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Operational Integrated Framework for the Sustainment Brigade

All military service members take the oath of enlistment or oath of office and swear “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The Government further defines this mission periodically by publishing strategies, such as the National Security Strategy of 2006 and the 2005 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America. The Army began a significant transformation when the 2004 National Military Strategy of the United States of America established three military objectives: “to protect the United States against external attacks and aggression; prevent conflict and surprise attack; and prevail against adversaries.”1 To meet these objectives, the Army transformed itself into an expeditionary organization with a modular force structure.

The modular sustainment brigade concept was developed to provide proportionate increased operational flexibility and unity of command. The concept involves streamlining traditional integrated frameworks for command and control, theater opening, theater distribution, and sustainment functions. The following description of the sustainment brigade operational integrated framework addresses the information that operations managers and designated personnel need to conduct their operation plans.

The Sustainment Brigade

The sustainment brigade provides direct and general sustainment support to combat forces. It uses a push-and-pull method to provide logistics, equipment, manpower, and human resources support. The sustainment brigade conducts a wide array of concurrent operations to support deployment, employment, sustainment, redeployment, and reconstitution for all Department of Defense (DOD) personnel and other designated personnel within its operational environment.

To ensure effective, efficient support, the sustainment brigade maintains visibility of the distribution system, its contents, and the theater operational environment. This visibility involves transparency of the operational environment’s main supply routes and sustainment operations. Sustainment brigade commanders combine transparency of the distribution system with clear lines of command and control to channel assets as they move throughout the area of operations. These distribution functions are distributed through lower level organizations within DOD. The sustainment brigade will normally have multiple combat sustainment support battalions (CSSBs) assigned to provide distribution and supplies to the brigade combat teams (BCTs) and the supporting brigades operating within the sustainment brigade’s operational environment.

The Operational Integrated Framework

The sustainment brigade operational integrated framework provides effective and efficient logistics support for the sustainment brigade area of interest. Sustainment brigade planners have the capacity to market their products and services by identifying, prioritizing, and modifying routes for personnel, equipment, and supplies moving throughout the distribution network.

The sustainment products and services include activities at all levels that generate and maintain forces in support of the tactical commander on the battlefield, including rear area, base, and base cluster security; terrain management; and infrastructure improvement and development. Based on operational requirements, the services can be theater opening, theater distribution, or sustainment missions. The provision of sustainment products and services at the operational and tactical levels (depending on the level of assignment) is the sustainment brigade’s primary focus.

Sustainment brigades are the Army’s sustainment production operators in the theater of operations. Their activities are push-and-pull logistics, financial services, health service support, and human resources. Sustainment brigades also provide sustainment to divisions or BCTs at the tactical level and corps and theater forces at the operational level.

The sustainment brigade plans, prepares, executes, and assesses sustainment operations within its operational environment. In addition to planning and coordinating for current operations, the sustainment brigade coordinates and supervises the implementation of policies and directives relative to the support of future operations. The sustainment brigade, along with operational planners, develops plans and orders to ensure continuous sustainment. Production levels constantly change in response to fluid battle demands.

Supporting Relationships

Sustainment brigade operations involve interdependent support between higher headquarters and subordinate units. The sustainment brigade’s higher headquarters are the theater sustainment command and the expeditionary sustainment command. The theater sustainment command is the central command and control headquarters for Army sustainment units in a theater of operations and the senior Army sustainment headquarters for the theater Army or a combined joint forces command.2 The theater sustainment command establishes command and control of operational-level theater opening, sustainment, distribution, and redistribution in a specific operational environment by employing one or more expeditionary sustainment commands.

The expeditionary sustainment command provides command and control for operations that are limited in scale and scope and provides support augmentation. The expeditionary sustainment command also oversees theater distribution and sustainment operations in accordance with theater sustainment command plans, policies, programs, and mission guidance.3 The expeditionary sustainment command executes a higher headquarters command and control function for the sustainment brigade.

CSSBs are multifunctional organizations that make up most sustainment brigades. A CSSB includes up to eight companies and is “modular and task organized to support TO [theater opening], TD [theater distribution], area sustainment, or life support missions.”4 The brigade support battalion (BSB) is the sustainment unit that is organic to the BCT. Forward support companies are attached to BCTs’ maneuver battalions and provide combat sustainment support functions.

Operations Management

The sustainment brigade includes two sections: the operations section and the support operations section (SPO). The operations section deals with products and services within the sustainment brigade, and the SPO handles products and services external to the sustainment brigade.

