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Campaign Planning for Logistics Organizations

With significant operational changes occurring in both Iraq and Afghanistan over the next year, logistics organizations will face a number of challenges and changes. As a result, commanders and staff at every level must consider how to plan for both the short-term and long-term operations that they will support. The most effective way to plan is to develop a campaign plan that covers the duration of the operation. The Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), the Army War College, the School for Advanced Military Studies, and a number of senior Army leaders have been investigating a relatively new approach to military planning known as “design.”

The Army recently released Field Manual (FM) Interim 5–2, Design, for initial review. Based on reviewers’ comments, the contents will likely be integrated into existing FMs, most likely FM 5–0, Army Planning and Orders Production, or FM 6–0, Mission Command: Command and Control of Army Forces. This article presents an application of design based on the previously published TRADOC Pamphlet 525–5–500, The U.S. Army Commander’s Appreciation and Campaign Design (CACD), and specifically focuses on logistics organizations.

CACD includes three major steps, which eventually lead to a campaign plan. These steps are commander’s appreciation, campaign design, and campaign planning. Through these steps, the commander understands the environment in which he operates, identifies problems to be addressed, determines the most appropriate way to address those problems, and describes how the command will implement those actions.

Commander’s Appreciation

The commander’s appreciation is the ability of the commander to have not only situational awareness but also situational understanding. The commander must understand the relationships among actors in the operational environment, the significance of individual events, and the system’s likely reaction to military actions. The development of the commander’s appreciation includes problem framing and mission analysis.

Problem Framing

Each operational environment requires a detailed analysis of the areas identified by the commander and staff as being relevant to the situation. The items below are in a specific order, but analyzing each of these areas should be an ongoing process and the analyses must include the interaction among different components of the system. The result of this process will be an understanding of not only the situation as it exists today but also what makes the system function.

The higher and supported headquarters’ warning order, operation order, or planning guidance should define the initial boundaries of the problem. While this initial set is critical, it will only serve as the basis for framing the problem. The assigned area or units will likely change during the course of the campaign. The commander, through his own analysis and discussions with higher and peer commanders, must determine the true boundaries for the campaign—both the physical boundaries and the units that will be supported. The commander must also identify any additional areas beyond those boundaries that will affect his operations, similar to the area of interest in traditional planning. Beyond these areas, the following eight tasks create the commander’s appreciation:

  • Establish the strategic context.
  • Synthesize guidance.
  • Describe the operational environment.
  • Determine trends.
  • Identify gaps in knowledge and establish assumptions.
  • Identify the operational problem.
  • Determine the initial mission statement.
  • Obtain approval of the problem and mission statement.

Establish the strategic context. The commander must understand how the supported forces fit into the overall operation and how that operation will progress. This context will influence the resources available and how support will be provided.

Synthesize guidance. First, the logistics commander must work with all organizations that the command supports to determine what guidance they have received and how they will implement that guidance. Second, the commander must work with those organizations to determine how they desire to be supported. By understanding the end state of supported units, the logistics commander can derive information on the operations that will occur and the support they will require. Finally, the commander uses this information, which may include restrictions on operations or directed courses of action, as a basis for planning. The detailed analysis will occur later in the process, but the translation of guidance into a rudimentary concept of support is critical for framing the problem.

Describe the operational environment. Logistics organizations should focus on solid numbers and calculations more than the maneuver forces. The analysis must include adversaries, neutral parties, and friendly forces, organizations, and entities.

In describing the operational environment, logistics organizations should focus on the infrastructure and the factors that will influence its usability. Not only is the logistics network critical from a logistics perspective, it may have a significant impact on maneuver forces as well. The critical portions of the environment to analyze include five areas: infrastructure, civilian population, supported forces, enemy forces, and other logistics organizations. Each of these areas can and likely will have an impact on the others, and those impacts should be considered.

With the description of the operational environment complete, the commander must conduct his first analysis of the feasibility of supporting the maneuver commander’s plans. If significant challenges are associated with operating in the areas identified by the maneuver commander or with specific operations, the logistics commander must communicate those challenges so that the maneuver commander can adjust the plan as required to make the operation supportable.

