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The Sustainment Warfighting Function

This article discusses the application of the sustainment warfighting function, questions its future, and seeks to further the institutionalization of warfighting function doctrine.

The sustainment warfighting function has undoubtedly been established. Field Manual (FM) 4–0, Sustainment, was published in April 2009, and the Army is refining division-level modified tables of organization and equipment (MTOEs) to reflect approved changes pertaining to all six warfighting functions. In many respects, the Army is heading down the path of institutionalizing the warfighting functions.

What you do not learn from either FMs or MTOEs is how the Army is institutionalizing the warfighting functions. Doctrine describes the methodology; however, at the execution level, the associated benefits as well as the friction points of applying the warfighting function doctrine are more evident. Further application of war-fighting function doctrine will undoubtedly be the basis for further debate and reconciliation of that doctrine.

The intent of this article is to leave readers with some considerations for developing their own division staffs based on lessons learned and the friction points my unit, the 34th Infantry Division, experienced while deploying to Iraq to replace the 10th Mountain Division.

Implementing the Warfighting Functions

The introduction to FM 3–0, Operations, states—

FM 3–0 shapes all of Army doctrine, while influencing the Army's organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, and Soldier concerns. But its contents are not truly capstone doctrine until Army forces internalize it. This requires education and individual study by all Army leaders. And it requires more: Army leaders must examine and debate the doctrine, measuring it against their experience and strategic, operational, and tactical realities. They must also recognize that while FM 3–0 can inform them of how to think about operations, it cannot provide a recipe for what to do on the battlefield.

This quote is important for a number of reasons. First, following the warfighting functions is not an institutional technique for many staffs. Consequently, the approach the Army has taken through initiatives at various levels, including from within staffs with respect to MTOEs, has not fully been implemented. However, the Army continues to show progress toward institutionalizing sustainment as a warfighting function.

When you examine the Iraqi theater of operations through the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, you can see that Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC–I) still operated using C–1, C–4, and C–8 as separate operating staffs, whereas Multi-National Forces-Iraq already operated under the CJ–1, CJ–4, and CJ–8 convention.

In the later phases of our deployment in theater, the corps started to bring together the sustainment functions within their synchronization boards; the deputy commanding general for support at the corps began to bring the C–1, C–4, C–7, and C–8 as well as the surgeon into these boards. This reflected how the staff sections are fundamentally linked for certain operations.

What Is the Sustainment Warfighting Function?

A warfighting function is a group of tasks and systems (people, organizations, information, and processes) united by a common purpose that commanders use to accomplish missions and training objectives. The common purpose of all units within the sustainment warfighting function is sustainment, just as the common purpose for the protection warfighting function units is protection.

Both FM 3–0 and FM 4–0 provide the same definition: “The sustainment warfighting function is related tasks and systems that provide support and services to ensure freedom of action, extend operational reach, and prolong endurance.”

Moreover, the sustainment warfighting function is further described as comprising three major subfunctions: logistics, personnel services, and health service support. Sustainment is the provision of the logistics, personnel services, and health service support necessary to maintain operations until the mission is accomplished.

FM 4–0 lists the functional elements of sustainment as supply, field services, transportation, maintenance, general engineering, human resources, financial management, legal support, religious support, and health service support. Per doctrine, resettlement, internment, and detainee operations also fall under the sustainment warfighting function and include elements of all three major subfunctions.

I will use the previously quoted excerpt from FM 3–0 as the framework for the following discussion. FM 3–0 was published in February 2008, and warfighting functions became doctrine at that time. FM 3–0 gives an idea of how to approach the application of the warfighting functions. It assists in providing general guidance on how to organize around a warfighting function and some direction on leadership and train-ing to synchronize the staff within operations in a warfighting function environment.

Organizing Under the Warfighting Function

When I was initially assigned to the 34th Infantry Division as the assistant chief of staff, G–4, a debate was ongoing within the division about whether the draft MTOE would allow for a separate sustainment warfighting function chief duty position (a colonel) or if the division should make the position a dual-hatted role, whereby the G–4 would be the senior logistician and sustainment chief.

The debate resulted partially because only one O–6 billet was available on the division MTOE and the G–4 was in competition at the Army level with the staff judge advocate for the slot. Needless to say, the staff judge advocate provided the better brief. Ultimately, the decision was made to make the G–4 and sustainment chief a dual-hatted position in the Modular Division 9.1 design.

