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Developing a Concept for Joint Distribution

Department of Defense logistics experts are developing a concept of how joint logistics distribution will be conducted from 2015 to 2025.

In September 2004, a small team of logistics subject-matter experts representing the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), the Defense Logistics Agency, the joint community, and the military services assembled to begin writing a Joint Logistics (Distribution) Joint Integrating Concept (JIC). By design, this concept focuses on distribution, a subset of logistics.
The purpose of the Joint Logistics (Distribution) concept is to support rigorous analysis of gaps and excesses in distribution capabilities through a capabilities-based assessment process. This process will provide appropriate materiel and nonmateriel solutions as part of the broader Department of Defense (DOD) Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) process. The Joint Logistics (Distribution) concept also is intended to help drive joint and service experimentation and influence science and technology efforts.
A core team of about 50 representatives from throughout DOD, the joint community, and the services provided oversight and management guidance to the writing team for the Joint Logistics (Distribution) concept. A fundamental challenge for the members of the core and writing teams in developing the concept was to put aside service, agency, and organizational agendas so all members could contribute to building something that was almost unprecedented in its scope, complexity, and depth: a shared view of how joint distribution operations will be conducted in the period from 2015 to 2025. This is the first of several articles that will be published in Army Logistician to explain the framework in which the concept is being developed and the concept’s major themes, pathway for completion, and effects.

Capabilities-Based Planning and JCIDS

It will be difficult for the reader to understand the Joint Logistics (Distribution) concept without first appreciating the catalysts for its development. Those catalysts were twofold: First, a rapidly changing threat environment that re-quires new approaches to how the United States closes combat power on a theater of operations and establishes a distribution capability to support the force; second, a fundamental overhaul in the requirements generation process itself, in which future war-fighting capabilities are identified and ultimately resourced.
In 2003, DOD transitioned to what is termed a “capabilities-based planning” (CBP) process, in which a family of new (and still emerging) joint concepts are designed to link strategic guidance to the employment and development of future joint force capabilities. These concepts are sometimes referred to as “engines of transformation.” CBP differs from the traditional, or legacy, concept development approach in its emphasis. Where the focus formerly was on platforms and weapons needed to accomplish a specific mission to defeat a specific threat, CBP focuses instead on “portfolios of capabilities” that will hedge against future uncertainty, accentuate enduring U.S. strengths while mitigating weaknesses, and impose disproportionate costs on adversaries.
The primary tool through which CBP is executed is the JCIDS process, which was formally introduced in 2004. The intent of the JCIDS process is to improve and standardize a methodology to identify and describe capability gaps, provide a means of engaging the acquisition community earlier in the process of identifying gaps, better define nonmateriel solutions, prioritize capability gaps and proposals, and improve coordination throughout the services, the joint community, and DOD.
The JCIDS process is composed of a structured, four-step methodology collectively termed “capabilities-based analysis.” The four steps are functional area analysis, functional needs analysis, functional solutions analysis, and post-independent analysis. Based on national defense policy and centered on a common joint warfighting framework, these analyses are used to begin developing integrated, joint capabilities that reflect a common understanding of existing joint force operations and of doctrine, organizations, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities (DOTMLPF) capabilities and deficiencies. The ultimate product of these analyses is a series of requirements documents designed to achieve a required capability. These documents include the Initial Capabilities Document, Capability Development Document, Capability Production Document, and Capstone Requirements Document.