Determine trends. For logistics organizations, the overall trends of the system must be determined and then translated into their effects on logistics operations. Some of this analysis is conducted during the previous stage when evaluating the supported units. The likely courses of action and enemy reactions are of primary concern. The sustainment planner must consider both the adversary and the local population. As operations develop, convoys will likely become targets for military forces and sympathetic irregular forces.

Identify gaps in knowledge and establish assumptions. Knowledge gaps are areas in which the commander needs additional information in order to make an informed decision. Once the gaps are identified, the commander may choose to make assumptions related to those areas to continue planning. Just as every reasonable effort must be made to fill information gaps, assumptions must be validated or disproved as quickly as possible to ensure that the plans being developed will interact with the system as desired. Invalid assumptions about the system may cause unintended results. While listed as a separate step, this should be an ongoing process and is only included to ensure that the commander and staff are aware when assumptions are made.

Identify the operational problem. After the first five steps, the commander should have a detailed understanding of the system and how his organization fits into the situation. The problem for logistics organizations will usually be “how do I support x while they conduct y?” But each type of operation has specific areas of importance. These areas should focus on features that vary from normal operations, including unusually high consumption, limited infrastructure, limited force structure, noncontiguous areas of operations, or particularly dangerous areas for logistics organizations.

Determine the initial mission statement. After determining the operational problem, the commander will develop an initial mission statement. The mission statement for logistics organizations will be somewhat static and resemble the following statement: “On order, logistics organization will conduct sustainment operations in support of x in order to facilitate z.” Most of this information will come from the forces the unit is tasked to support instead of from the higher logistics headquarters. The supported units’ missions and intents will directly influence how the sustainment organization executes operations.

Obtain approval of the problem and mission statement. The final step in framing the problem is obtaining approval of the problem and mission statement. Because of the multiple command, control, and support relationships, the commander must ensure that all of the leaders concerned agree. Perhaps the most important approval is from the supported units. In each of these discussions, the sustainment commander must not only get concurrence on his own problem and mission statement, but he must also gain an understanding of the other commander’s operational problems and likely solutions.

At the conclusion of problem framing, the commander will have identified the relevant areas of the system and determined their effect on his mission and operations. Through this process, he also will have established the basis for the campaign planning process. To translate this understanding into action, the commander must now consider how he will act within the operational environment in order to accomplish his mission.

Mission Analysis

As stated in TRADOC Pamphlet 525–5–500, “The ultimate goal of mission analysis is to define or identify where there is potential for meaningful and productive action that supports resolution of the problem and the realization of national strategic aims.” Although the mission analysis portion of the commander’s appreciation shares a name with step two of the military decisionmaking process (MDMP), the steps and outputs for the two are different. Much of the intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) process and the identification of the operational problem occurs during the development of the commander’s appreciation, while the development of the commander’s intent occurs during a later step.

An approved mission statement will allow for a more focused analysis of the portions of the network in which the organization will operate or influence. The problem statement will allow for clear boundaries for analysis and will provide better understanding of the types of operations that the supported forces will conduct.

The following tasks are the three critical steps to mission analysis associated with the commander’s appreciation:

  • Describe the systemic conditions that the command must realize to achieve the strategic aims.
  • Identify campaign objectives.
  • Identify the potential for campaign action.

Through these three steps, the commander and staff will build the foundation for planning the campaign and the included operations.

Describe the systemic conditions. While maneuver commanders focus on building a series of conditions that ultimately lead to a final set of conditions linked to the overall objectives, logistics commanders must focus on conditions to support current and future operations. In describing the conditions that the commander must realize, a series of intermediate conditions linked to the maneuver commander’s critical events will be needed over time. Each of these conditions will likely be described with respect to location of assets and capabilities at specified times.

By combining the conditions required to support the maneuver force and the mission requirements, both internal and external, the commander develops a clear understanding of the conditions required for successful execution of operations. From this information, the commander can establish broader objectives for the campaign.

Identify campaign objectives. The overall campaign objectives for all logistics organizations should be to enable the supported commander’s operations by allowing supported troops to effectively accomplish their objectives. The logistics commander must identify lasting capabilities or conditions that will remain in place during and after the maneuver campaign. Capabilities that the commander may want to develop and sustain may include rapid mobile support, humanitarian assistance, coalition support, or other specific capabilities that are needed based on the operational environment.