When preparing for my Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment, I knew I was going to be the assistant chief of staff, G–4 (a position that I could say I was relatively familiar with). However, as I corresponded more with the lieutenant colonel I was replacing, I noticed his signature block read “Sustainment Chief/G–4,” with the “sustainment chief” preceding “G–4” in importance. I assumed the position and was subsequently brought somewhat up to speed through a briefing on the future MTOE and the related debate on which staff section would get the vaunted O–6 slot.

Our division commander and chief of staff wanted to explore organizing the division for combat under the guidelines of FM 3–0. So the MTOE debate was put on hold, and our division used the proposed future MTOE to organize for combat based on the six warfighting functions established in FM 3–0.

Early in the process of organizing for combat, questions continued to surface about our approach and how literally the description provided in FM 3–0 should be taken. Among them were questions about applying the warfighting functions to many topics, especially to staff sections related to sustainment, associated terms of reference documents, rating chains, and relationships with special staff.

I began searching for material that could further the education and individual study required by Army leaders. I was not concerned at first. After all, in my 28 years in the Army, I had experienced a number of Army transformations. I was at Fort Lewis, Washington, in 1983 when, at least I will claim, the first forward support battalion (FSB) became a reality. It was the 2d FSB, which later became known as the 709th FSB. I later lived through the transformation to the Army of Excellence while serving as the S–2/S–3 for a main support battalion.

I had also served as a division support command (DISCOM) commander, and I felt that particular organizational experience would serve me well on the division staff and would help me apply the sustainment warfighting function. After all, much of the work we did on the DISCOM staff, in my opinion, was a precursor to operations within the sustainment warfighting function.

The planning work, the exercises, and the training we accomplished in the DISCOM were generally conducted as a fused staff. This included the division medical operations center, which was organic to the DISCOM but worked directly with the division surgeon. The DISCOM staff and materiel management center staff worked directly with the G–1 and G–4 during planning, and we even colocated when we operated in a field environment. So, I felt I already had some experience.

However, in the mature Iraqi theater, which was quickly transitioning away from full-spectrum operations, applying the sustainment warfighting function at the division level seemed more problematic. Much of the integration and synergy that I believe would have been experienced through a warfighting function approach would have occurred during the earlier parts of the war. So, without organizational experience specific to the sustainment warfighting function, I looked for examples that would best provide a proof of principle for exercising the warfighting function concept.

Practicing the Warfighting Function

As FM 3–0 says, “Army leaders must examine and debate the doctrine, measuring it against their experience and strategic, operational, and tactical realities.” Consequently, our application of the sustainment warfighting function was a work in progress, really starting with the mission rehearsal exercise (MRX) at Fort Lewis.

But looking back, I remember friction points already beginning to materialize while at home station. With guidance from the chief of staff, our terms of reference, and my assessment of how the doctrine should be applied, along with guidance from the observer-trainers from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, we sought to determine the best approach to applying the sustainment warfighting function. First and foremost, I did not want to create another level of administrative management, and we were not manned to sustain that organizational structure anyway.

The focal points for a good portion of the MRX were staff communication and planning, which were important to ensuring staff coordination. But we also practiced providing situational awareness and a common operational picture (COP) to the commanding general and to the sustainment chief, who serves as the primary logistics operator to the commander.

“Cooperate and graduate” was my mantra for much of the MRX, but the experience did allow us to examine and debate the doctrine and measure it against the experiences of subject-matter experts. This examination was important because, as FM 3–0 says, “while FM 3–0 can inform them of how to think about operations, it cannot provide a recipe for what to do on the battlefield.”

One of the first areas where we could see a gap was in providing the situational awareness and COP for sustainment. We created a sustainment update brief to provide the situational awareness and COP necessary for the exercise and hoped that it would provide the framework for the event and the deployment.

Although the sustainment update brief worked well during the MRX, it was somewhat unrealistic for application during the deployment. This was particularly evident while we experienced the battle rhythm and the boards, bureaus, centers, cells, and working groups (B2C2WG) of the 10th Mountain Division during the left-seat/right-seat ride of the relief-in-place process. The sustainment update brief was extremely energy and time intensive. Although we conducted a number of update briefs that were fruitful during the training event, the brief was not manageable once in country.

B2C2WG are meetings that are scheduled periodically or as required to solve problems and coordinate actions. These groups include representatives from within or outside a warfighting function and from other commands in some cases. Each meeting's composition depends on the issue or mission at hand. The meeting is a control measure for regulating a specific action, process, or function.