The operations section’s primary responsibilities include training, operations, plans, force development, and modernization. Using a maneuver control system, the operations section prepares and issues warning orders and fragmentary orders to support sustainment operations; monitors the operations of higher, lower, and adjacent units; and monitors close and rear production operations. The section also coordinates with supported units to synchronize future operations and to shift from one operation to the next without losing momentum and unit integrity. The operations section plans for, uses, and optimizes automation for mission planning, course-of-action development, rehearsals, operational planning, and after-action reviews. For example, the section uses the Movement Tracking System to track convoy operations.

The SPO is the principal staff for organizing support for units within the sustainment brigade operational environment. The SPO also supervises sustainment operations and is the key interface between supported units and the theater sustainment command. The SPO provides products and services such as “planning, preparation, and [command and control] of the execution of all sustainment operations in the sustainment brigade’s [area of operations], to include theater opening, distribution, and sustainment operations.”5

Operations Strategy

The operations strategy of the sustainment brigade operational integrated framework is flexible and responsive. The organization’s strategy provides an overarching framework for prioritizing its activities and using its resources to gain a competitive advantage in its marketplace.6 The operations strategy is determined by brigade leaders and is designed to provide command and control of theater opening, distribution, and sustainment within an assigned area of operations.

To fully implement the operations strategy, the sustainment brigade must coordinate completely with support elements. The units must synchronize operational plans to provide sustainment at the proper time and place and ensure force protection of sustainment assets within the supported unit’s battle plans.

The operations strategy is composed of competitive priorities, including cost, quality, time, flexibility, service, environment, and information use. Competitive priorities are defined as functions that provide an organization with a specific competitive edge.7 The cost must be within the predetermined sustainment brigade budget set forth by higher headquarters. The quality for the sustainment brigade operations strategy must be of the highest standard because the customers expect and rely on quality products and services. Delivery of these products and services depends on the factor of time and is one of the important elements of the sustainment brigade operations strategy.

Regarding flexibility, the sustainment brigade operations strategy must adapt to any situation in any area in the world. Flexibility relies on improvisation, which gives the sustainment brigade the ability to adapt operations and plans to changing situations and missions. Improvisation includes using materials that are on hand to create, invent, arrange, or fabricate what is needed. More than ever, this requires the sustainment brigade operations strategy to adjust quickly and use any means possible to maintain momentum.

Service is a functional role of the sustainment brigade operations strategy, and the majority of sustainment brigade activities involve services. The environment of the area of operations is a contributing factor for the transportation, supply, maintenance, and distribution of the sustainment brigade’s services and products. The terrain, climate, and local population must be taken into consideration while implementing the sustainment brigade operations strategy.

The competitive priority of information is a function of command and control. As an integral component of the joint and Army sustainment marketplace, the sustainment brigade executes information use by employing satellite and network-based communications that enable command and control, visibility of the distribution system, and identification of support requirements. The distinctive competency of the sustainment brigade operations strategy is that the sustainment brigade provides command and control for multifunctional sustainment operations and staff supervision of life-support activities and distribution management, including movement control.

Supply Chain Strategy

The supply chain strategy of the sustainment brigade operational integrated framework provides the cyclic channel of distribution for sustainment brigade products and services. A supply chain comprises the systems and processes involved in transforming raw materials into finished products and making them available to customers. Like supply chain strategies in the corporate world, the sustainment brigade supply chain strategy encounters two diametrically opposing forces: the need to support combat maneuver forces better, more responsively, and at a lower cost and the need to reduce the sustainment footprint of the Army’s future forces.

The sustainment brigade and its higher headquarters are exploring how to better support BCTs by using some fundamental supply chain concepts, such as information and communication technologies and order management, logistics, and transportation improvement concepts.

Using the technology from the supply chain strategy, sustainment brigade personnel will achieve situational awareness, be able to track the status of supplies for individual units, and better predict the needs of combat units. Technology systems that provide sustainment brigade leaders an enhanced situational awareness will provide instantaneous supply status, predict component failures, and even provide two-way messaging. Technology systems in both combat and logistics vehicles will monitor inventory levels, customer unit locations, and equipment distribution status and be able to transmit this information to sustainment leaders.

Logistics Strategy

“Logistics is the focal point for the sustainment brigade supply chain strategy. Logistics is the science of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing the movement and maintenance of forces. In its broadest sense, logistics includes the design, development, acquisition, fielding, and maintenance of equipment and systems.”8 Logistics for a sustainment brigade is slightly different from logistics for a corporation because the sustainment brigade’s focus is on mission completion rather than quarterly earnings.

The logistics section of the sustainment brigade supply chain strategy has seven components and seven essential success factors. The seven components of the logistics section are the same for the sustainment brigade as they are for businesses: suppliers, procurement, manufacturing, order management, transportation, warehousing, and customers. The sustainment brigade’s seven essential success factors of logistics are customer needs, information and communication technologies, deployment within and outside the continental United States, joint interoperability, DOD regulations, environment factors (including enemy forces), and mission requirements.

