If your unit is preparing to deploy, has deployed,
or is in any other phase of the Army Force
Generation process, terms like ONS, JUONS, REF, FOA, OPNET, and FLMNET have become a part of your daily vernacular. What can you do to understand this strange collection of acronyms? What about the inevitable fielding, sustainment, and support strategy requirements? Is there someone or some organization to help you complete the tasks associated with coordinating and synchronizing these efforts?
An Army field support brigade (AFSB) can help. Seven AFSBs operate in the continental United States (CONUS) and outside CONUS. Two of the AFSBs are forward deployed to Southwest Asia, one in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the other in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The AFSBs are assigned to the Army Sustainment Command and perform a critical role as the Army Materiel Command’s face to the field. They round out the Materiel Enterprise at the operational level, providing tactical commanders with logistics and sustainment support not typically provided by sustainment brigades or expeditionary sustainment commands.
Each AFSB modification table of organization and equipment includes positions for one area of concentration (AOC) 51Z (acquisitions) acquisition officer (O−5), one AOC 51A (systems development) acquisition officer (O−4), and one AOC 51S (research and engineering) science and technology officer (O−4). These three officers form the core of what is usually called the acquisition, logistics, and technology directorate (ALT−D).
This directorate’s mission and core competencies vary from AFSB to AFSB depending on the operating environment, supported units, and command focus. But they always include integrating and synchronizing with the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ASA [ALT]), program executive officers (PEOs) and program managers (PMs), and the warfighter to ensure that fielding, operational assessments, and other acquisition-centric activities are successful within supported units. The officers and staff in the ALT−D can provide direct support and staff coordination for your unit’s acquisition, logistics, and technology efforts.
Operational Needs Statements
Ideally, your unit will have all the equipment it needs to accomplish its assigned mission; the mission-essential equipment list (MEEL) will be 100-percent sourced, and you will be able to efficiently and effectively cover your battlespace. Unfortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule. Constantly changing operational environments and evolving mission sets render even the best MEELs inadequate in some critical areas. These inadequacies can cause capability gaps that can adversely affect a unit’s ability to accomplish the mission.
The first consideration when trying to overcome a gap should be reallocation of equipment within your command or the next higher command to make up for any shortages. If this is not a viable option, an operational needs statement (ONS) or joint urgent operational needs statement (JUONS) (the latter if you are in a joint battlespace) is the next step in attempting to mitigate the capability gap.
Each command has slightly different processes for compiling, staffing, and forwarding an ONS or JUONS. Your AFSB (whether inside or outside CONUS) can assist in determining if another ONS or JUONS already exists that describes your capability gap, if technology exists that can satisfy your requirements, and if your ONS or JUONS contains the critical elements for acceptance. ONS and JUONS efforts are usually assigned to the science and technology officer in the AFSB.
Submitting a technically correct ONS or JUONS is a critical step and will eliminate stop-and-go staff delays that could prevent your unit from receiving needed equipment. Although every effort will be made to satisfy an ONS or JUONS as quickly as possible, it can sometimes take weeks to receive equipment that satisfies your requirement. If your need is urgent, consider using the Rapid Equipping Force (REF).
Rapid Equipping Force
An alternative to the ONS or JUONS is the REF and its 10 Liner requirements document. Don’t confuse the REF with RFI, the Rapid Fielding Initiative. The REF is an organization chartered to conduct
pinpoint fieldings of critical equipment to deploying or deployed units. The 10-Liner is a document used by the REF to capture a very specific requirement from deploying or deployed units. The science and technology officer can review the 10-Liner and communicate with the REF.
After receiving the 10-Liner, the REF will attempt to satisfy your requirements by using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) or modified-COTS systems or equipment. The REF can potentially meet the requirement in a much shorter time than the “normal” acquisition process.
Equipment provided by the REF is not free, so you should expect the gear to show up on your property book. The REF will usually issue equipment to brigade-sized or smaller units; in some cases, it will issue items in greater quantities. The REF may request your participation in a forward operational assessment (FOA) to record your comments, as an end user, on the equipment’s effectiveness. In order to assist your unit during a REF fielding and FOA, the ALT−D can continue to liaise with the REF team and can act as a collection point for FOA questionnaires.
In some cases, a REF-fielded item can be transitioned into what is called a “program of record.” This can happen when the FOA is exceptionally favorable or when demand becomes so large that REF management and funding becomes inadequate. When this occurs, the program is assigned to a PM, provided a funding line, and subjected to the administrative requirements of the formal acquisition process. If a REF initiative achieves program of record status, the ALT−D can complement PM activities by synchronizing the fielding plan with operational commitments and schedules.
From the gaining unit’s perspective, the fielding plan is probably the most important component of the acquisition process. The gaining unit is really not interested in the challenges the PM faces with contracting, designing, producing, and delivering the new system. What the unit does care about is when it will be receiving the equipment and how many it will receive.
Depending on processes used by your higher headquarters and your assigned AFSB, the fielding plan may be a stand-alone document or distributed as an operation order (OPORD) or fragmentary order (FRAGO). In either case, the ALT−D can provide vital input through normal staffing or through immediate communication to ensure that unit fielding expectations and requirements are synchronized with the system’s production rate, delivery schedule, and distribution plan.