Joint Concepts

Joint concepts provide the primary operational and functional context for analysis that guides service and Defense agency planning, programming, budgeting, and execution decisions. They are organized in a hierarchy that includes the overarching Joint Operations Concepts (JOpsC), subordinate Joint Operating Concepts (JOCs), supporting Joint Functional Concepts (JFCs), and detailed JICs.
The JOpsC is the foundation for all joint concepts. It depicts the relationships among JOCs, JFCs and JICs. JOCs provide the operational context and essential capabilities from which JFCs are derived. JOCs describe operational “ends” (required “effects”); JFCs describe required functional “means” (required “capabilities”). JICs describe specific, fundamental tasks derived from a JOC, a set of JOCs, or JFC-derived capabilities. JICs may be operationally (“effects”) or functionally (“means”) focused.
The current portfolio of JOCs includes Homeland Security, Major Combat Operations, Stability Operations, and Strategic Deterrence. Supporting JFCs include Command and Control, Battlespace Awareness, Force Application, Protection, Focused Logistics, Net-Centric Operations, Force Management, and Training. As for JICs, two were developed before April 2004: Joint Forcible Entry Operations and Joint Undersea Superiority. In that month, the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed that five additional JICs be developed: Joint Command and Control (with the U.S. Joint Forces Command taking the lead), Global Strike (Air Force lead), Integrated Air and Missile Defense (Air Force lead), Joint Sea Basing (Navy lead), and Joint Logistics (Army and TRANSCOM co-lead).

Overview of the Joint Logistics (Distribution) JIC

This concept calls for a single joint deployment and distribution enterprise capable of providing prospective joint force commanders with the ability to deploy, reposition, sustain, reconstitute, and redeploy joint forces rapidly and effectively in support of major combat or other joint operations. This joint deployment and distribution enterprise must be capable of operating across the strategic, operational, and tactical continuum with a set of integrated, robust, and responsive physical, information, communications, and financial distribution networks.The Joint Logistics (Distribution) JIC directly supports the three overarching distribution imperatives cited in the Focused Logistics JFC—namely, the requirement to build the right capacity into the joint distribution pipeline, exercise sufficient control over that pipeline, and provide a high degree of assurance that forces, equipment, sustainment, and support will arrive where and when needed.
Future joint force commanders may rely on the supporting joint deployment and distribution enterprise to expand existing peacetime distribution networks quickly with a full range of standing, scalable, and expeditionary distribution capabilities. These capabilities will support the joint force commanders in performing their deployment, force assembly and repositioning, sustainment, and redeployment responsibilities.
The joint deployment and distribution enterprise—an integrated system consisting of assets, materiel, leaders, organizations, procedures, tools, training, and doctrine—will provide logistics solutions to the joint force commander to minimize the seams in the pipeline that characterize current strategic and theater distribution segments. It will be designed to erase current doctrinal and procedural distinctions among the functions of deployment, distribution, and sustainment. The joint deployment and distribution enterprise will complement, interact with, and augment—not replace or subsume—service-unique or theater-assigned distribution capabilities and responsibilities.
The central idea behind the Joint Logistics (Distribution) JIC can be summarized in the following hypothesis. If we can—

• Build a single, unified joint deployment and distribution enterprise capable of rapidly delivering and positioning joint forces and sustainment from any point of origin or supply source to any point of need designated by any joint force commander and then returning them;
• Augment any joint force commander with additional ready, scalable, and agile distribution capabilities; and
• Network the entire system in near real-time with common operational views and shared knowledge, intuitive decision-support and modeling tools, and total asset visibility; then the results will be—

• Enhanced delivery of forces and sustainment to the joint force commander, thereby enabling, not limiting, operational art and employment of forces;
• Rapid introduction and integration of additional theater distribution capabilities to seamlessly link the joint force with the entire distribution system; and
• Improved trust and confidence that the entire distribution system will “deliver.”

End-to-End Joint Distribution Operations

Fundamental to developing the Joint Logistics (Distribution) JIC was an appreciation by team members for the leadership intent of the JIC’s general officer sponsors, the TRANSCOM Commander and the Deputy Chief of Staff, G–4, Department of the Army. The terms of reference for developing the JIC identified the overarching intent as the description, within an operational visualization, or construct, of end-to-end joint distribution operations that ensure support of the operational access needed to seize the initiative in a major combat operation.
The focus of the JIC is identified as distribution to enable rapid joint deployment and distribution in support of the combatant commander’s military campaign. It is based largely on the overarching tenets of the Focused Logistics JFC. At the same time, it serves as an integrating mechanism for required logistics capabilities identified in the other six JICs. The centerpiece is capabilities, tasks, conditions, standards, and effects arrayed in an operational framework that focuses not only on the “what” (tasks and functions) but, more importantly, on the “how” (ways and means) of joint distribution.