The battle rhythm of the 10th Mountain Division did not include the sustainment warfighting function. A time block was built in for a staff internal meeting in which the primary staff would synchronize with their staffs. It was similar to a shift-change brief. A block of time was also built in for staff coordinating meetings, such as in-progress reviews or operational planning teams, but invariably the battle rhythm was meant for staff coordination among the primary staff. So, as the battle rhythm matured and available time was at a premium, the ability to include in it another level of synchronization became more difficult.

Eventually, we settled on conducting a sustainment synchronization meeting once a week during the staff coordinating meeting timeslot. We had the option to do it a second time during the week as planning requirements dictated.

The warfighting function in some cases needed to be recognized on all of the battle rhythms of the brigade combat teams (BCTs), divisions, and corps. Keep in mind that battle rhythms may be established in the same way we used to run wire in the division (lower to higher)—once the corps has established its battle rhythm, the divisions can establish theirs, and so on down to the BCTs. It will never be perfect or complete, but there are ways to leverage the intent of the battle rhythm as best as possible.

Integrating Under the Warfighting Function

Application of the sustainment warfighting function would have been most appropriate for planning in an environment of mass casualties and synchronization of reconstitution operations; however, it was the current operating environment that we needed to sustain.

It became clear that although the MTOE reflected aspects of doctrine, neither the MTOE nor doctrine provided the recipe for what to do on the battlefield. It also became clearer through ancillary discussions with the outgoing staffs of the 10th Mountain Division as well as through 10 months of practical application in Iraq.

I believe there is a common theme here: providing the synergy needed for internalizing the sustainment warfighting function. I believe this theme would also hold true for at least the protection warfighting function, which is similar to the sustainment warfighting function in application.

The 10th Mountain Division G–4 commented that “we worked much closer with the division engineer on basing than we did with the division surgeon on any matter.” Given the phase of the war we were in, it seemed like a fairly accurate statement. That comment has stuck with me as I have personally debated the doctrine while awaiting more substantiating evidence that the doctrine is correct. I think a lot of this view had to do with the timing of the campaign; however, I also believe that it was because the doctrine had not been internalized, nor was it completely threaded throughout the sustainment community.

Looking back many times at that comment and examining related staff tasks helped define the premise. The test might also be from looking at the similar consternation felt over the protection warfighting function. FM 3–0 describes the protection warfighting function as including force health protection. It says:

Force health protection includes all measures to promote, improve, or conserve the mental and physical well-being of Soldiers. These measures enable a healthy and fit force, prevent injury and illness, and protect the force from health hazards.

These measures include aspects of many Army Medical Department functions, including preventive medicine, veterinary services, combat and operational stress control, dental services, and laboratory services.

The protection warfighting function does not have these skill sets organic to its MTOE sections. So, commanders use what FM 3–0 describes as integrating processes and continuing activities to synchronize operations during all operations process activities. The functional cells and integrating cells are not single staff sections. In a sense, they are combined arms staff components. Using sustainment as an example, the G–1, G–4, and surgeon section personnel often become elements of the plans and effects cells. The integrating processes and continuing activities last throughout the operations process, and invariably some processes may be considered enduring processes.

The battle rhythm is a key control measure for managing integration. Coupling the battle rhythm with the B2C2WG process in today's operational environment seems to be the best solution for integrating and synchronizing tasks and processes toward completing the mission.

Early on, there were discussions about the battle rhythm and synchronization of the B2C2WG. The 34th Infantry Division fundamentally adopted the base structure of the 10th Mountain Division's or Multi- National Division South's (MND–S's) battle rhythm, as directed by the division commander. This was primarily to provide continuity among the subordinate BCT battle rhythms rather than trying to have a number of organizations resynchronize their battle rhythms; and it also was aimed at vetting the division's battle rhythm against the corps' battle rhythm.

The battle rhythm subsequently adopted for MND–S included, for example, the basing working group, which met every Tuesday. The working group alternated between being a sustainment-centric basing working group and an engineer-centric basing working group. The interesting part was that components of both the sustainment and protection warfighting functions attended both working groups. Soldiers were assigned to the working group based on the related tasks and
organizational experience needed to accomplish the basing mission.

Spartan Field Kitchen
This chart represents how the warfighting functions may work best. The functional cells and integrating cells are not single staff sections; instead, they are combined arms staff components.

 

The Transition Line of Effort

Another example of how related tasks and processes can be channeled through the warfighting function methodology is the working group that was assigned to synchronize the activities of MND–S's transition line of effort (LOE). Considering that a warfighting function is a group of tasks and systems united by a common purpose that commanders use to accomplish missions, this LOE seemed like a perfect fit. The MND–S's transition LOE is part of the division campaign plan, nested within MNC–I's campaign plan to reposture forces and equipment as the Army finalizes its actions in Iraq.

