Even if Artificial Intelligence will allow us to have access to an instant feed on equipment status, logisticians must have the requisite knowledge to enable them to articulate relevant information when it comes to equipment status. We will be charged to relay that information in an accurate and timely manner to enable an efficient and effective procurement decisions.
Leaders will need to make decisions faster to succeed in future war. Decision-makers will require numerous sources of information and the ability to convert dense data into relevant information. What does that mean for Logistics? It means that leaders must improve their ability to process information and make decisions at the speed of relevancy.
We need to be able to explain the outcome of our decision-making process coherently to our subordinates and superiors alike. This will be challenging as some of the process will be automated and managed by artificial intelligence.
In strategic, operational and tactical support areas, the Army seeks to retain maximum freedom of action, speed and agility and to counter enemy efforts to attack friendly forces and infrastructure.The current dynamic—lethal and global battle space—has changed the way that sustainers provide support.
The Army’s sustainment system is transitioning to an expeditionary enterprise that is a tailored and responsive, centering around an end-to-end, distribution-based system that is capable of continuous, integrated and globally-synchronized operations. The evolving sustainment capability—precision, survivable logistics— is critical to support rapid power projection, MDO and independent maneuver.
Precision logistics, when properly executed, delivers forward support that provides a reliable, agile and responsive sustainment capability; enhances materiel readiness; lowers inventory consistent with the need to reduce demand; and reduces costs. Communication, speed and agility are key to its effective and efficient execution.
Survivable logistics is a vital enabler of U.S. military power, ensuring that it can withstand hostile actions and unfavorable environmental conditions. Without a resilient logistics capability, the effectiveness of Army and joint forces on a multidomain battlefield is severely limited.
Army has responsibility for providing logistics support to joint operations and campaigns, including joint over-the-shore and intra-theater transport of time-sensitive, mission-critical personnel and materiel.This requires that the Army have a suite of robust and agile sustainment capabilities operating throughout the entire three-dimensional battle space.
New logistics challenges have changed how we support the future fight. We have spent our entire military careers operating in theaters where our forces have superiority across all domains. Our forces executed resupply operations from the division rear area in relative security. We were able to appropriately prepare to provide logistics across the line of departure, but no longer.
Leaders must understand what the loss of domain superiority means for sustainment. Advances in technology and proposed changes to logistics leader development will shape the sustainer’s role in the future fight.
In order to understand how a sustainer must change, we must begin by looking at what will stay the same. Providing support has and will always be “providing support.” The way in which we do it will significantly change in the next ten years. However, the mission and the fundamental principles will always stay the same. The basic principles of Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration (RSO&I) will still happen.
However, RSO&I has previously been conducted near a Theatre in a relatively safe environment. Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) highlight that we might need to maneuver from strategic distances due to near-peer threat contesting us from strategic distances. The MDO tenet of “Calibrated Force Posture” might mean that we have more forces, equipment and supplies pre-positioned – subject to threat levels.
At some point in time we will have to network the coming together of the Soldier with their equipment. This creates the capability required to defeat our adversary. We will have to forecast the needs of the Soldiers and their equipment. We will have to provide them with the critical supplies necessary to accomplish the assigned mission. The reason there is not a multifaceted logistics approach to dense urban combat is because the fundamental sustainment mission does not change. In order to ensure maneuver does not culminate we have to continue to forecast and provide subsistence, fuel, ammunition and maintenance support regardless of the theatre of war or type of operation.
If so much will stay the same then what will change? Everything else, especially from a technological, procurement and execution perspective. There have been amazing advances in logistics technology around the world. Much of these advances are already in use by industry to great success. It will not be long before we see drones and other autonomous delivery platforms (air, sea and ground) executing distribution missions.
Quartermaster capabilities could soon include water-from-air technology, alternative sources of energy and additive manufacturing. Some munitions could soon be replaced by precision energy weapons. All this technology is already in existence. Soon, the average Soldier will have to work out how to employ it across all the domains, while not having domain superiority.
