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Synchronizing Field and Sustainment Support: Roles and Responsibilities After 10 Years of War

In February, most of the Army’s Active component sustainment brigade commanders met under the mentorship of former sustainment brigade commanders and logistics general officers to discuss field-level sustainment functions and capabilities, leverage lessons learned from the previous 8 years of sustainment brigade operations, and make recommendations for the future to the greater sustainment community.

This opportunity to review and refine sustainment doctrine was a collaborative effort of leaders with extensive experience in both the generating and operating forces. The introspection brought to light a number of challenges on the path ahead but, most importantly, set the conditions for an indepth discussion of structures, roles, responsibilities, authorities, funding, materiel management, and
support operations.

The general consensus of those attending the conference was that sustainment brigades were developed in theory, put into action, and proved to be highly successful operating within the initial doctrinal limits. The Army’s task now is to capitalize on the lessons learned during the past
10 years and fully assess sustainment brigade doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities (DOTMLPF) in order to truly support future unified land operations.

Simplifying field-level sustainment through a single organizational construct that collects requirements and either satisfies them or coordinates for the needed resources and solutions across the sustainment spectrum is the next progressive step in our evolution. Leveraging sustainment
brigade and Army field support brigade (AFSB) relationships to meet supported commanders’ requirements must be documented and developed as doctrine. Further, the roles, responsibilities, processes, and functions must be realigned to ensure that sustainment optimization occurs.

Transformation Challenges
The Army’s sustainment community transformed very quickly in response to a rapidly changing operational environment. The Army of Excellence (AOE) sustainment community had to transform from a structure of corps support commands, corps support groups (CSGs), division support commands (DISCOMs), and main and forward support battalions into a structure of enterprise-focused sustainment commands, distribution-centric sustainment brigades, and robust brigade support battalions (BSBs). The transformation included modularization to allow us to send only the elements that are needed for a specific mission rather than entire organizations, thus achieving
tailorable logistics.

Eight years after transforming, the sustainment community continues to provide unparalleled support to the warfighter. However, echeloned support from the sustainment brigade to the theater sustainment command (TSC) and related doctrine have created both intended and unintended consequences. There is confusion as to who is the “single face of logistics,” especially at echelons above brigade (EAB), and which unit performs what specific sustainment functions. Acknowledging in doctrine that the sustainment brigade is the “single face of logistics to the warfighter” and echelons above division (EAD) enabling units will set clear conditions for mission, function, and responsibility.

The intent of transformation and modularization was to gain efficiencies by streamlining sustainment structure and operations from the tactical to the strategic levels of operations. The reality is that sustainment transformed into two parallel lines of operational support. The BSBs, sustainment brigades, expeditionary sustainment commands, and TSCs form an operational line that runs parallel to the enterprise line conducted under the umbrella of the Army Materiel Command (which includes the life-cycle management commands, the Army Sustainment Command, and the AFSBs).

The function of the operational line is to manage sustainment and distribution from the theater entry point to the brigade combat team (BCT) and EAD units. The function of the enterprise line is to manage acquisition logistics and technology from the tactical through the strategic level. The two lines only meet at the strategic level; they do not meet at the point of need. But the opportunity
exists to meet structurally or doctrinally at the field level of logistics.

Proposed Changes
What follows are some proposed sustainment brigade theoretical and doctrinal changes. These proposals are based on the conclusions of the February conference of sustainment leaders. (See chart below.) At times, the proposed changes reach back to AOE doctrine in order to illustrate, clarify, or translate concepts for recommended changes into current doctrine. This is because AOE sustainment offers context and benchmarks where gaps and friction points resulted from transformation.

Synchronizer of Sustainment
Army doctrine should recognize that the sustainment brigade is the single entry point and the sustainment brigade commander is the lead integrator and synchronizer of sustainment at the field level of logistics both for the division and EAD units.

Eight years of overseas contingency and installation operations have demonstrated that the sustainment brigade, like the AOE DISCOM and CSG, is the organization that planners and operators look to for successful BCT and EAD unit support. All brigade and division commanders look to the sustainment brigade commander as the one stop for EAB and EAD support integration.

A sustainment brigade commander provides sustainment mentorship of his logistics units’ sustainment oversight and support operations management as well as mentorship to all sustainers across his area of responsibility (AOR). The sustainment brigade is resourced to accomplish these functions. At the field level of logistics, the sustainment brigade is generally the lead synchronizer and senior sustainment adviser across the division and installation.

The sustainment brigade commander synchronizes combat sustainment support battalion (CSSB) operations in support of EAD operations and BSB operations in support of the BCT and coordinates with the division G−4 to recommend plans, policies, and procedures to the division commander. The sustainment brigade commander synchronizes with the Army field support battalion (AFSBn)
commander and with the installation director of logistics to coordinate sustainment-level enterprise support.

