|Sustainment Lessons Learned
From Combined Joint Task Force-82
|by Colonel Michael C. Lopez
Combined Joint Task Force-82 developed plans and oversaw operations
for sustaining civil-military counterinsurgency operations in Regional Command East in Afghanistan. The author shares lessons learned from that deployment.
Observed as CJ–4, Director of Logistics, for Combined Joint Task Force-82 (CJTF–82) in Regional
Command East in Afghanistan from May 2009 to June 2010. This 13-month deployment to Operation Enduring Freedom with the 82d Airborne Division provided many sustainment lessons learned. This article discusses coalition and joint staff sustainment operations and provides recommendations for transitioning tactical logistics division staffs into operational sustainment coalition and joint teams, developing a systems approach to sustainment operations, and transmitting historical knowledge among staffs.
The CJTF–82 CJ–4
The CJTF–82 headquarters was located at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, and, in partnership with the 201st and 203d Afghan National Army (ANA) Corps, provided combined mission command of Regional Command East. The CJ–4 staff consisted of 44 coalition, joint, interagency, and contractor personnel.
The staff was organized into the following cells: administration, supply and services, maintenance, transportation, operations, plans, liaison officers, and staff embedded with the 201st and 203d ANA Corps. The staff’s mission was to develop sustainment plans and policies and provide procedural oversight for brigade task forces and enablers to sustain civil-military counterinsurgency operations, maintain combat power, and extend operational reach.
The road to Afghanistan began at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in June 2008. The 82d Airborne Division’s focus was split between getting brigade combat teams manned, equipped, and trained for programmed deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and preparing the division staff for deployment as a CJTF.
Division-level staff training consisted of individual combat skills training, staff-specific training, professional development courses sponsored by the Leader Development and Education for Sustained Peace program, staff certification training sponsored by the Battle Command Training Program and the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Warfighting Center, and a series of predeployment site surveys (PDSSs) in Afghanistan.
The division chief of staff had each staff section develop PDSS objectives prior to departure and complete a trip report upon return. This requirement was effective in focusing the staff on the task and purpose of the PDSS visit. The G–4 section used this process to generate running staff estimates to define how sustainment operations worked in Regional Command East. As the section focused on defining and discussing how processes worked, the focus shifted to mapping the process, including inputs, outputs, and desired outcomes.
Process maps were measured against Field Manual 3–24, Counterinsurgency; Field Manual 4–0, Sustainment; Joint Publication 4–0, Joint Logistics; and Joint Publication 4–08, Joint Doctrine for Logistic Support of Multinational Operations. The doctrinal review provided the intellectual foundation to understand staff roles, U.S. Code Title 10 responsibilities, and the functions of combined-joint boards, bureaus, centers, cells, and working groups (B2C2WGs). An assessment of multiple PDSSs indicated a systems approach was the critical path to providing sustainment at the operational level.
The CJ–4’s first priority during division and higher staff-level training was to define the core sustainment B2C2WGs, refine the process, and quantify how the output affected the bottom line, which was to sustain counterinsurgency operations, maintain combat power, and extend operational reach. The second priority was to identify cross-staff and external CJTF relationships that would be developed to facilitate synchronized, integrated actions. The third priority was to develop an effective process to manage and disseminate information across a staff that would have to endure a combat battle rhythm, a nonstop string of email, and a portal-based information management process.
Systems Approach to Sustainment
The 82d Airborne Division took over the transition of authority for coalition and joint forces in Regional Command East on 3 June 2009 and relinquished that authority on 14 June 2010. The CJTF–82 counterinsurgency strategy was based on four lines of operation: information, governance, development, and security. This strategy was implemented through a coalition, Afghan, and interagency team integrated from the infantry battalion task force level through the CJTF level. The strategy was focused on developing a unified effort at all levels and across all lines of operation to build and enhance the legitimacy of Afghanistan’s government.
Operational sustainment supported the lines of operation by instituting a team approach to solve problems and develop a sustainment B2C2WG process that addressed the areas of force flow, sustainment, maintenance, contract services, and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) development. The team was coined the “Log Nation” and consisted of joint, coalition, and contract logisticians.
The team’s members included representatives from the CJTF staff, the 45th and 82d Sustainment Brigades, the 401st Army Field Support Brigade (AFSB), the brigade support battalions, the 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron (EAPS), a deployment distribution team from the 831st Deployment Distribution Support Battalion, the Defense Logistics Agency, the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), the National Guard Bureau, the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP), the Joint Contracting Command-Afghanistan (JCC–A), Regional Support Team-East (RST–E), ANSF Development Support-East (ADS–E), and the 201st and 203d ANA Corps G–4.