The ALT−D will coordinate with appropriate higher headquarters staff sections and the PM to ensure that essential elements of the fielding plan (schedules, issue locations, gaining unit responsibilities, and transportation requirements) are included in the instructions provided to the receiving unit.
Fieldings seldom involve single-point distribution from a fully equipped warehouse or deprocessing site. They typically include several geographically dispersed fielding sites, differing levels of infrastructure, and varying quantities for issue. The ALT−D and the PM can manage these fielding nuances and greatly simplify the process for the gaining unit.
The ALT−D also can assist with asset visibility and property accountability, ensuring that PMs comply with all Property Book Unit Supply Enhanced requirements for equipment issue and transfer. The ALT−D can coordinate to ensure that field service representatives (FSRs) are present to assist in acceptance inspections and final issue of the equipment.
The execution of the fielding plan sets the conditions for all follow-on activities associated with a new system. Using the ALT−D’s capabilities will ensure that the fielding plan is synchronized with your unit’s expectations and requirements. Second, if not equally important in terms of unit priorities, is new equipment training (NET).
New Equipment Training
It seems obvious that NET, specifically operator new equipment training (OPNET) or field-level maintenance new equipment training (FLMNET), would be required as a unit receives new equipment, but some units do not synchronize NET with their daily tasks and battle rhythm. NET is an essential part of fielding and must be done right the first time. Without NET, new equipment can easily become paperweights, motor pool queens, or just labeled “too hard to use” by Soldiers.
The ALT−D can ensure the NET is both efficient and effective by forwarding unit expectations, time available, and other unit-unique training requirements directly to the PM. The section can also provide the PM with unit training schedules or timelines that may require changes to NET times and locations.
The ALT−D can verify that the NET plan is included in any OPORD or FRAGO that prescribes fielding and will facilitate unique NET requirements, like warehouse storage space, classroom coordination, housing, and instructor accountability. When conducting NET in a deployed environment, the ALT−D can track an instructor’s country clearance and call forward requests and arrange for housing and intertheater and intratheater transportation.
Challenges inevitably emerge during even the best planned NET events. The ALT−D can “run interference” with the PM to mitigate any problems that may arise. This unburdens the unit accepting the fielding and allows it to stay focused on the many ongoing predeployment training activities that are no doubt occurring at the same time as the NET. Problems can be as trivial as not having enough handouts or as serious as realizing the wrong software version is loaded into a new communications system.
In rare cases, communication between the ALT−D and the PM is not effective. If this occurs, the AFSB commander can engage senior leaders in the Material Enterprise for direct assistance. In any event, the ALT−D will be the single face to your unit for NET and other training activities. After a successful initial fielding and NET, the ALT−D will begin working with your unit and PM to ensure an effective support strategy is implemented.
If the program management office (PMO) has done its homework, your new gear should either be fully supported by field-level maintenance and the Army supply system, come with FSRs as part of a contractor logistics support (CLS) program, or feature a combination of Army maintenance and FSRs and CLS.
If FSRs and CLS are involved, the AFSB can provide a great deal of assistance with tracking, managing,
and general support of the FSRs and their unique tool and facility requirements. Since the ALT−D can interface directly with your staff officers and the end-user Soldiers, the support strategy will be tailored to your specific needs and operational environment. This interaction allows the AFSB to work with the PMO as the support strategy changes over time.
As your unit uses the new equipment more, usability, reliability, and maintainability issues undoubtedly will emerge. The ALT−D can act as the conduit between you and the PMO to ensure that any suggestions for improvements are properly prepared and presented. In many cases, the PMO will send an assistant program manager to monitor the initial fielding and record user feedback. The AFSB can provide support to the assistant program manager in the same way it supports FSRs, thereby reducing the burden on your command. This synchronized effort among the customer unit, the AFSB, the PMO, and FSRs is essential to ensuring that the weeks and months following the initial fielding are a positive experience for everyone involved.
The ALT−D in the AFSB provides a unique service. Having a basic understanding of the core competencies of the ALT−D will allow commanders and staff officers to maximize their ability to effectively state operational requirements, choose the best fielding and training plans, and ensure a proper transition to sustainment operations.
The ALT−D’s capabilities can be applied to the tactical, operational, and in some cases, strategic level. Tactical units seeking a materiel solution for a capability gap can leverage the skill sets of the science and technology officer for liaison with the REF teams and follow-on ONS development. Operational commanders can unburden their staffs by empowering the AFSB to conduct the detailed PEO and PM coordination tasks necessary for successful fieldings. Lastly, at the strategic level, the ALT−D can perform acquisition- and technology-related liaison tasks.
You should include the AFSB when your battalion, brigade, or division is considering, or is in the middle of, requirements generation, fieldings, or liaison with PEOs or PMs. Engaging the AFSB ALT−D’s capabilities will link your command with the Materiel Enterprise and enable successful acquisition, logistics, and technology activities.