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Logisticians Are Sustainers,
Not Targeters

It is amazing how much terminology is appropriately and inappropriately used by Army personnel. This is particularly true for the sustainment community. Take convoys, for instance. While in Iraq, we called sustainment convoys “combat logistics patrols,” or CLPs. The Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, likes to use the term “combat logistics convoys,” or CLCs. (See Center for Army Lessons Learned [Call] Handbook 08–23.) But wait. I find that neither of these terms is used in doctrine and that the term “logistics package” (LOGPAC) is the preferred term at the Battle Command Training Program.

The Army has always had situations like this. For instance, a few years ago maneuver units called logistics functions “man, arm, fix, and fuel.” At the same time, the sustainment community called the same functions “supply, field services, maintenance, transportation.”

The Sustainment Targeting Process

In May 2008, CALL published the Brigade Support Battalion Battle Staff TTP [tactics, techniques, and procedures] Handbook. Chapter 6 of that handbook is titled “The Sustainment Targeting Process.” The handbook makes some very good points that are highlighted time-and-again in CALL’s trend analyses. Sustainment units have a tough time synchronizing logistics across the brigade combat team (BCT) area of operations. This is a valid observation and should be a focus of collective training events. Where I take issue with the handbook is in the development of new terminology: sustainment targeting, sustainment targeting matrices, and sustainment targeting meeting. The underlying problem with creating this new terminology is that it misrepresents current Army terminology related to targeting.

Doctrinal Definitions of Targeting

Joint Publication 3–60, Joint Targeting, defines a target as “an entity or object considered for possible engagement or action.” Field Manual (FM) 6–20–10, Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for the Targeting Process, describes targets as geographical areas, complexes, or installations planned for capture or destruction by military forces.

Doctrine goes on to describe the process of targeting. FM 6–20–10 describes the emphasis of targeting as identifying resources the enemy can least afford to lose or that provide him with the greatest advantage. Targeting focuses on attacking an enemy’s capability. Joint Publication 3–60 describes targeting as a method of selecting and prioritizing targets, matching the appropriate response to them, integrating fires into the operations process, and creating desired effects necessary to achieve objectives.

The process of targeting helps integrate and synchronize fires with the other warfighting functions (including sustainment). However, synchronizing sustainment in the targeting process and describing the sustainment process as targeting are distinctly different.

Pitfalls of Using Targeting With Sustainment

Sustainment synchronization, unlike targeting, is designed to support friendly forces, not attack enemy capability. Both targeting and sustainment are part of the operations process, but they link into the operations process quite differently. For this reason, we should stick to existing sustainment terminology rather than misuse the doctrinal terms “target” and “targeting.” Likewise, we do not need to invent a new term by calling a synchronization meeting a “sustainment targeting meeting.”

I see three consequences of using the term targeting in the sustainment planning and synchronization process. First, “sustainment targeting” misuses the current doctrinal definition of targeting. If we misuse the terms associated with targeting to fit sustainment, we run the risk of misusing the original term when it is used in the context of lethal and nonlethal targeting. We also confuse other warfighting functions and joint and multinational partners by taking a task specifically designated in doctrine as a fires function and using it to describe how the sustainment function operates. Further, a doctrinal process already exists that does not take the current terminology out of context. As stated earlier, CALL trends show that the BCTs have a tough time synchronizing sustainment operations across their areas of operations. When sustainment organizations misuse a doctrinal term, it confuses a process that they already do not practice enough.

Second, by using the terms target and targeting beyond their intended use, we actually change the meanings of the words and weaken the understanding of their purpose. Two examples of the cause-and-effect of misunderstanding terms are “center of gravity analysis” and the prohibited term “effect-based operations.” Marines will use centers of gravity analysis at the tactical level; Army forces do not. When you put a Soldier and a Marine together, you get conflicting understanding of terms. The effect-based approach had great application, but as the term became a “catch-all” for Army operations, the original concept lost its intended purpose. We no longer use the term because of its misuse. The same can be said for sustainment targeting. The sustainment synchronization process is tough, and we do not execute it with ease. We should work within the existing model of executing sustainment operations, rather than adapt the targeting model simply because it is the “flavor of the day.”

Over the past couple of years, we have seen increased efforts to define functions as targeting. Targeting should be left as targeting. If we define too many things as targeting, we run the danger of overusing the term and weakening its value inside the military decisionmaking and operations processes. We must keep the term “target” focused on the enemy. If sustainers start using “targeting” to describe the operations process, should the Army also use targeting to describe how it employs and synchronizes maneuver forces to accomplish a mission? For instance, in air assault operations, it would be a misuse of terminology to use "target" when planning an air movement plan or movement to the pickup zone. Do we allow the medical community to develop a targeting matrix for patient evacuation and medical care?

The third consequence is that by developing a sustainment targeting process, we run the inevitable risk of creating more of the same problem that we tried to solve by creating the term in the first place. The sustainment function is an essential element of the existing targeting process. The trend to separate lethal and nonlethal targeting runs contrary to the intent of targeting. The intent of targeting is to synchronize across functions, so developing a sustainment targeting process exacerbates the problem of synchronizing sustainment with traditional targeting.

Targeting Versus Sustainment

The decide, detect, deliver, and assess targeting process is designed to match the friendly force capabilities against enemy targets. Take, for instance, the decide function. In targeting, the first step is to provide the overall focus and set priorities for intelligence collection and attack planning. Unfortunately, we cannot engage every target on the battlefield. The many different types of targets exceed our capabilities to acquire and attack them. We must determine which targets are most important to the enemy and which of those targets we must acquire and attack to accomplish our mission.

Sustainment personnel should not take this tactic because they cannot choose which of their units to support and which ones not to focus on. The focus of the sustainment planners during this time is to develop priorities of support to the BCT. The sustainment planner should focus on providing the commander a clear picture of priorities applied to selecting a friendly course of action. The intent of the “decide” function in targeting is to provide the commander with a clear picture of priorities applied to how to attack or with what capabilities to attack.

Let us consider “detect.” FM 5–0, Army Planning and Orders Production, describes the detect function as locating high-payoff targets for engagement. It is designed to acquire the targets selected in the decide phase. Detecting infers looking for something and finding it. Sustainment status is not something we are attempting to acquire or discover. We may need to identify, prepare, track, or determine shortfalls, but “detect” is a misrepresentation of the sustainment process.

Rather than using a model of targeting, I suggest we use models already in existence. We can modify these models to give them the flavor and pizzazz we want. For example, doctrine discusses four continuous, overlapping activities that occur throughout a military operation: plan, prepare, execute, and assess. Targeting fits under what doctrine calls “integrating processes,” and it is a critical component of the overall operations process. Using the targeting process for sustainment would be like using the risk management process to define sustainment operations.

As sustainers, we must be fully involved in the targeting process—the doctrinal targeting process. By incorporating the word “targeting” into a process to which it does not apply, we misuse current doctrinal terms, water down the understanding of what targeting is, and we run the risk of making targeting a catch-all phrase to the detriment of its original purpose in Army planning and operations. Rather than change terminology, the sustainment community needs to focus on improving the process of logistics synchronization.

Major Donald A. MacCuish is an observer-trainer at the Battle Command Training Program at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tampa and a master’s degree in logistics management from Florida Institute of Technology. He is a graduate of the Logistics Executive Development Course and the Army Command and General Staff College. He is working on his doctorate in organizational leadership.