Sustainment Operations Center
Army doctrine should recognize that the sustainment brigade’s sustainment operations center (SOC), like each installation’s logistics support plan, is the place where support gaps are identified and a synchronized sustainment plan is developed for the division and the installation within the field level of logistics.

In the AOE Army, doctrine recognized that the DISCOM and CSG commanders synchronized sustainment through the materiel management centers (MMCs) in the division and corps support areas. The sustainment brigade SOC, where established, is accomplishing these functions now. The SOC is the nexus where the two parallel lines of sustainment—operational and enterprise—can meet
within the field level of sustainment. It is the one place where the BCT warfighter and other EAB units can actually engage the single face of sustainment.

The SOC takes all the expertise and depth that reside in the sustainment brigade and synchronizes those functions with representatives of the installation support team, the sustainment-level support team, and the division G−4 to provide that single stop for the BCTs, EAB tenant units, and other units transiting the AOR that require support and the enterprise sustainers who want to support them. The SOC in effect lowers the walls and enables a fusion of communication and coordination within the field level of logistics.

The doctrine that governed the sustainment of the AOE Army was clearly understood. The BCT’s administration and logistics operations center (ALOC) and the division rear were where sustainment synchronization occurred and the warfighter worked on logistics issues. The SOC is even more efficient and streamlined than the AOE division rear because only one sustainment brigade synchronizes sustainment for all units within a division’s operating environment as opposed to a DISCOM and CSG (forward) synchronizing sustainment for divisional and corps units, respectively. This single mission command is more effective and efficient and supports the intent of reducing
logistics fratricide and excess. This advantage will become increasingly important as budgets shrink.

AFSBn and SOC Colocation
Army doctrine should recognize that the AFSBn and sustainment brigade should colocate within the SOC to ensure that sustainment is synchronized at one location within the field level of logistics.

With operations over in Iraq and transitioning to security force advisory operations in Afghanistan, the time is right to set conditions for the force. Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) is a tested process, but it will be redefined by operational realities and fiscal constraints. We can mitigate fiscal constraints while improving better daily support to our teammates and still be prepared to surge if needed by collocating AFSBn and sustainment brigade operations.

Like doctrinal recognition that the SOC is the one place where sustainment synchronization occurs, collocation of the AFSBn within the SOC requires no changes to command relationships. Efficiency is gained through proximity, fusion, and purpose; a unified sustainment front is achieved at no cost to senior commanders.

With sustainment-level and field-level teams connected, each sustainment commander can leverage his organization’s capabilities for maximum support. The AFSBn can leverage the sustainment brigade’s depth of expertise, capabilities, and established relationships with supported units to help locally manage the ARFORGEN process. The AFSBn−sustainment brigade relationship provides
a more comprehensive and more responsive logistics common operating picture installation wide during both garrison and wartime operations. The power of both organizations can be brought to bear in order to ensure that absolute clarity and unity of effort is achieved when managing the Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) Army reset common operating picture.

AFSBn Role During Brigade Deployment
Army doctrine should recognize that when the sustainment brigade deploys, the AFSBn commander, as a key member of the SOC team, assumes responsibility for not only installation enterprise sustainment but also for installation field-level sustainment operations.

The AFSBn commander, augmented by a 22-Soldier contingency active duty for operational support (Co− ADOS) team, the sustainment brigade’s rear detachment, and subordinate headquarters, continues supporting operations. In the past, when sustainment brigades deployed, support functions were typically contracted for or migrated to different installation elements. Where a supported unit previously would coordinate with just the sustainment brigade for most of its support requirements after the functions migrated, unit coordination became complicated, with numerous touch points in many different locations.

By doctrinally recognizing the SOC and AFSBn colocation, future migration of functions becomes unnecessary. The supported unit will continue to go to the SOC with operational sustainment requests. Deployments will have very little impact on systems and processes.

Local Sustainment and Distribution Manager
Army doctrine should recognize that the sustainment brigade functions as the commodity, maintenance, and distribution manager for locally-supported mission requirements, contingencies (to include deployment support), and support of installation operations.

Given the doctrinal recognition of the SOC and the AFSBn colocation, the sustainment brigade commander can allocate a tremendous amount of resources toward these management functions. We can again look back at AOE sustainment doctrine and recognize that the doctrinal DISCOM and CSG MMC tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) we developed to manage materiel and maintenance at the local level continue to provide the foundation and building blocks of future DOTMLPF changes.

As we dust off old systems like the materiel management review, review and analysis, overall routing identifier code geographical management (to include manager review file functions), and, more importantly, management across a divisional operating environment with an installation-wide logistics common operating picture, the sustainment brigade can meet the requirement to provide responsive answers to both the division commander and the sustainment level of logistics.