Identify potential for campaign action. For logistics organizations, the potential for campaign action refers to the ability of the supported units to conduct operations as they see necessary. After following the first two steps for mission analysis, the logistics commander will have an understanding of the supported commanders’ intents and his own ability to support those operations. The ability to support operations will likely affect the supported commanders’ choices of which courses of action to follow and in what sequence.

Campaign Design

After developing the commander’s appreciation of the operational environment and problem, the next step is to design the campaign. As the process transitions to campaign design, a detailed understanding of the system developed to this point serves as a basis for developing a plan to support the maneuver units. The three major steps of campaign design are to describe

  • The commander’s intent for the campaign.
  • The campaign approach.
  • The requirements for reframing.

While all of the steps in campaign planning are sequential, they are also iterative. At any time, the commander and staff may need to revisit previously accomplished tasks based on a new understanding of the problem or a changing situation. Because the lines between each of the major steps of planning are not definite, the commander will often begin working on the next step before completing a previous step.

Commander’s Intent for the Campaign

As with traditional planning, the commander’s intent serves as a key building block for all planning. As a result, developing the intent is the first step in designing the campaign plan. In describing his intent, the commander must succinctly express his understanding of the problem and provide guidance for subordinates. A recommended method for determining the logistics commander’s intent is to identify the problem, purpose, key objectives, priorities, risks, and end state.

Problem. State the problem as the commander envisions it. The description should link to the operations that the maneuver forces will conduct and how those operations drive the logistics approach. This is simply a concise statement of the problem developed during the commander’s appreciation process.

Purpose. The purpose should focus on supporting the operations of the maneuver force and should include the maneuver commander’s purpose to provide context for the problem. Including this information will prevent subordinate units from conducting logistics operations for the sake of logistics.

Key objectives. For logistics operations, each objective will likely have a time and duration or event associated with it. The conditions developed during commander’s appreciation are restated in general terms in order to ensure that subordinate commanders understand what the conditions are and their importance. In determining the key objectives, the commander should consider enduring capabilities required, support to the maneuver commander’s operations, and decision points in the supported commander’s campaign plan.

Priorities. Logistics organizations have a number of ongoing priorities, including support to maneuver forces and force protection. The commander should also include any specific units or operations that will be high priority during different events. The commander can also include the capabilities that he deems critical to the success of the organization or that need to be developed.

Risks. Just like the maneuver commander, the logistics commander must articulate the acceptable risk in terms of threat to the force, areas where support may be minimal, and other areas where he is willing to assume risk. After identifying the risks, the commander must also address mitigation of those risks.

End state. The end state will focus on the ongoing capabilities and actions of the logistics unit and how it will support the maneuver forces in their operations. The statement should conclude with the supported commander’s end state to provide context for the logistics campaign.

Campaign Approach

The first step in the campaign approach is to describe the initial conditions. This description, and the description of all future conditions, should include the supported forces, available logistics forces, available supplies, and the infrastructure used during operations. The description of the supported forces should include the task organization, type of operation, and support requirements. Depending on the operations being conducted, each supported organization may require a separate description. Multiple units may be combined if they are conducting similar operations.

Next, the commander and staff should describe each major phase, operation, or event as designated by the supported maneuver commanders. The supported units’ campaign plans (or initial concept in the absence of an existing campaign plan) should provide a general timeline of their major operations and phases.

In discussions with the supported commanders, the sustainment commander should assess the probability that the operation will occur, the ability to support the operation, and the impact on follow-on operations. Obviously, if an operation has a high likelihood of execution, it must be considered in the planning. If the likelihood is less, the commander should ensure that the support plan during that phase is flexible enough to support the operation but should not build the support plan to specifically support the operation. Finally, if the operation is not likely, the commander should ensure that the failure to plan for it would not lead to catastrophic failure. In every case, the support concept must be sufficiently flexible to adjust to any likely change in the maneuver plan.

When determining what conditions must be established at the beginning of each block of time, the commander must also consider how far in advance he can begin establishing those conditions. Typically, to develop a capability, another area will suffer diminished capability. The commander should determine when he can begin decreasing support in one area to build capability in another area without adversely affecting the mission.

From this design, the staff and subordinate commanders will be able to understand the major operations that will occur, how operations will be supported, and how logistics fits into the broader effort.

