greenwood Aerospace, we pride ourselves on the extensive supply network we have cultivated in our over four decades of experience with government procurement and aerospace supply. We offer our clients access to our expansive inventory of thousands of OEM, proprietary, and aftermarket parts housed in our 42,000 sq ft warehouse in Ponca City, Oklahoma. 

We have supplied and supported many of the largest defense contractors in the nation, along with the majority of U.S. military branches. We have worked alongside such agencies as:

Our defense supply chain services include:

  • ITAR certification
  • Client Anonymity
  • Incentivized Contracting
  • Advanced Parts Procurement Software

International Traffic in Arms Regulations Certification

Greenwood Aerospace is registered through the State Department under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) to access supply chains and fulfill complex defense contracts. We ensure your contract is in good hands, as we are compliant and in good standing with the State Department. To maintain this good standing, we only service contracts with clients also in good standing with the State Department, allowing for seamless supply chain management and unparalleled customer service. 

Client Anonymity 

At Greenwood Aerospace, we execute complex aircraft and parts procurement transactions to precisely fit any specific client needs. We recognize that buyers choose to remain anonymous for cost or contractual purposes, which is why we offer bidding, procurement, and fulfillment representatives to ensure transactions are completed in the best interests of our defense contractors.

Incentivized Contracting

As a proudly Native American-owned business, Greenwood Aerospace qualifies for the Indian Incentive Program (IIP).  In line with DFARS Clause 252.226-7001, the Indian Incentive Program offers a prime contractor a 5 percent reimbursement on the total amount subcontracted to a Native American owned Economic Enterprise or Native American Organization. The IIP operates as an economic multiplier for Native American communities by creating subcontracts. Incentives are available to DoD prime contractors who have subcontracts with DFARS clauses worth $500,000 or more. We extend this service to all qualified clients.

GPIQ Parts Procurement Intelligence

Greenwood Aerospace has  invested heavily in our parts procurement process with our Greenwood Part Procurement Intelligence (GPIQ). Our GPIQ software focuses on market intelligence and value enhancement linked to support special mission aircraft. We know that maintaining the aircraft in the air is essential to any government program's success. You get what you want, and we make it happen by adjusting GPIQ to fit your changing demands. 

GPIQ ensures that suppliers have undertaken stringent onboarding and qualification tests, providing important information about their prior performance. It simplifies and improves labor-intensive activities to make the supply chain process effective, quick, and almost error-free. 

Predictive analytics are used to forecast future demand to manage supplier risk, providing more accurate forecasts for a more efficient, cost-effective supply chain. The power of GPIQ is that it will act as a strategic partner to ensure that your procurement expenses are long-term managed and that you always get what you need at the best price.

A Greenwood Aerospace cardboard shipping container being lifted by an unseen employee

Contact Greenwood Aerospace Today to Partner with an Industry Leader

Ready to get to work managing all your defense supply chain and logistics requirements? Contact us now, or reach out to, and we will respond within one business day. 

Interested in a short-term contract, or have other parts procurement needs? Request a quote or email us at, and one of our experienced representatives will get back to you shortly.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Interested in learning more about supply chains? Check out these News stories next: 

  1. Staying Compliant: Understanding Government Regulations on Supply Chain Management
  2. How Military Supply Chains Impact Each Branch of Our Armed Forces
  3. What Does the U.S. Navy Supply Chain Have to Do With Aerospace?
  4. Understanding the Government Supply Chain for Aerospace & Aircraft Industries