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Using Knowledge Networks
to Learn, Act, and Adapt

Since beginning my tenure as commander of the Army Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM), I have been impressed by the commitment of our professionals to remain on the leading edge of knowledge management in support of our Soldiers and leaders alike. It takes a network of dedicated and highly capable professionals to envision, build and enhance, and communicate the information required to maintain the best training, education, and ultimately, “reachback” opportunities for our sustainment community.

We perform this mission in the context of the Army Operating Concept, which outlines four key trends in the current and future operating environment: uncertainty, pace of change, competitiveness, and decentralization. These trends require us to produce leaders with a high degree of operational adaptability—critical thinkers who are comfortable with ambiguity and decentralization and capable of making rapid decisions under conditions of uncertainty and change.

To this end, CASCOM is implementing the principles of the Army Leader Development Strategy, the Army Training Strategy, and the Army Learning Concept by launching initiatives designed to achieve a blended, career-long continuum of learning. These efforts adopt a learner-centric approach, built on the pillars of training, education, and experience, with a focus on optimizing multifaceted learning capabilities within institutional, organizational, and self-development domains.

The intent is to increase the quality, relevance, and effectiveness of resident training and education by expanding learning opportunities both within and beyond the “brick and mortar” schoolhouse, delivering learning to the point of need—wherever that might be—while simultaneously leveraging the experiential learning of Soldiers, civilians, and leaders throughout the force.

The key to realizing the full value of this ubiquitous learning environment is to harness the collaborative power of the Sustainment Knowledge Network (SKN) in order to stimulate, enable, and sustain adaptability and innovation within our Soldiers, civilians, and leaders, within our training development and delivery systems, and within our organizational culture.

SKN is an enterprise knowledge management and collaboration platform that links all aspects of the CASCOM mission across the full spectrum of the Army’s operational construct and provides the means to rapidly produce, share, and respond to the critical knowledge needs of our Soldiers whenever and wherever needed. As stated by General Martin E. Dempsey, the commanding general of the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), “Knowledge management is a tool that will enable us to more effectively deal with uncertainty and the rapid pace of change . . . to prevail in the competitive learning environment and ultimately adapt more quickly than our adversaries.”

Through its global reach, SKN is a learning enabler within our training, education, and leader development process that coincides with the preferences of digital-age learners entering the Army. With this in mind, CASCOM is already achieving major milestones, and while the following examples are only a part of CASCOM’s overarching knowledge management strategy, they are clearly best practices within both TRADOC and the Army.

Of the 449,000 Active and Reserve component Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians, and supporting contractors who make up the global Army sustainment community, over 113,000 are registered in SKN professional forums. They generate approximately 14,500 “knowledge transactions” a week—learning from each other every day by sharing expertise and experience, Soldier to Soldier, staff to staff, and between organizations.

The CASCOM staff is actively engaged in leading, contributing, and responding to questions and discussions generated in these forums. Sustainment Center of Excellence schools are implementing strategies to ensure initial military training Soldiers are introduced to SKN as a reachback to their proponent branches, and professional military education (PME) students are actively using SKN’s capabilities in the classroom to collaborate and learn with their peers in the operational force.

The CASCOM Directorate of Lessons Learned/Quality Assurance routinely uses the SKN Warfighters’ Forum to broadcast and share the observations, best practices, and lessons learned raised by leaders returning from operational deployments. This provides a means to rapidly share, discuss, and expand upon topics important to all within the Sustainment community.

Efforts are underway to extend SKN products and services to tablets, smart phones, and other mobile devices, to include providing reliable enterprise access to mobile applications being produced by our CASCOM Training Technology Division and other Army organizations participating in the Connect Soldiers to Digital Applications (CSDA) program.

CASCOM commands the Army’s Sustainment Center of Excellence—a premier team of committed and innovative professionals on whom I rely to actively use and enhance SKN capabilities to better prepare and support sustainment Soldiers, civilians, and leaders in the 21st century. Optimizing our sustainment intellectual capital is a team sport, our sustainment warfighters depend on it, and I look forward to sharing your future success stories with leaders throughout the Army. Support Starts Here!

Major General James L. Hodge is the commanding general of the Army Combined Arms Support Command and Sustainment Center of Excellence at Fort Lee, Virginia.

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