Reframing the Problem

Because of the changing nature of military operations, sometimes the existing campaign plan will no longer be valid or will require significant adjustment. In those cases, the commander and staff must reframe the problem to develop a new plan that more accurately describes the operational environment. During the initial campaign design, the commander must designate criteria for when to review or reframe the problem.

The commander should develop commander’s critical information requirements (CCIRs), which will help indicate when reframing the problem is required. Joint Publication 1–02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, defines a CCIR as “an information requirement identified by the commander as being critical to facilitating timely decision-making. The two key elements are friendly force information requirements and priority intelligence requirements.” The key difference between a traditional CCIR and a CCIR related to a campaign plan is the result. A traditional CCIR drives a decision, while a campaign plan CCIR triggers reframing of the commander’s understanding of the environment.

With the commander’s intent and campaign approach, both the staff and subordinate commanders should be able to begin the planning process for the campaign.

Campaign Planning

With the completion of the campaign design, the commander and staff can develop the campaign plan, which will later be the basis of operational planning and execution. The following discussion generally parallels the MDMP in developing the campaign plan. However, it does not necessarily include all of the individual inputs and outputs described in FM 5–0. Campaign planning includes optimization and communicating the plan.


Optimization has been defined as “the urge for efficiency and can be both qualitative and quantitative.”1 In logistics planning, the optimum solution will meet all of the needs of the supported commander while minimizing costs and without accepting unreasonable risk. While the traditional definition of the optimum solution for military planners has been the ideal solution for a situation, a new perspective is needed. In current and future operations, the optimum solution is the one that is flexible enough to adapt to a changing situation while providing the necessary support rather than the perfect plan.

Because the focus of campaign planning is on supporting the entire campaign, the decision of whether to change the concept of support for each phase or to develop a single concept of support that will support operations throughout the campaign is important. Of course, it is a generalization to say that there are only two options, but the concept is critical in determining how the support campaign plan will develop.

Developing the campaign plan requires a series of steps. First, the commander and staff should develop the best solution for each phase. The commander should then analyze the costs associated with changing the concepts for each phase. The costs may include decreased effectiveness during the transition, time and resources required to move support units, and confusion on the part of the supported organization as to how they receive support.

The commander should then compare the costs of changing concepts for each phase to the decrease in effectiveness associated with retaining the same concept of support across multiple phases. Through this explicit comparison, the commander can determine if it is more effective to have multiple concepts or to retain the same concept. Obviously, some components of the support concept may remain stable while others change, but it is only through this analysis that the commander can determine the optimum solution for providing support.

The areas for optimization include task organization; location; command, control, and support relationships; training; and equipment. This process is similar to a combination of steps three through five of the MDMP (course of action development, course of action analysis, and course of action comparison). One key point to remember is that the optimum solution includes not only the currently understood operations but also includes a degree of flexibility in the event that the current understanding of the maneuver campaign changes.

Task organization. The first area requiring optimization is the task organization of the sustainment unit. First, the commander must determine what forces are required to meet the supported commander’s needs. While the natural tendency is to request units specifically designed to provide a particular type of support, some organizations may be used for other purposes when their primary mission is not required. Beyond the number and types of units, the commander must determine how to task organize the assigned elements to maintain maximum flexibility and efficiency.

Location. The commander must determine the best physical location for the subordinate battalions and his own headquarters. In determining the physical location, the commander should consider the requirement to maintain continuous, flexible, and efficient support. A road network or tactical situation has the ability to significantly impede the ability of subordinates to support the maneuver force.

Command, control, and support relationships. The commander and staff must carefully consider the relationships among logistics organizations, higher commands, and supported forces. The new logistics command and control relationships may result in a single logistics organization supporting organizations without a common higher headquarters (such as brigade combat teams assigned to different divisions).

The commander must determine how those relationships will evolve over time. In the case where a relationship will change, the commander should look at how the transition will occur and what systems should be in place to effect the change. The transitions should include when the change will occur and whether that change is event or time driven. Preplanning the transfer of control will allow for the most efficient transition and clearly identify any gaps in support that may occur during the transition.

Training. A gap may exist between capabilities and requirements. Given a resource-constrained environment, the command must determine the most effective way to close the gap. One possibility is to retrain and reassign the missions of parts of the organization. The timing of that training is significant. Given sufficient time before the beginning of operations, the commander should initiate the required training before deployment. If that is not possible, the commander should review the campaign and determine opportunities for training. During this process, the commander should consider the level of proficiency required, the difficulty of training the task, and the impact of losing the normal capability.