CONUS Area of Responsibility Alignment
Regional AORs in the continental United States (CONUS) should be aligned so that each sustainment brigade and its colocated AFSBn support the same warfighters.

With the previous five recommendations, we have seen a doctrinal drive to bring both the operational and enterprise sustainment lines together in order to achieve efficiencies, provide a unified front, and be more responsive to both the senior commander and the enterprise commands. Aligning sustainment brigades and AFSBns to support the same units and geographical areas serves to further strengthen our efficiencies and unity of effort with impact across multiple elements of the DOTMLPF spectrum.

An example of where efficiency and unity of effort could be improved is in cases where the senior commander with training responsibility and authority for geographically separated FORSCOM units on a nearby Army Training and Doctrine Command installation and AORs for the AFSBn and sustainment brigade are not in synch. By aligning regional AORs as we do in combat, the AFSBn and the sustainment brigade can work collectively to support those units.

Operational Sustainment Unit Alignment
Within the training aspect of DOTMLPF, operational sustainment units should be aligned for home-station training, training at combat training centers, and global deployment.

As a sustainment community, we have successfully supported overseas contingency operations despite numerous challenges associated with multicomposition unit integration, installation culture, and ARFORGEN synchronization. As we remain both a sustainment force in contact and a force that must begin to reshape, we have the opportunity to deploy as we are aligned at home station: sustainment brigades aligned with subordinate CSSBs and companies aligned with their habitually supported division, all nested with the same TTP, standard operating procedures, and training strategies.

We have the ability to develop an EAB training strategy that allows FORSCOM to facilitate a deliberate way ahead that provides multicomposition units with the ability to train jointly on their road to war. We have the ability to allow sustainment brigades, CSSBs, and companies to train together in support of their supported units at the combat training centers in an environment that is competitive with funded external evaluation.

The 2010 Army White Paper, The Profession of Arms, states, “War is a human event . . . . Therefore, it is the development of human knowledge, skills, abilities, and attributes associated with each field of experience that are of most importance to the profession.” We can harness this
experience by training together on the road to war as we deploy together, fight together, and sustain together.

Sustainment Brigade Deployment Capabilities
Sustainment brigades need to function with the capability to support rapidly deploying units, deploy to an austere environment, open sustainment lines of communication, and sustain operations for an established period of time.

The strategic realities, economic uncertainties, Army force structure adjustments, and different strategic posture of the 21st century dictate that now is the time for the sustainment community to refine, adjust, and adapt to the requirements of the future force. While engaged in two theaters, we have had other quickly developing contingencies that challenged the sustainment community to support on time and on target with integrated support.

The AOE model again provides the model for being prepared to execute the former division ready brigade, maintaining equipment in the vehicle-holding areas, and preparing our Soldiers for 2-hour recall to either execute an emergency deployment readiness exercise or actually deploy within 18 hours.

As we draw on the lessons learned from the past, we can also draw on our experience gained in combat during the last decade. We have learned to harness, through contracting, the strength of a partner nation, and we have learned to use joint teaming to sustain our forces under a “one team-one fight” concept. A contracting capability resident in a sustainment brigade would also make the organization that much more capable in combat and in support of installation operations. Contracting capability is an example of organizational change within the DOTMLPF spectrum that was raised during the conference for consideration.

We must resurrect our rapidly deployable capability and mindset in order to meet the challenges of the future and truly be able to sustain full-spectrum operations wherever our Nation needs us.

The purpose of this article is to encourage sustainers to evaluate our doctrinal missions, roles, and functions while we look to the future of our sustainment organizations and the doctrine by which we maximize support through synergy at the tactical and installation levels. To that end, what started as a dialog among past, current, and future sustainment brigade commanders has developed into doctrinal and other DOTMLPF insights that will shape future generations, infrastructure, leadership, and organization.

The ideas addressed specifically about the doctrine governing the field level of logistics must be refined through discussion with teammates from the Army Materiel Command and the Army Combined Arms Support Command and Sustainment Center of Excellence in order to refine and produce doctrine. After 10 years of war and change, we have the experience, the expertise, and the right people to shape the sustainment community through theory and doctrine to sustain the Army into the 21st century.

Colonel Todd A. Heussner is the commander of the 43d Sustainment Brigade at Fort Carson, Colorado.

Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey C. De Tingo is attending the Advanced Operational Arts Studies Fellowship at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He previously served as the deputy commanding officer of the 43d Sustainment Brigade.

Lieutenant Colonel Craig M. Short is the commander of Hawthorne Army Depot, Nevada. He previously served as the chief of plans of the 43d Sustainment Brigade.


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