The Sustainment Battle Lab re-iterated that the number one threat that we, as Sustainers, face is that we will be contested continually, across all domains by our adversaries. While the principals of RSO&I will stay the same the execution of the process is forever changed by that consideration.
With near peer adversaries having global reach there will no longer be a haven location to prepare for deployment that is free from threat. Our forces will not have the freedom to stage in a location or neatly integrate into a theatre of operations.
If we are involved in Large Scale Ground Combat Operations (LSGCO) against a near peer threat we are always under threat from some form of attack. A joint multi-agency force will be required to set the conditions to create a period of superiority in some domains. This allows sustainers to enable the preparation and deployment of a force or capability.
Our ability to enable readiness will be paramount to the success of future deployments. We will need to offset the loss of relative security while leveraging the quantum leaps in available technology to provide the maneuver force with the right sustainment effects in the right place, at the right time.
How we get from where we are now, to where we need to be in the future relies heavily on the Logistics Branch. The way in which the Army procures equipment is changing. In the next ten years we will see a vertical approach to modernization; meaning that high readiness units, aligned to deter and compete with our near peer adversaries, will receive the newest equipment in a more efficient timeframe. Potentially, newer versions of that equipment before units with a lower readiness priority receive their initial issue.
This approach to modernization sets new challenges for our Logisticians and equipment Program Managers. How do we keep our maintainers in the high readiness units qualified on changing equipment variants? Can we design and implement a program that enables the supply system to track multiple variants of the same base equipment fleets? How do we simultaneously support rapid fielding of new equipment, turn in of superseded equipment?
The Acquisitions Corps is only going to be as effective as the feedback it receives from the field. Trained Logistics units are key to this process and will be the intermediary between the ground truth in the units and the feedback the Acquisition Corps receives.
We need to reevaluate our definitions of “readiness” and “fully mission capable.” This will shape how we training the future force. It’s not enough to be able to start a tank or fire a rifle. The force as a collective must be able to provide the required effect on the enemy or the terrain. Our lexicon must evolve to create shared understanding of logistical readiness in real-time.
Our job is about more than equipment management. We as logisticians are leaders of some of the largest formations on the battlefield. And must be experts in understanding and relaying the situation on ground to our higher commanders, staffs, and peers.
Convergence is an emerging problem-set of sustaining MDO. It’s the point in a battle where maneuver forces prioritize a logistics operation (e.g., refueling) ahead of a tactical task. At some point, maneuver forces will need to support logistics operations. They will need to converge at a time and place to set conditions and achieve superiority to support resupply. This must be built into the operational plan; it cannot be an afterthought in a concept of support.
Logisticians don’t set the conditions nor do they achieve the superiority required to enable resupply operations. But without resupply, maneuver forces can’t execute their mission. From a leadership perspective, asserting the need for prioritization of logistics over a maneuver tactical task requires situational awareness.
Sustainers not only need to be present in the maneuver planning process but also be able to articulate their needs. This includes the need for maneuver convergence in support of logistics and the risk associated with not prioritizing it.
Sustainers must be able to speak in terms of risk, both to the mission, and to our Soldiers. That language is common across the branches. Being able to clearly articulate our risk determination is critical in creating shared understanding. How we assess and then mitigate mission risk determines mission success.
As logisticians we must be the subject matter expert on sustainment capabilities in your command. We are responsible for informing the Maneuver Commander of the art of the possible, probable and impossible. Sustainment enables maneuver.
We need to know and understand who holds key information. Then we have to know what questions to ask and master the information processing systems available. We need to force ourselves to be part of the planning process and get a seat at the table.
Only then can we match our supported maneuver forces requirements and develop solutions for shortfalls. The rapid changes to technology and loss of assured domain superiority adds to the complexity.
We need to be able to explain the outcome of our decision-making process coherently to our subordinates and superiors alike.
This will be challenging as some of the process will be automated and managed by artificial intelligence.
We will need to create an environment to enable our subordinates to make decisions in our absence. Clear Commander’s Intent and the understanding and prosecution of the emerging technology available will be paramount to enable our subordinates to act in our absence and employ Mission Command.