Identification of key tasks associated with joint distribution operations is central to the JIC. For the purposes of a JIC, a task is defined as an action or activity—based on doctrine, standard procedures, mission analysis, or concepts—that may be assigned to an individual or organization. Eight tasks constitute joint distribution operations—

• Close the joint force.
• Receive, reposition, operationally maneuver, or assemble the joint force in theater.
• Sustain the joint force.
• Enable joint force reconstitution.
• Exercise and employ joint deployment and distribution enterprise command, control, communications, and computer (C4) systems.
• Establish, operate, and maintain joint distribution lift assets, terminals, organizations, and lines of communication.
• Protect the joint deployment and distribution enterprise.
• Conduct joint distribution enterprise force development.

Illustrative Concept of Operations

JICs are required to include an illustrative concept of operations (CONOPS) based on a DOD-approved Defense Planning Scenario. The CONOPS represents the overall picture and broad flow of tasks within a plan by which a commander maps capabilities to effects and effects to an end state for that scenario. It describes, against the framework of a major combat operation, how the concept is put into operation to support a joint force commander.
Key requirements for a CONOPS are that it focus on execution and assessment, identify critical tasks on a campaign timeline, and have a sufficient level of detail to provide for capabilities-based functional assessments.

The Road Ahead

Beginning with the Joint Logistics (Distribution) JIC, the Joint Staff now requires that a war game be conducted as a key step in the JIC developmental process. The war game will provide a means for evaluating a JIC’s central idea, tasks, conditions, standards, and effects in a major combat operations scenario. It will ensure that the concept contains the appropriate level of information, scope, clarity, and specificity to be of practical use in follow-on capabilities-based assessments. The war game may identify areas that require further work or generate specific changes that affect the concept’s major themes. The war game is ex-pected to show how well the draft concept succeeds in meeting the fundamental requirement of demonstrating how capabilities are integrated at the operational and tactical levels in support of a joint force commander’s campaign.
Representatives from DOD, the joint community, and the services will participate in the war game, with former joint task force commanders invited to serve in key mentor and assessor roles. When the war game is completed, the concept will be presented to general and flag officers for comment and review. Following this review, the concept will be forwarded to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council. If the council approves the concept, it then will enter into the capabilities-based analysis process.
The Joint Logistics (Distribution) JIC represents an important milestone in the transformation to network-centric warfighting capabilities. It will have significant implications for force development, acquisition, and investment decisions. More importantly, it will represent a significant step forward in migrating current logistics systems to joint processes and capabilities that are integrated with a joint force commander’s battle rhythm across the range of military operations.

Mark McTague is Deputy Director of the Marine Corps Joint Concept Development and Experimentation Office in Suffolk, Virginia. A retired Marine Corps colonel with 28 years of logistics experience, he holds graduate degrees in management from the Naval Postgraduate School and in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College.
Roger Houck is an employee of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and currently is assigned to the Army Logistics Transformation Agency as an intergovernmental personnel augmentee. He serves as the Team Lead for Joint Integration in the agency’s Future Logistics Division. He served in the Air Force for over 20 years with assignments in both the operations and intelligence fields. He attended Jochi Daigaku University in Japan and holds a B.S. degree from Texas Christian University and an M.S. degree from the University of Southern California. He is a graduate of the Air Command and Staff College and the Air War College.
Principal members of the Joint Logistics (Distribution) writing team included Gerald Jensen of the U.S. Transportation Command; Dennis McBride of the Marine Corps; Major Mike Fitzgerald, U.S. Air Force; Commander Ray Daugherty, U.S. Navy; and Ed Howell of the Army Combined Arms Support Command..