The force flow was managed through a weekly portal-based Adobe Connect coalition and joint reception, staging, onward movement, and integration working group and board. This process existed before CJTF–82’s rotation but was enhanced. The working group was chaired by the CJ–4, the board was chaired by the deputy commanding general for support (DCG–S), and the process was hosted by the CJ–4 transportation officer.
The board members included the CJTF staff weather officer, the CJTF CJ–3 force manager, the CJ–4 transportation officer, a liaison officer from Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan, coalition and U.S. brigade mobility officers, a National Guard Bureau representative, the Bagram Airfield base operations support integrator, a deployment distribution team from the 831st Deployment Distribution Support Battalion, and representatives from the Bagram 455th EAPS and the 45th and 82d Sustainment Brigades.
The group’s focus was to track the onward movement of commander’s critical items and sensitive-items cargo, the onward movement of personnel, and the inbound and outbound movement of ground cargo through various nodes in the region. Performance was measured in terms of latest arrival dates, commanders’ required delivery dates, ground lines of communication transit times, port calls, vessel sail dates, and container pilferage reports.
The result was an improved ability to see the regional distribution system, assess performance across the region and theater, forecast delays, and coordinate with the U.S. Central Command Deployment Distribution Operations Center and the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command for suitable alternative courses of actions.
Sustainment was managed through a weekly portal-based Adobe Connect process called the combined action facilities expansion (CAFÉ) working group and board and a quarterly portal-based Adobe Connect logistics readiness council.
The CAFÉ working group was a new process developed as a means to manage force expansion base construction projects at forward operating bases and combat outposts. The logistics readiness council was a modification of an existing process.
The CAFÉ working group was chaired by the CJ–4, CJ–7, and RST–E, and the board was chaired by the DCG–S. The board members included representatives from the 45th and 82d Sustainment Brigades, coalition and U.S. brigade logistics officers, a brigade-level LOGCAP support operations officer, LOGCAP quality assurance representatives, and assistant contracting officers.
The CJ–4 focused on coordinating the procurement and sustainment of base construction and facilities expansion projects in support of U.S. forces across the region and integrating the efforts of the RST–E for procurement and sustainment support to ANA forces. Units procured materiel through a combination of the Federal supply system, JCC–A host-nation contracts, and LOGCAP service contracts. The contracting team, on behalf of the units, resourced sustainment through JCC–A or LOGCAP service contracts. Contracts were approved through a coalition joint acquisition review board that included the CJ–1, CJ–3, CJ–4, CJ–7, CJ–8, and staff judge advocate. The CJ–4 provided logistics support to coalition partners through an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement.
The CJ–7 focused on coordinating construction projects in support of U.S. forces, while RST–E coordinated procurement, sustainment, and construction projects in support of ANA forces across the region. Construction projects were approved through a coalition joint facilities utilization board chaired by the CJ–7. The result was an increased ability to plan basing requirements holistically, manage projects from a resourcing and construction perspective, and manage expectations. The CAFÉ was a regional application of the combatant commander logistics procurement support board.
Three lessons were learned from this process:
- Integrate the regional contracting office, a LOGCAP support officer, an assistant contracting officer, and a quality assurance representative into the brigade task force sustainment team to assist with development of performance work statements.
- Implement the CAFÉ working group at the brigade task force level to synchronize facilities construction projects for the companies and platoons.
- Focus on the critical resourcing path and joint processes—real estate approval, the joint facilities utilization board, and the joint acquisition review board—for real estate and facilities development, building materials, labor, materials-handling equipment, waste removal, operations, and maintenance services.
The logistics readiness council was chaired by the DCG–S and hosted by the CJ–4 supply and service chief. Council members included representatives from the 45th and 82d Sustainment Brigades, the 401st AFSB, U.S. brigade logistics teams, the JCC–A, LOGCAP, and DCMA. The primary purpose of the quarterly meeting was for the brigade task forces to forecast resource requirements over a 90-day period in the areas of redeployments and deployments, new equipment fielding, LOGCAP new work projects, service contract renewals, contracting officer’s representative transitions, and performance evaluation boards (PEBs). A PEB is a forum to discuss, evaluate, and document contractor performance.
