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BCS3: Getting the Most Out of a Strategic Sustainment Tool

The Resources and Sustainment Directorate (R&S) of the Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF–I) is charged with providing unique solutions to the problems that arise between the strategic and operational levels of logistics. As the support operations section for the MNF–I commander, R&S often has to react quickly to a multitude of information requests from the strategic commander in theater. MNF–I is not a traditional joint staff, and R&S does not have the same automated sustainment systems that reside in most joint staffs. Instead, R&S uses the Battle Command Sustainment Support System (BCS3) to develop logistics solutions when doctrine is not sufficient.

BCS3 Capabilities

As a link between strategic logistics organizations and the in-theater warfighter, MNF–I requires aware-ness of the logistics common operating picture within Iraq and worldwide. BCS3 helps meet this requirement by providing a global view of in-transit visibility (ITV) systems and logistics activities. BCS3 also directly supports MNF–I’s ability to analyze trends in existing distribution systems and develop initiatives that help logisticians focus on providing sustainment support to their customer units.

The MNF–I R&S is using BCS3 capabilities to track various strategic initiatives, like the use of private security company convoy escorts, the development of commercial railroad use in Iraq, the expansion of port operations at the Umm Qasr port, and the distribution of lower priority cargo through the border crossings to Jordan and Turkey. BCS3 also allows the R&S Sustainment Fusion Center to evaluate the effectiveness of new lines of communication (LOCs) by providing access to radio frequency identification (RFID) interrogator location information, which mobility planners use to determine how much equipment passes through a port or border crossing.

BCS3 also allows planners to work with the logis-tics automation staffs to determine the optimal loca-tions for interrogators. All of these are initiatives that benefit the strategic goals of improving the transportation infrastructure of Iraq, adding efficiency to coalition distribution processes, and ensuring that every LOC is available to the commander.

Tracking Commercial Security Escorts

MNF–I has spearheaded the strategic initiative of tracking armed escorts for contracted sustainment convoys. These escorts are provided by private security companies that are registered with the Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division Logistics Movement Control Center (LMCC). BCS3 has allowed MNF–I to determine the routes that best accommodate these commercial security escorts. The ability to pass the information provided by BCS3 to the battlespace owners (generally, the brigade or regimental combat teams) ensures that the commercial escort teams are fully integrated into the route security plan and helps to prevent friendly fire incidents.

The link between the commercial escorts and BCS3 is Tapestry Solutions’ Global Distribution Management System (GDMS), located in the LMCC operations center (in Baghdad’s International Zone). GDMS tracks civilian vehicle transponders that are required for all private security companies operating on behalf of U.S. forces. Like BCS3, GDMS tracks civilian transponders on a graphic interface; however, it lacks the BCS3 capabilities of pulling information from Standard Army Management Information Systems (STAMISs) and gathering ITV information from RFID tags. GDMS, an unclassified system, provides real-time linkage into BCS3 through Tapestry Solutions’ servers located in San Diego, California, and those servers push data to the BCS3 servers located at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. GDMS is strictly for civilian use and is not capable of tracking military transponders. GDMS, in conjunction with BCS3, gives battlespace owners a better operating picture of purely civilian convoys moving through their areas of responsibility.

BCS3 Applications

BCS3 has allowed R&S to complete its tasks quickly and efficiently. When R&S mobility planners were seeking new border crossings between Kuwait and Iraq to accommodate the expansion of coalition activities in the southeastern region of Iraq, BCS3 was a valuable asset. Finding potential border crossings could have taken weeks because planners would have had to dig through different maps and wait on requested satellite photos. The BCS3 map option allowed the locations for border crossings to be identified within an hour and different courses of action to be presented to the strategic distribution agencies within a day. The planners were able to determine the routes, distances, and border crossing points without time-consuming requests to geospatial elements and without having to maintain a space-consuming and rarely used map library.

A functional rail system is the lifeblood of any nation, and Iraq is no different. MNF–I has used BCS3 to track rail movements rom Baghdad to the Umm Qasr port. The benefit of BCS3 during the rail mission was that the MNF–I mobility staff was no longer entirely reliant on Iraqi Republic Railroad (IRR) reports, which describe a train’s progress as it travels into a station. In one instance, the MNF–I R&S rail planning team learned through BCS3 that a train had in fact stopped less than a kilometer from its destination, and the team was able to send out the appropriate queries to the IRR before its staff knew there was a problem.

Classified and Unclassified Versions

BCS3 has both secure and unsecure versions. The secure version connects to the Army Battle Command System, notably Blue Force Tracker. The unsecure version connects directly to STAMISs, such as the Standard Army Maintenance System and the Standard Army Retail Supply System. When information is sent from an unclassified system, it takes about 2 to 4 hours for it to reach a classified system. This means that units must be aware of which type of system they are using and remember that what is on the unclassified version may not always be on the classified version in real time.

As with any system, BCS3 has some shortcomings that strategic-level users need to take into considera-tion. BCS3 does not fully integrate joint information systems. This means that joint staffs do not have complete asset visibility for all of the common com-modities that the services have on hand. Also, the in-formation that comes out of BCS3 is only as good as the information that is entered into the system. Not all support units fully understand the powerful capabili-ties of the BCS3 system, and it takes considerable discipline on the part of commanders to integrate BCS3 fully. The MNF–I R&S experience with BCS3 has been very positive, and the system is used daily to provide immediate answers to questions and to give R&S a full understanding of what is happening on the battlefield.

Lieutenant Colonel S. Eric Stewart is currently serving as a mobility planner for the Multi-National Force-Iraq Resources and Sustainment Directorate in Baghdad, Iraq. He is assigned to the 21st Thea-ter Sustainment Command in Kaiserslautern, Ger-many. He received his commission from The Citadel in 1989 and is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College.