The opportunities to improve the flow of the supply chain play a more important role than opportunities for disintermediation. Sustainment brigade personnel who have situational awareness of the onhand inventory will help brigade leaders to configure responsive sustainment resupply requirements to their resupply organizations. Sustainment brigade leaders use enhanced situational awareness technologies and decision support tools, such as embedded diagnostics, automated testing, and data analysis, to better dictate requirements with fewer sustainment brigade supply chain assets. Disintermediation is not likely to improve the sustainment brigade supply chain because intermediation opportunities stimulate the flow system in the supply chain.

Aligning Manufacturing and Services

Aligning manufacturing and services in the sustainment brigade operational integrated framework entails the related functions and systems that provide support and services to ensure freedom of action, extend operational reach, and prolong endurance. The endurance of Army forces is primarily a function of the sustainment brigade. Sustainment determines the depth to which Army forces can conduct operations and is essential to retaining and exploiting the initiative. The sustainment brigade’s approach to aligning manufacturing and services is to provide the logistics, personnel services, and health service support necessary to maintain operations until mission accomplishment.

The sustainment brigade receives added support from strategic, operational, and tactical organizations. No standardized service factory model exists for the sustainment brigade. However, for guidance purposes, the service factory model of the sustainment brigade replicates the doctrinal organization chart. The customer activity cycle follows push-and-pull sustainment methods to stimulate action continuously. Then, the use of technology provides the transparency needed to execute sustainment support services and the customer activity cycle.

Product Development

The new product development process of the sustainment brigade operational integrated framework is conducted by higher headquarters and other organizations within DOD. The roles of the new products system are conducted by the higher headquarters and other DOD organizations; therefore, the designated personnel integrate sustainment brigade services and products into operations. Higher headquarters and other DOD organizations implement the idea generation approach by soliciting ideas from personnel and lessons learned from sustainment brigade operations.

For a new product development process, the sustainment brigade uses its higher headquarters and other DOD organizations to manage the new product and service development process. The new product and service development process for the sustainment brigade operational integrated framework usually proceeds in the following way:

  • The idea is generated by personnel.
  • The idea is turned into a concept.
  • The concept goes through an analysis.
  • If the concept passes the analysis, then doctrine is written and executed during operations.
  • After-action reviews and lessons learned are applied to the product or service to improve customer service.


The processes of the sustainment brigade operational integrated framework are standard for providing sustainment support to customers. The key product processes incorporate management restraints such as time, cost, and procedural sequences. Services result from higher headquarters actions and DOD affiliated venues. The products and services are distributed through lower-level organizations such as battalions, companies, and platoons.

The process performance measurements consist of productivity, capacity, quality, speed of delivery, flexibility, and process velocity. All of these measurements are priorities except for velocity, which is not a priority because internal measures are in place to continually stimulate velocity. Benchmarks set the future standard for processes in the sustainment brigade operational integrated framework. The benchmarks are cost, time, and sequential steps to reach the end state.

The sustainment brigade must strive for products and services that are inexpensive, take less time to provide, and involve fewer sequences, while still reaching total quality. Meeting these goals will enable a full spectrum of qualitative sustainment brigade support to customer organizations for their operational integrated framework.


The sustainment brigade operational integrated framework relies on quality management. Quality is sometimes viewed as a means to reduce the number of customer complaints being received.9 But customer organizations depend on quality sustainment from the sustainment brigade. The quality metrics are time, location, quantity, and specificity. These metrics are put in place to meet the higher headquarters’ intent. The sustainment brigade has a staff that is educated and experienced in quality management concepts to promote quality support.

Sustainment brigade personnel have increased their knowledge base for an effective approach to qualitative sustainment support. Their knowledge base stems from the Army-wide implementation of the Lean Six Sigma concept. The intent of implementing Lean Six Sigma in the sustainment brigade is to promote efficiencies in sustainment support. The sustainment brigade and its higher headquarters reinforce quality management by rewarding personnel for their quality-management efforts. The sustainment brigade also uses quality tools, such as checklists, diagrams, and charts, in situational reports and briefings to leaders.