Two objectives needed to be achieved to make the transition LOE successful: reposture forces, equipment, and basing and maintain the discipline and readiness of the force. These two objectives were determined to have key tasks that were associated with a number of different personnel from special staff and warfighting functions. These personnel included the G–1, G–3, G–4, G–5, division engineer, provost marshal, division surgeon, inspector general, staff judge advocate, division sexual assault response coordinator, chaplain, and division safety, knowledge management, and equal opportunity staff.

All of these staff sections had to accomplish their key tasks in support of the two objectives under the transition LOE and, correspondingly, assess and evaluate MND–S's status and progress based on associated metrics and measurements. As the sustainment chief, I was assigned as the lead for the transition LOE within MND–S.

The B2C2WG framework became the definitive methodology for bringing all of the staffs together within the transition LOE working group. The working group was approved by the chief of staff, who then gave me the authority to direct the assessments within the framework of the B2C2WG. A fragmentary order to MND–S's campaign plan delineated the objective and keys tasks, and each staff section refined its metrics and assessment for the commanding general.

Accomplishing the objectives and key tasks assigned required a group of tasks and systems united by a common purpose to accomplish the mission at hand and further supported the relevance of the warfighting function and the B2C2WG concepts. In this case, the transition LOE was the lead integrating means for the strategic reposturing of MND–S equipment and personnel. In the current operating environment, the warfighting functions have integrated related tasks and systems for each particular mission, be it basing, civil-military operations, or the larger umbrella functions of sustainment or any of the other five warfighting functions.

The Sustainment Warfighting Function's Relevance

FM 4–0 gives the following description of sustainment:

The functional elements of sustainment include supply, field services, transportation, maintenance, general engineering, human resources, financial management, legal, religious support, and Army health service support. These elements and their many subfunctions comprise the sustainment warfighting function. When optimized, sustainment operations ensure strategic and operational reach and endurance for Army forces in any operational environment.

Given that description, the sustainment function encompasses a broad spectrum of services and consequently could be the lead of a number of lines of operation. That premise may be more related to humanitarian relief operations than to full-spectrum operations, but it is relevant in either case.

The sustainment warfighting function is truly relevant when put into the proper perspective and applied as the concept for integrating the functional elements of sustainment. All required people, information, and processes can be used effectively without deliberately cross-leveling staff to other warfighting functions to accomplish the mission. This can be best accomplished by using the warfighting function doctrine, coupled with B2C2WG, as the most proficient method for managing integration. Correspondingly, the battle rhythm is the most effective control measure for managing the integration.

A few points are relevant and helpful in deciding how to execute the concept of the sustainment warfighting function. It is best to avoid creating an overall approach that cannot be supported without additional manning. This means being careful about how much administrative overhead the sustainment headquarters element can handle, including email traffic, consolidation of reporting requirements, and other administrative and management tasks.

In today's modular Army, the staff elements and commands with which the sustainment chief/G–4 must interact and coordinate are all one rank his senior. The corps C–4 is a colonel and the sustainment command support operations officer is a colonel, for example. There is a significant difference in influencing the commander's objectives when an O–6 is conversing with a peer O–6. The Army needs to provide a billet to support the sustainment chief/G–4 commensurate with the level required by a division staff.

The sustainment warfighting function can be truly relevant if executed as a methodology. My purpose in writing this article is to assist in developing the future of the sustainment warfighting function. With that in mind, my intent is also to further the internalization of the sustainment warfighting function doctrine. This is already being accomplished in many other ways as the Army formalizes its doctrine and organizational constructs. But my intent is to help provide the recipe for what to do on the battlefield.

Toward that end, we need to recognize how staff sections are fundamentally linked in order to examine and debate the doctrine against recent experience and tactical realities. Warfighting function doctrine, internalized and executed in a measured approach using B2C2WG methodology and coupled with the battle rhythm, is key to managing and controlling the integration of the various staff elements. This doctrinal examination and debate may assist in minimizing friction points in execution and also further support the benefits of the sustainment warfighting function.

Colonel Charles L. Parins, MNARNG, is a J–4 logistics officer for the Minnesota Army National Guard's Joint Force Headquarters at Camp Ripley, Minnesota. He holds a B.S. degree in marketing from the University of Minnesota and an M.B.A. degree from TUI University. He is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, Logistics Management Development Course, Senior Officer Logistics Management Course, Combat Service Support Commander's Course, Army Command and General Staff College, and Army War College Defense Strategy Course.



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