Equipment. The commander should determine the shortfalls in equipment needed to accomplish the assigned missions. Similar to the process for training new capabilities, the commander should identify when new or different equipment is required. Once identified, under-utilized equipment during the same phase should be reallocated to fill the gaps. If equipment is not available, other logistics organizations will likely have to accomplish the mission.

The result of the optimization process is a support concept for the duration of the campaign. The concept cannot be considered approved until the supporting commander has presented the concept to both the supported commanders and the higher logistics commander. These discussions are primarily for information purposes, but another commander may identify a shortfall in the support provided and the campaign plan would then require modification.

Communicating the Plan

Upon completion of the planning process, the commander must be able to effectively communicate the plan to higher, subordinate, and supported commanders. This format can be adapted to be more specific or more general based on the clarity of the situation as well as the preferences of the commander.

Campaign intent. The campaign intent will be taken from the campaign design process. It summarizes the problem, purpose, key objectives, priorities, risk, and end state.

Campaign approach. The commander should describe each phase and the general requirements for support as developed during the campaign design. This description should show how the phases relate and how the support plan nests with the supported commanders’ campaign.

Phase description. For each phase, the commander should describe how the operations of the supported commanders will be supported. The critical elements that need to be described are the internal organization and capabilities, support requirements, and preparations for follow-on

The phase description should begin with task organizing the sustainment brigade and its subordinate elements. The task organization should reflect location, command, control, and support relationships. The specific requirements for each subordinate organization should be explained in sufficient detail for the commanders to conduct operations planning. The plans for each phase should also describe the critical capabilities required at the beginning of the phase, major missions, capabilities required at the beginning of the next phase, and the criteria for transitioning to the next phase, from both the supported unit and logistics unit’s perspectives.

The commander of the logistics organization should share the final campaign plan with the same group of commanders that he included in commander’s appreciation discussions. By presenting the completed campaign plan to those commanders, he is able to validate his understanding of the situation and gain support from the other commanders.

Through the campaign planning process, the commander and staff will translate the campaign design previously developed into a campaign plan that is understood by both the subordinate organizations and the supported organizations. This plan will also serve as the basis for operational planning during each phase of the campaign. As each phase or operation approaches, the commander, with staff assistance, will review his understanding of the operational environment, assess past and ongoing operations to determine their effectiveness, and review the campaign plan to ensure that it is still applicable to the current situation. From there, he will direct more detailed planning for upcoming operations in the form of the joint operational planning process or MDMP.

Because of the changes in logistics command and control and the increasing complexity of the contemporary operational environment, logistics organizations must develop new techniques for planning support throughout the maneuver campaign. Using CACD, the commander is able to effectively understand the environment in which he will operate and eventually develop a plan to support the maneuver commanders and their operations.

The end result of a logistics organization’s effective campaign planning is the optimal solution for supporting maneuver forces and a basis for planning individual operations that are part of the campaign. The understanding developed during the campaign planning, along with additional information gathered during execution of the campaign, allows the commander and staff to quickly translate the broad outline of support included in the campaign plan into executable plans.

Just as the methodology described above is not rigid, the campaign developed as a result of applying it also should not be rigid. Through the metrics developed during the campaign planning process, the commander and staff will be able to identify when the plan is no longer effective. At that point, the commander must make the decision to either adjust the plan based on the current understanding or restart the program and reframe. Just as staff estimates are a living document, which are continually updated, the campaign plan is a living document that will be reviewed frequently and updated as required.

Regardless of the operational environment, logistics organizations should conduct campaign planning to ensure that they are providing the optimum support to the assigned force. Without this process, the tendency will be to adjust the concept of support to meet short-term challenges without looking at long-term requirements and impacts.

Major Kevin M. Baird is currently deployed to Iraq as a planner with the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command headquarters. He graduated from Vanderbilt University and has a master’s degree from the University of Missouri-Rolla. He is a graduate of the Armor Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, the Army Command and General Staff College, and the School of Advanced Military Studies.

1. Kenneth King Humphreys, Jelen’s Cost and Optimization Engineering, 3d ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, 1991, p. 252.

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