Production is the successful accomplishment of the sustainment brigade’s mission. The sustainment brigade uses many principles to reduce or eliminate waste and inefficiencies on the way to production. The principles of efficient sustainment—“integration, anticipation, responsiveness, simplicity, economy, survivability, continuity, and improvisation”10—are critical to the success of generating combat power, strategic and operational reach, and endurance. “While these principles are independent, they are also interrelated when used in planning and executing sustainment brigade operations.”11

Plans should be simple to reduce complexity and confusion, and “when the execution of plans does not proceed as expected, commanders may improvise procedures to meet mission requirements.”12 The sustainment brigade marries the principles of efficient sustainment to Lean Six Sigma, checks and balances, and transparency of its support to customer organizations. These principles will synergize just-in-time production and inventory, pre-positioned stock, and push-and-pull sustainment to stimulate productivity.


Facilities provide the infrastructure for the command and control of the sustainment brigade operational integrated framework. The sustainment brigade uses qualitative factors to locate manufacturing and service facilities, and these factors are determined by higher headquarters. However, the local infrastructure, worker education and skills, product requirements, and political and economic stability contribute to establishment of the facilities. The quantitative factors are also directed mainly by the higher headquarters, but distribution and facility costs and exchange rates contribute to the establishment of facilities as well.

The sustainment brigade and its higher headquarters determine the method of evaluating prospective facility locations and planning, and the sustainment brigade can make recommendations for its own central location. Satellite locations (based on areas of interest) are also established to support the most effective sustainment operations. The sustainment brigade’s facility layout is based on the operational environment and the mission that it must perform.

Aggregate Planning Approach

The SPO plans branch and other designated personnel in the sustainment brigade plan and analyze demand variations, the production planning strategy, risk implications of the planning strategy, yield management planning, the master production schedule, and material requirements planning. The plans branch develops support plans for future operations in concert with the operations manager of the supported units. The branch recommends and incorporates all technologies and automation, combat unit requirements, unit historical data, the current and future replenishment posture, mobility data, and the commander’s guidance into the development of the support plan.

The SPO and the brigade operations manager develop the operation order and associated logistics annexes to all plans and orders using the Battle Command Sustainment Support System. The SPO plans branch also maintains the running estimate and uses interoperable automation and communications to manage all requirements for elements associated with tasking control for external support operations.

Inventory Management and Customer Focus

Inventory management in the sustainment brigade operational integrated framework is characterized by identifying and managing inventory needs and the inventory model, which are identified and managed by the SPO and other designated personnel in the sustainment brigade. Inventory management is also characterized by the use of technology. The network operations and information management directorate and other designated personnel in the sustainment brigade analyze the role of technology in inventory management for sustainment operations in the designated operational environment.

Focusing on the customer is the foundation for all sustainment brigade support. To provide good service, the sustainment brigade forms strategic plans, operational plans, tactical plans, and operation orders that are all focused on customer satisfaction.

The sustainment brigade operational integrated framework can manage theater opening, theater distribution, and sustainment operations. Each sustainment brigade provides support within an assigned operational environment and is a multifunctional organization providing support for multiple brigade-sized units. It is tailored and task organized and uses subordinate battalions, companies, platoons, and teams to perform specific functions. The sustainment brigade is primarily concerned with the continuous management and distribution of supplies and the execution of human resources, financial management, and maintenance support to provide operational reach to maneuver commanders.

To fully implement the sustainment brigade operational integrated framework, the sustainment brigade may require augmentation in those areas where it lacks expertise and capabilities. For example, the sustainment brigade’s higher headquarters may augment the sustainment brigade with transportation units to enable it to oversee and execute port clearance and terminal operations if the sustainment brigade is given the theater-opening mission. Likewise, a sustainment brigade may serve as the senior joint sustainment headquarters in an operational environment when provided augmentation commensurate to the mission.

The sustainment brigade must stand ready to implement its operational integrated framework. This full dissection of the sustainment brigade operational integrated framework has addressed the situations that operations managers and designated personnel encounter while conducting their operation plans or other related plans.

Captain Robert J. Tremblay is a logistics officer in the 1st Brigade, 3d Infantry Division. He is pursuing a Ph.D. degree in business administration from Northcentral University and, as a graduate of the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, was accredited as a Demonstrated Master Logistician.

1. National Military Strategy of the United States of America: A Strategy for Today; A Vision for Tomorrow, Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, DC, 2004, p. 9.
2. Field Manual Interim 4–93.2, The Sustainment Brigade, Department of the Army, Washington, DC, 2009, p. 1-2.
3. Ibid., p. 1-3.
4. Ibid., p. 1-4.
5. Ibid., pp. 2-15–2-16.
6. Mark Davis and Janelle Heineke. Operations Management: Integrating Manufacturing Services, 5th ed., McGraw-Hill/Irwin, New York, 2005.
7. Davis and Heineke.
8. Field Manual Interim 4–93.2, p. 4-1.
9. Davis and Heineke.
10. Field Manual 4–0, Sustainment, Department of the Army, Washington, DC, 2009, p. 1-1.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.

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