The quarterly meeting helped to create the baseline document to transfer historical knowledge between brigade task forces during relief-in-place and transfer of authority operations.
Maintenance was managed through a weekly portal-based Adobe Connect process simply called the maintenance working group. This was not a new process, but it was the only maintenance meeting attended by a general officer in Regional Command East. The working group was chaired by the DCG–S and the process was hosted by the CJ–4 maintenance officer. Attendees included representatives from the 45th and 82d Sustainment Brigades and 401st AFSB, coalition and U.S. brigade maintenance officers, and the ANA G–4.
The meeting’s focus was on the readiness of rotary-wing aircraft, mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles, and coalition combat systems. The discussion of rotary-wing system readiness incorporated an overview of the aviation threat, military rotary-wing operating tempo and hours, and contract air hours.
The MRAP system readiness discussion involved battle damage assessment and operational trend analysis, system retrograde, repair timelines, and the new equipment fielding schedule. The result of the discussion was the ability to assess and measure performance, forecast readiness, identify operational trends, and engage the AFSB.
One of the innovative processes used to measure MRAP readiness was the repair-to-damage ratio. This simple ratio compared the number of systems repaired to the number of systems damaged in combat for a given period. It provided the command with a clear assessment of whether the maintenance program was exceeding, maintaining, or falling behind expectations.
Contract services were managed through a bimonthly portal-based Adobe Connect session called the LOGCAP working group, which was a new process. The working group was chaired and hosted by the CJ–4 LOGCAP officer. Working group members included contract service providers and representatives from LOGCAP, the JCC–A, and brigade logistics teams.
This was a forum to address contractor compliance, share best practices, provide direction to contractors, discuss contract officer’s representative and quality assurance officer audits, identify performance trends, and prepare for monthly audits, quarterly PEBs, and semiannual award fee evaluation boards (AFEBs).
The AFEB is similar to a PEB in structure except that the purpose of the board is to award a bonus based on performance. It would be best to conduct the LOGCAP working group in advance of the quarterly PEB and semiannual AFEB to adequately prepare for these forums.
ANA Logistics Development
ANA logistics development was managed through a weekly portal-based Adobe Connect session called the ANA logistics synchronization session. The forum, a new process, was chaired and hosted by the CJ–4 ANA officer. The synchronization session (at the regional level) complemented the command and staff partnerships at the company, battalion, brigade, and corps levels.
The board members included embedded logistics staff from the 201st and 203d ANA Corps, RST–E, ADS–E, and coalition and U.S. sustainment units. This process was effective at the tactical and operational levels, but it could have been improved by incorporating ANA capital region logisticians (located in Kabul) into the process to facilitate an end-to-end integrated logistics process linking tactical-level logistics execution with strategic-level logistics planning.
The CJTF–82 CJ–4 team was successful because it—
- Reviewed Army and joint sustainment doctrine to understand Title 10 responsibilities and the purpose and functions of combined-joint B2C2WGs.
- Developed a team approach to sustainment incorporating coalition, Department of Defense, Department of the Army, and contract agencies.
- Used portal-based technology to share information.
- Used a systems approach to sustainment based on the core B2C2WGs to effect sustainment at the operational level and support the commander’s intent and operational priorities.
The next logical step to improving long-term sustainment in Regional Command East would have been to begin the process of sharing responsibility and authority for sustainment operations with the 201st and 203d ANA Corps, setting the conditions for eventual transfer of authority.
Supporting strategies would need to be developed to transfer base services on combined-action forward operating bases and combat outposts from LOGCAP contracts to host-nation regional contracts. Strategies for developing regional trade skills in plumbing, electricity, carpentry, and masonry should complement the strategies for transferring select bases, facilities, and property to Afghanistan’s government. The processes used to transfer control in Iraq should form a good baseline.
The challenge of such a transition will be the development of a local Afghan vendor base to create jobs and employ a local Afghan labor force that meets an agreed-upon standard of performance. This effort will have to be managed through a regional, interagency, combined approach in which the acquisition and procurement process will play a part. The goal will be to transition this process at the provincial and district levels to a functional Afghan government.
The benefits of developing a local Afghan vendor base will be the creation of a skilled workforce, retention of incomes locally, creation of local jobs (which should help to reduce incentives for violence), development of an enduring process for a transition of authority, and establishment of a local industrial base. These benefits will enable the timely withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces in accordance with the National Command Authority’s objectives.