|The Case for an S–8
for the Brigade Combat Team
|by Lieutenant Colonel Keith Gudehus and Lieutenant Colonel Gina Smith, USA (Ret.)
Field Manual (FM) 3–0, Operations, states that the combined arms brigade combat team (BCT) is “the centerpiece for Army maneuver.” The Army’s operational career field has 18 branch specialties; however, only 17 of these specialties are represented on the BCT staff. The financial manager is the one specialist absent from the BCT organization. Establishing an authorization for the financial management function on the BCT staff would greatly enhance the BCT’s warfighting capabilities in full-spectrum operations, especially during stability operations.
As stated in the foreword of FM 3–0, “This edition. . . is a revolutionary departure from past doctrine. It describes an operational concept where commanders employ offensive, defensive, and stability or civil support operations simultaneously as part of an interdependent joint force to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative, accepting prudent risk to create opportunities to achieve decisive results.” Simply put, FM 3–0 equally weights offensive, defensive, and stability operations. This has vast implications across each of the warfighting functions. However, none of those implications are greater than those for the sustainment warfighting function, which includes financial management.
Stability Operations’ Effect on the BCT
Stability operations as part of broader full-spectrum operations place an enormous burden on the BCT staff. BCT staff members now must understand not only how to plan and execute offensive and defensive operations but also how to establish civil security and control, restore essential services, establish governance, and provide for economic and infrastructure development. Integral to these tasks are planning and funding coordination for contracting, support to the local populace, rewards programs, and support to foreign military and security forces.
From providing for interpreters to locally contracting for supplies and services to supporting emergency response programs in support of the local population, a BCT staff could conceivably execute missions with funding coming from multiple sources, with numerous legal implications. Coordinating with interagency and other Governmental organizations and coalition forces also complicates the funding situation for the BCT staff. Having subject-matter expertise on the staff to facilitate that coordination instead of entrusting financial
management to a staff officer as an additional duty is not only prudent but logical.
By their very nature, stability operations often require varied solutions depending on the geographical area. What is successful or necessary in one BCT’s area of operations may not be successful or necessary in another. Arming each BCT with its own monetary resources, fund certification capability, and resource management tools truly allows the BCT to be more adaptive, within the intent of FM 3–0, as the “centerpiece for Army maneuver.”
Finances and Full-Spectrum Operations
FM 3–0 says that mission command across the full spectrum of operations also “demands that subordinate leaders at all echelons exercise disciplined initiative, acting aggressively and independently to accomplish the mission within the commander’s intent. Mission command gives subordinates the greatest possible freedom of action.” However, the BCT commander currently must go outside his own organization to get support and advice regarding financial management. The potential bureaucratic response is unacceptable given the complex nature of full-spectrum operations, particularly stability operations.
Two stability tasks in particular—restoring essential services and supporting economic and infrastructure development—have significant financial management implications. Putting money in the right spot in near-real time can make the difference between mission success and failure, and the BCT commander should “own” the capability to do so.
Paradigm Shifts Needed
Some arguments about the role of financial management in the BCT are based on historical paradigms that must be revised. First, many commanders envision financial management either as pay support to Soldiers or as managing a unit budget designed primarily to support training and acquiring repair parts. FM 3–0 lists financial management as a part of the personnel services subfunction of the sustainment warfighting function. The implication is that providing pay support to Soldiers is the primary mission of financial management. Although supporting Soldiers unquestionably contributes to the mission, this constrained view of financial management masks its potential for supporting the operational and strategic objectives of stability operations.
In the contemporary operational environment, procurement has come to include everything from the local purchase of supplies to payment for security services by “concerned local citizens” (what we in the United States would recognize as “neighborhood watch”). The procurement process has expanded well beyond those things routinely secured by a warranted contracting officer. Stability operations include innovative programs such as the Commanders’ Emergency Response Program, which places high-dollar procurement decisions and capabilities at the BCT level. The expertise of a staff financial management officer is essential in helping the BCT commander properly steward resources for these types of operations.
Second, support to stability operations is manpower intensive, and the financial management requirements at the brigade level are unlike those for any conflict. Current operations show that on a monthly basis BCTs are managing millions of dollars spread over multiple types of funds. This responsibility, which is now added to the daily requirements of another staff officer as an additional duty, should be expertly handled by financial managers when planning and executing complex military operations.
As defined in doctrine, financial management core responsibilities include—
- Identifying funding requirements.
- Determining and coordinating funding sources to support stability operations.
- Establishing cash requirements and resupply processes.
- Providing procurement and contracting support.
- Developing spend plans on a recurring basis.
- Reporting budget and cash distribution.
- Accounting for funds distributions.
No professionally trained and educated financial management staff officer is currently available at the BCT level to perform these functions, and they are far too significant to be performed as an additional duty.
Finally, the argument that the BCT could receive its core financial management support from the division’s Deputy Chief of Staff, G–8, as a formal doctrinal technique defies the reality of what is occurring during stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fiscal capabilities have already been pushed out to brigade combat teams to support decisive operations with as little bureaucracy as possible, but this method relies on ad hoc management and stewardship. Unfortunately, none of the financial management expertise has gone with these resource capabilities, yet the regulatory and statutory responsibilities still fall heavily on the BCT commander’s shoulders. Any mission requiring a BCT to conduct operations, especially stability operations for any length of time, without a division headquarters present will require some form of ad hoc task organization to support the BCT commander. This is not consistent with the modularity concept in which BCTs are designed to operate semi-autonomously.
Relieving the Sustainment Brigade
Similarly, the BCT commander cannot expect, and does not get, the needed level of responsiveness from the three financial managers organic to the theater sustainment command’s sustainment brigade headquarters. The workload created by the additional mission of managing funding requirements with an eye toward the unique situation in each BCT’s area of operations exceeds the sustainment brigade’s financial management authorizations. Financial support to the BCTs is secondary to the sustainment brigade’s support mission. Using Soldiers from financial management companies posted in ad hoc fashion from the sustainment brigades poses challenges ranging from their levels of knowledge and experience and habitual support-and-trust relationships to separation of regulatory and statutory duties for management control and fraud prevention.
The emergence of the BCT as the basic building block of Army maneuver and the elevation of stability operations to a level on par with offensive and defensive operations have significant implications for Army force developers. These two doctrinal shifts demand an authorization for financial management expertise on the BCT staff to advise, plan, and coordinate financial management support for the BCT. The complexity of the financial issues, the multiple sources of funds, the volume of workload, and the enormous dollar amounts emphasize the requirement for a trained financial manager. An authorization for a financial management, or S–8, section in the BCT is a viable solution worth pursuing at the proponent level.
Lieutenant Colonel Keith Gudehus is an instructor with the Department of Logistics and Resource Operations at the Army Command and General Staff College and is currently deployed to Afghanistan. He has spent 18 years in financial management serving in units from the detachment to the Army command level. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Truman State University and a master of accounting degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Lieutenant Colonel Gina Smith, USA (Ret.), is an assistant professor at the Army Command and General Staff College. She holds a master’s degree in procurement and acquisition from Webster University. She is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic and Advanced Courses and the Army Command and General Staff College.