Multi-Domain Operations represent a pivotal moment for Sustainers in the preparation of the future fight. If we develop requirements, understand capabilities, and provide creative solutions to shortfalls, we will ensure our maneuver partners can meet their future challenges with the support they need.
As an enterprise, we need to review the Multi-Domain Operations Concept and decide on what we need for the next fight. We must continue to evolve the way we sustain to sustain our forces on the future battlefield. Investing in the future will ensure that Sustainers have the necessary skills, equipment and capabilities to enable victory on tomorrow’s battlefield.
This framework is essential to the joint force’s ability to compete, penetrate, dis-integrate, exploit and re-compete in MDO environment:
1. Strategic Support Area
This includes: areas of cross-combatant command coordination and strategic sea and air lines of communication. The enemy may attack the strategic support area to disrupt and degrade deployments and reinforcements that are attempting to gain access to the operational support area and move to the tactical support area
2. Operational Support Area
This is where many key Army mission command, sustainment and fires/strike capabilities are located. The Army enables friendly operations in this area by dedicating significant logistics capacity to open windows of superiority. An enemy may target this area with substantial reconnaissance, information warfare and operational fires.
3. Tactical Support Area.
This directly enables operations in close, deep maneuver and deep fires areas. Many friendly sustainment, fires, maneuver support and mission command capabilities are in the tactical support area. Friendly units in the tactical support area must be prepared to endure threat fires and to defeat enemy ground force infiltration and penetration of the close area.
4. Installation Readiness
Infrastructure is vital to power projection and enables the Army to deploy ground forces, prevent conflict, shape outcomes and conduct military operations. Installations provide secure and sustainable facilities and infrastructure that support combatant commanders’ priorities, enable Army missions and maintain Soldier and unit readiness. To support large-scale combat operations (LSCO), installations must have the capability to marshal and mobilize forces rapidly. The Army has mandated that installations increase their resiliency by being flexible, effective and affordable and is working with service providers and users to reduce vulnerabilities at every installation.
5. Soldier Readiness
This involves a collaborative network of agencies, programs, services and individuals that promotes the readiness and quality of life for every service member. “The readiness of our Army depends on the readiness of our Soldiers to give them the ability to grow.”
6. Industrial Base Readiness
This is comprised of DoD/industry’s skills, knowledge, facilities, materiel and repair processes in support of Army products The Army’s arsenals, depots and ammunition plants must continue to meet the current surge and innovation requirements while industry leaders must help the Army to ensure quality, accountability and cost-effectiveness to modernize the force for the following decades.
7. Munitions Readiness
This focus area requires a ready and reliable stockpile, assured through optimizing the receipt, storage and issue of munitions. It provides the joint force with ready, reliable, lethal munitions at the speed of war. As the Army reduces excess or outdated munitions through demilitarization, the munitions industrial base must keep pace with the Army’s accelerated weapon modernization plan.
8. Strategic Power Projection Readiness
This is a function of the Army’s ability to rapidly project expeditionary and follow-on forces from fort to port, port to port and then port to foxhole while integrating equipment and supplies on the battlefield. The Army must build its capabilities and instill a mindset to be ready to rapidly alert, marshal, deploy and, upon arrival at a theater, be ready to fight. “We must use everything in our means—roads, railheads, airfields and ports—to rapidly link our people to equipment.”
9. Supply Availability and Equipment Readiness
This is the foundation of materiel readiness; it ensures that Soldiers and units have the right equipment, parts and materiel to achieve their mission at any time and any place. Efforts are focused on establishing the appropriate breadth and depth of repair parts available to minimize equipment shortages and to ensure that battle-damaged equipment is rapidly repaired.
10. Logistics Information Readiness
The Army has several systems to manage its materiel, maintenance, supply, acquisition and financial activities. Reforming logistics information readiness is critical to ensuring the right information at the right time and leveraging the Army’s enterprise resource planning systems. “We have a massive amount of data at our fingertips. Our ability to see ourselves is the first step in assessing ourselves. We need to be able to convert the data to force readiness quickly.